Kanji reading mnemonic is confusing & no WaniKani’s knowledge guide was (unfortunately) not helpful

Hello people,
I have started kanji and with the first kanji (two) I got myself into a problem -
The reading for “two” is showing to be “knee (に)”, the reading for “one” is “itchy (いち)” and so on.

When I get to the quiz and it asks me for the reading I’m submitting it as it was given to me “knee”, yes but no. It turns it into " kねえ ", and obviously doesn’t accept it as an answer, but I have idea on how to make it work except the on’yomi reading (character) " に "
(moreover " に " means “into” and is spelled " Ni "… am i doing something wrong ? )

Am I supposed to memorise the on’yomi character and search it in the Kana Chart, but even then how was I supposed to know that “knee” = “ni” ( I had to look up in google… ). Similarly, “itchy” could be phonetically spelled “ichi”, “eechi”, “echee”, etc.

Please help. How am I supposed to know the “Correct” reading of a kanji, when the Reading Mnemonic doesn’t show the correct answer anyway…

I understand that we are supposed to interpret these mnemonic stories as helpful but so far all they have been is mildly deceptive.

EDIT, why is WaniKani wrong here?

knee and itchy are mnemonics that sound similar to the lectures of the kanji

knee sound similar to ni, and itchy to ichi

they’re there as a tool to help you memorize, but ultimately yes, you’re supposed to learn the actual reading, either onyomi or kunyomi, (wanikani teaches the most common normally)

you’re expected to type (based on your last example) either ku or kyuu for nine, not “coo” nor “cu”

you’re expected to already know how to read hiragana, so know that に is read “ni”, so you type “ni” and so on

i hope what i’m writing makes sense


“Knee” is the mnemonic for remembering that it is に, and “itchy” is the mnemonic for remembering いち. The mnemonics for the readings don’t always map up one to one. For example, when I say “itchy,” I don’t skip over the t sound so it comes off as a lot rougher than いち does. The point is that you’re supposed to know enough about Japanese phonology that you can bridge that gap yourself and understand the word isn’t actually pronounced like that.

I’m a bit confused what you mean by this? に is the actual pronunciation of ニ, not knee, so why are you typing knee into the answer box? You’re supposed to enter に

Also not sure what you’re getting at with this. Can you elaborate a bit further?

As I said earlier, they give you the mnemonic with an English approximation and you’re expected to bridge the gap between discrepancies when necessary. The mnemonic is intended to reinforce the reading by helping you remember the kanji reading in a language that is (supposed to be) more familiar to you.

In what way are they being deceptive? I won’t say that WK’s mnemonics are always helpful, but why aren’t they working for you specifically? If you can diagnose the problem now, it’s much easier down the road.

Er… why is it wrong?



Also read through this if you’re having trouble writing in Japanese


By the way, I absolutely adore your profile picture ^^

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Actually, I’m not having trouble typing/writing in Japanese. I’m having trouble with WaniKani using English words that don’t fully or accurately represent the Japanese pronunciation. (ex. they use “hatch” when they really should have used “hatches” & only highlighted ‘hatche’.


Unfortunately, what you’re saying does make sense. I only wish WaniKani had been clearer in their introductory sections & that they had a larger English vocabulary.

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Yeah, I get what you’re saying with that, and I feel like that’s a sentiment a lot of other users share. Even I sometimes have been a bit confused and normally I’m pretty good at seeing the connections, or sometimes they use a really weird word (sometimes a few).

You’re only on the first level. More words will be used as you go further, like shih tzu :stuck_out_tongue:


Welcome @rowtho37 !

TLDR: You need to remember that knee is ni and type that in. Same for everything else you will learn.

Bit longer Version:

Looks like there are two things you are concerned about:

1. Why is it knee instead of ni?

If you were to type に in English letters, it’s actually ni not knee.

However, there is no word ni in English so they want you to remember knee, then you are to make that last little jump to ni. So yes to you point "…I supposed to know that “knee” = “ni” ", you are meant to know this. There will be many more.

It’s confusing at first, luckily as you go through the levels you will see that they reuse the words, so knee in the story will always mean ni. They won’t use anything else. This makes it easier to remember.

There is science behind why they do this, in your brain there are two ways you could learn this::

  1. [Nothing] --------------------------> に
  2. [Nothing] —> Knee —> Ni —> に

For everyone, 2. is much more efficient way for to learn.

It’s like a bunch of little bridges instead of one long bridge, especially when other things reuse those same little bridges. Eventually your brain will make the longer bridge (1.) itself but you don’t need to force that.

These small bridges are the mnemonics that everyone else is talking about.

2. Katakana and Hiragana knowledge

It’s recommended for people to learn the katankana and hiragana before wanikani. This assumed knowledge could be why they don’t explicitly say it’s ni instead of knee since kn does not exist anywhere in japanese, therefore it can’t be the exact reading.

Good luck with your learning!


Unfortunately, in most cases there simply aren’t any English words that fully and accurately represent the Japanese pronunciation. “Hatche” isn’t a whole lot better than “hatch” for はち, and would probably be confusing. The mnemonics are just approximations to help with memory, not exact English equivalents to the Japanese.

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It might be helpful to separate between visual and aural parts of a word in mnemonics too, Like, never would you type “kn”, because no such consonant.

Probably to note that Romaji schemes (Hepburn, Waapuro) might be more than pronunciation as well, but rather Kana mapping. But pronunciation is indeed of most parts.

This is largely what I would have said!

The only thing I would add is that our reading mnemonics try to take an English word that sounds similar to the Japanese pronunciation. In other words, saying “knee” aloud in English sounds just like how you’d say に aloud in Japanese.

You can also find each on’yomi and kun’yomi reading under their own heading that’s separate from how they’re embedded in the mnemonic:

As others have pointed out, there isn’t always a perfect fit for English words that sound like Japanese pronunciations, so a little wiggle room is sometimes necessary. If you ever have suggestions for how to improve a mnemonic, we are always open to feedback at hello@wanikani.com.


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