The vocabulary reading, which again is not meant to invent a term but to direct you to which category the item is, is just the reading used when reading the word. It may or may not be common. So why call it the most common reading if it’s not?
The way to read 川 when it’s a word is かわ. In this case, yeah, that’s probably the most common reading. せん appears in fewer words that are less frequently used.
When reading 理 as a word, it can be ことわり. This is a difficult word and quite uncommon. Calling ことわり the most common reading merely because it’s how to read 理 as a word doesn’t make sense.
Some kanji never get used as words on their own, but they still have readings. They would never appear as vocabulary on their own, but they still have a most common reading.
I don’t think it’s misleading, it’s just outside the scope of what WK is. They’re lies to children that are enough to get you going. The fine distinctions can come later on as you learn more.
From a design perspective, it’s much better to use a term that a majority of people are familiar with, such as kanji reading, then a more precise but complicated one, such as on’yomi, or maybe “vocal rendering of an ideogram based on Chinese pronunciation filtered through Japanese auditory interpretation from a thousand years ago”.
And I disagree with the idea that natives would be confused by something like 漢字の読み方 or 単語の読み方. They use these kinds of expressions plenty. In the context of needing to distinguish between two flashcard types it would be understood fine.
I was talking about native English speakers just starting to learn Japanese who have a vague notion of what kanji is and who would probably be scared away by starting with the on/kun dichotomy right at the start.
So why call it the most common reading if it’s not?
Because it is–at least in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases [your exception is just that], and because the so-called vocabulary reading is unique. The uniqueness is also in the documentation. You will of course find many references to “most common reading” in the WK community.
Unless you’re claiming that Wanikani was written so long ago that the author’s claim of most common reading may have been valid in antiquity, but now this is a distant memory, and the vocabulary readings are nowhere near common, as you seem to suggest. Of course if that’s true, then please supply citations if at all possible.
Just so everyone can follow, your claim is that WaniKani says that “the vocabulary reading” is “the most common reading for the kanji.” Is that not what you were saying?
The example of 理 was an extreme example, but there are loads of examples in the middle where the reading as a solo-kanji word is less common than the readings used in compounds, though neither are rare.
What’s being expressed here isn’t that you’ll learn the most common readings of the kanji in every situation - for example, you might learn an uncommon reading of a kanji as part of a vocabulary word - but that you’ll learn the most common readings of each kanji (on average, across all its uses) and the individual readings of each vocabulary word.
The readings that the system expects in the vocabulary are specific, and you’ll be marked right or wrong based strictly on what you were taught with the vocabulary, because that’s how you read that specific word. The kanji won’t mark you wrong for the reading it wasn’t looking for, as long as it’s a valid reading. If you enter a reading it’s not looking for with kanji, it will just tell you that that’s not the reading it wants and prompt you to enter another reading.
Right. That’s good enough. I have no problem with “little fibs” that overgeneralize to get a point across that are refined later. But to say that the WK didn’t choose the readings that are used 90% of the time (that’s how they quantify “most common” in the documentation on 音読み versus 訓読み) when WK repeatedly stresses this is what they strive for in their kanji and vocabulary readings can fairly be called bizarre. [You didn’t say this.]
Today I learnt that (well, I think I learnt that) where you have onyomi readings - where the ‘words’ are made entirely of kanji, yes? - that these are ‘typically written in katakana in dictionaries’. (Whereas kunyomi readings from kanji + hiragana words are written with hiragana, and a little dot to distinguish the kanji bit.) I don’t remember seeing that mentioned round here. But wouldn’t that be a useful thing to mention? Here I am merrily typing my hiragana (??). Or is that just a red herring, and essentially an extra layer of complication that one really shouldn’t be worrying about? I do hope so And where does that leave the lone kanji = purple vocabulary? Just interested, as it came as a surprise to read it, and now I feel more confused about something I thought my brain was happy with…
What you’re referring to is a dictionary convention to save space. That way they don’t have to use space labeling which readings are which, you can tell just by looking. It’s totally fine to refer to an onyomi in either hiragana or katakana, though sometimes you will see onyomi in katakana outside of dictionaries if they want to achieve a similar effect. Like, a quiz show might show a kanji’s onyomi in katakana to give it that feeling of being like a dictionary entry.
When you are actually writing a word in a real sentence, a lot of factors can determine whether you would choose hiragana, katakana, or kanji, but expressing the type of reading is almost never one of those factors. The word “kirei” might be written as きれい, キレイ, or 綺麗, depending on the overall style of the work and what the author wants to express (hiragana are often seen as softer, katakana as cooler, kanji as more formal, etc.).
That being said, if you want to use that dictionary convention as a visual guide here, there’s a user script that does it for you. Some people also do it to get more exposure to katakana. But don’t feel like you have to do it, or expect Japanese people to do this when they write.
Solo-kanji vocabulary items, since they are words as you would use them in sentences, fall into the same category as “kirei” as I was mentioning before. Which script you choose to write something in will depend on other factors.