Kanji Reading vs Vocabulary Reading

I’m pretty new here, only on level two. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated. I have no idea how I’m supposed to tell the difference between the kanji reading and the vocabulary reading. It seems like no sooner do I have one memorized then the system starts asking me for something new. I never know which one I’m supposed to enter. I’m often entering the wrong one and then I’m back to the beginning.

I need help!

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When WaniKani wants the kanji reading, the review box will be pink. When it wants vocab reading, the review box will be blue purple (apparently I’m colorblind). Note that WaniKani will always teach what they think is the most common reading for every kanji, and the number of vocab words they use with the kanji should reflect that.

If you’re frustrated with trying to figure out which reading to use for which vocab word, this is a common headache among Japanese learners. You can take a look at Tofugu’s article on On’yomi and Kun’yomi, which might help you gain a better intuition of when to use which.

The Getting Started guide might prove helpful to you as well.

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I thought it was blue as well :face_with_raised_eyebrow: (and yes, I’m color blind as well!)

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This ersatz distinction between “kanji” readings and “vocabulary” readings is deeply misleading, idiosyncratic and pedagogically fatuous. It adds extraneous cognitive load to invent the misleading terms “kanji reading” and “vocabulary reading” when the terms on’yomi 音読み and kun’yomi 訓読み are available. Also, either reading could be vocabulary in the sense a student would understand it. They are also both kanji. The explanations don’t show whether the reading is 音読み or 訓読み.The point of a spaced repetition system is to reduce cognitive load, not add extraneous cognitive load that a linguist would find unhelpful and misleading. Disclaimer: I purchased a lifetime subscription.

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They aren’t “terms”… It’s just “this is a kanji item, give the reading (as opposed to the meaning)” and “this is a vocabulary item, give the reading (as opposed to the meaning)” shortened to “kanji reading” and “vocabulary reading.” There’s nothing deeper than that.

Also, for vocab items, it would be giving you extra information to tell you kunyomi or onyomi in the prompt.

I’m pretty sure many of them do…? Can’t speak to all of them, but I guess you have examples you’re thinking of.

They’re quite responsive to refund requests, especially if you’re still in the range of free levels anyway.

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Needs more big words.

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As native German I found the use of “ersatz” pretty funny. How common is that? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Kanji are like letters. They correspond to different sounds depending on the words where they are used. This is like the English letter a which sounds differently depending on the word where it is found. Foe example a sounds differently in water and Mary.

For kanji the folks behind Wanikani have decided to teach the most common reading. Other less frequent readings exist. Wanikani teaches them with the vocabulary where they are found. We may agree or disagree with this pedagogical decision but this is how Wanikani teaches kanji. This is why the vocabulary and kanji readings often differ.

There is no other way than learning the individual readings of each word. This is like an English learner who has no other choice but to learn the individual sounds of each word for the letter a. This is confusing at first but after a while you will get used to it.

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Not used too often where I come from, but ersatz in English isn’t quite the same as it is in German, if I remember correctly. Ersatz is a term that can be used positively or negatively, but in American English it’s strictly negative/ connotative of lower quality. American bias I guess :upside_down_face:

Edit: Added “American” b/c I’m not sure if it’s the same in British English

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Needs more big words.

I’m working on it. I like Wanikani anyway–I’m not the only person to notice that the distinction between the “kanji reading” versus the “vocabulary reading” of the same kanji is misleading. Inventing a non-intrinsic distinction is not the same as a non-English speaker attempting to make sense of something intrinsic to English, such as non-orthographic spelling. There are several threads in this forum on this. I happened to hitch my wagon to this one.

It can be both, but I’d say that the German can also have a slight negative connotation.

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I understand your frustration, and I shared it at one time, as I came to WaniKani fairly new to the Japanese language. But over time, with experience and repetition (and many mistakes along the way), the distinction you refer to becomes clear, and doesn’t seem misleading at all.

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I’m getting used to it. I’m not frustrated–I find the aesthetic curious. A native speaker unfamiliar with Wanikani is not likely to understand what one might mean by the kanji reading of a kanji, much less the vocabulary reading of a kanji. Cute.

Since Wanikani approaches the question of the most common reading a certain way built into its SRS through the kanji reading/vocabulary reading distinction [of course these are terms], then this might be spelled out in Onyomi vs. Kunyomi: What’s the Difference? (tofugu.com), at least if this is supposed to be the article people are referred to about Wanikani’s kanji reading/vocabulary reading distinction. Unfortunately it says nothing about Wanikani’s built-in distinction. A reader of that article won’t know that the so-called kanji reading of a kanji is often the 音読み. Pretending this is obvious is disingenuous.

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Did you eat a thesaurus?

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Did you eat a thesaurus?

After I read it, yes.

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Sorry to intervene here, but I have the impression that there is a bit of confusion here, so I would like to add some more ideas to the discussion. I am sure you know already everything I will mention below, but maybe the way I present it could help you to understand the WK perspective.

It is not supposed to be interpreted as “kanji reading of a kanji” or “vocabulary reading of the kanji”, which both make no sense. On WK you learn kanji on one side (aka ideograms part of a writing system, decorrelated from the language), and words (called “vocabulary”) using those kanji on the other side. For both, you will have to give the reading. For words, you usually have only one possible reading, as used in the language, whereas for kanji, as you know, you usually have at least one on’yomi and one kun’yomi and they are all valid in theory. In this case WK expects the one that was taught with the kanji item as most common reading.

Now it ‘randomly’ appears that a few words are only composed of exactly one kanji (and no okurigana), so how to tell the difference? Indeed your only clue will be the background color, plus it is written “vocabulary reading” or “kanji reading”, which do not refer to the on or kun’yomi but if the item is a word or a vocabulary. It is key here to understand that we have two different conceptual items: kanji vs word (“vocabulary”). The difference is not limited to the reading: the first one is part of a writing system, the second is part of a language.

A native speaker certainly knows that the word 水 (water) is pronounced みず and nothing else and that the associated kanji can be prononced すい or みず depending on the word where it is used.

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I remember when I first started not completely understanding some of this as well, but I don’t think it’s all that convoluted, or a problem. I read through much of the Wanikani Knowledge Guide and that helped me understand how it works pretty well.

On top of that, I’ve also been beat over the head with many of the general rules of when to use on’yomi and when to use kun’yomi, while using Wanikani, and that “kanji reading” and “vocabulary reading” isn’t related to whether it’ll be kun’yomi or on’yomi. Rules such as: if a kanji is alone in a vocab, it’ll likely be kun’yomi. If there are two different kanji in a vocab, it’ll likely be on’yomi. A pattern that seems to be common on Wanikani is that the “kanji reading”, which is just the reading for that kanji Wanikani thinks will be most useful, is often on’yomi, and then you’ll be taught the kun’yomi later in a vocab.

I’m not entirely sure what it is you’re arguing in this thread. That it’s confusing for new users? Maybe, but there’s info out there that’ll explain it pretty easily. That it’d be confusing for a native? Sure, but who cares? They’re not gonna be using Wanikani anyway.

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Thanks for this. There is indeed a confusion–intrinsic to Wanikani. One learns work arounds, rather than making excuses or pretending that a genuine awkwardness that is now difficult to rectify is with the learner, rather than built into the system.

It is not supposed to be interpreted as “kanji reading of a kanji” or “vocabulary reading of the kanji”, which both make no sense.

Exactly. These are the terms designed into the Wanikani SRS. I would have chosen other terms closer to the intentions of the designers. If “kanji reading” means “ideogram,” then say so. The Getting Started reference does not make this clear. Nor does it make clear that the so-called vocabulary reading is the most common reading. If the so-called vocabulary reading is the most common reading, then say so. The Getting Started reference could be more explicit about this.

Wanikani is valuable. I have no problem with the mnemonics for radicals – the mnemonics Wanikani chose are sensible. But I don’t see any reason for defensiveness if someone suggests that the terms kanji reading and vocabulary reading leave something to be desired, or at least, deserve more of an explanation than they currently have, since they are misleading. Perhaps they were the best terms that occurred to the designers at the time. Or perhaps an empirical study would show there are no better terms for what the designers intended. This is, after all, a question of design. And such questions are legitimate.

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I think the OP’s question was about the WK interface and has been thoroughly answered.

As for the rest - yeah, WK’s terminology is often confusing, the mnemonics are sometimes actively misleading about the etymology of words, and the fact that it doesn’t teach morphology leads to a lot of craziness in the vocabulary choices (e.g., teaching transitive/intransitive pairs as separate words and never going into the general set of rules).

But! It’s still a great tool for learning kanji. Anybody who is learning Japanese - and not just learning kanji as a memory exercise - will be using other resources. I’ve personally found it helpful to seek out detailed info on grammar and on the history of the language, because that’s how I learn, but it’s not mandatory for everyone.

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Thank you–I interpreted the OP’s question to refer to both the interface design (pink/purple) as well as the names chosen (also part of the design–kanji reading/vocabulary reading). One source for designing better user interfaces is “Don’t Make Me Think,” 3rd edition, by Steven Krug. Aside from that, I agree with you about terminology, morphology etc., and that WK is a great tool for learning kanji.

If some users want to accept WK’s terminology at face value, fine. I prefer to note that “kanji reading” and “vocabulary reading” are less than optimal design choices. Also I would prefer not to be ignorant of distinctions that exist, especially when knowing them would enhance my understanding and appreciation of a subject, and I would be loath to project onto a user a stumbling block I had unwittingly introduced into a learning interface. That would be unfair. Thanks again.

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