Kanji and vocabulary make no sense

Hi guys,

I’m pretty new so maybe this post is a little ahead and I would figure it out eventually but it really gets on my nerves😅

So if i learn the kanji why do they usually have nothing to do with the vocabulary beside their look?
For example : 入, 入る and 入れる they all have to do with enter/insert etc… That makes sense… But WHY do they sound like complete different words? :see_no_evil: Is there a logic I am missing or do I just have to cope with it… That the kanji completely changes its sound makes absolut no sense to me, and makes me really frustrated​:sweat_smile:

Furthermore I don’t really get how the vocabulary works… Didn’t find an answer to it or maybe I missed it…
Do vocabulary have levels like radicals and kanji? Or do they just disappear once you answered them right… If so how can Ibest review them?

Thank you very much in advance


Etymology! To cut a long story short, the language came from Japan, but the writing system came from China, but said writing system was already used to write Chinese. So the Chinese characters were glued onto existing Japanese words (which is where 入る and 入れる come from), but they also come with words already attached (which is where stuff like 入門 came from).

Still, 入 is one of the more unusual ones. Usually, transitive/intransitive pairs differ only in the okurigana ending, and not in the reading of the kanji. For example, はじめる versus はじまる, or つづく versus つづける.

Yep. They’re exactly the same as the radical and kanji cards, except that leveling them up doesn’t unlock anything new.


The way I think about kanji is that they are concepts, not sounds. The readings are hard for me to learn because they’re just one possible sound that this concept can take. The vocabulary are where you take an existing Japanese (or Chinese) word and replace part of the letters with a pictorial hint about what it means. It’s simultaneously elegant and infuriating! However, because kanji are concepts and not sounds, their readings don’t always have anything to do with each other.

You can use the kanji to help with the meaning of the vocabulary, but for the reading you’ll just have to memorize it the same way you had to memorize the spelling of every other word. (At least, that’s the case for me, since I have a hard time with memorizing readings.)


Looking at it as “there is a kanji and it changes in different words” is the wrong way to look at it. There are words, and you can write the words with kanji. The words exist, and then kanji that match the core concept were used to write the words.

All the words can be written without their kanji as well, but then it becomes harder to tell words written identically apart. Or, for beginners, it can be hard to tell where words end and begin.

Many words are also borrowed directly from Chinese.

But thinking of it as words first and then ways to write the words should help. Going in the other direction, yes, it would be kind of wonky.


Building off what Leebo said, there was a great explaination that i think made a lot of sense as a place to start from, i’ll just dig back and find it…
Okay i’ve found it:

There is a logic behind most of it, but it’s like in english words - it’s buried back in history and has changed with time, much like English, with it’s latin, greek, norman and germanic origins. You will become more used to it, and which reading applies when will become easier to guess, but ultimately it is a long process which will get easier with practice and exposure. Japanese is quite different from English, and indeed most languages, it has a very different way of communicating, and it’s normal for that to take some adjustign too. Keep pushing on, and the more you learn, keep finding small victories and looking at your goals for Japanese, find people to motivate you, and it will make it much easier.

I hope that helped, even a little bit : )

Also since it’s your first time posting:

\textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{Hi}} {\huge \textsf{@Giada92 }} \textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{!}}


It’s great to have you here!

If you haven’t already check out the Forum Guidelines and the Wanikani User Guide .
There’s also tonnes of things on the forums to help you on your way such as The guide, The Ultimate resource list, and API and Third Party Apps.

If you have any questions, check out this thread; but if this doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to create a thread like you’re done here, or email The Wanikani staff.

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you around!


You can see the vocabulary attached to each level in https://www.wkstats.com/items/wanikani (after having inserted your API token once).

At level-up, a set of vocabulary of the new level is unlocked at once, the remaining ones are unlocked when the corresponding kanji are in Guru.

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Thank you all so much for your answers. That really helped <3
I always thought Kanji equals Vocabulary, but I see now that is only half true…

And also thanks for the kind greetings @The_Midnight_Munch :smile: and the extra links :+1:

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