Kanji vs Vocabulary Recall

I’ve noticed something of a chronic trend in my Master–>Enlightened reviews that I really should address before my burns kick into high gear. I find myself occasionally having issue remembering kanji alone, but suddenly knowing exactly what it means and how it sounds when it shows up in a vocabulary review. A kanji that feels unfamiliar becomes immediately evident when I see it within a word.

My questions are, how much of a problem is this? Is it often necessary when dealing with Japanese in the wild to recognize kanji without context? If it’s a problem, how can I work on improving it aside from just getting it wrong and waiting another month at least (4 months if and when this shows up in burn reviews)?

Thanks! \o/


My experience has been that I often forget the exact meaning or reading wanikani wants for individual kanji items, but since books usually use words and not single kanji it hasn’t been much of a problem for the 9(+3*2/3) books I’ve read so far. I can’t speak for anything else than just reading novels(and manga) though.

There is one downside though, your reviews may end piling up on wanikani if you get a lot of leeches.


What I do after getting the item wrong is do is check a dictionary to see if it lists any of those extra meanings for the kanji and then add it as a synonym.

Ex: 殺 which is listed as Kill and Murder on Jisho.org, but only as Kill on wanikani, so there is no harm in adding Murder as synonym.


I don’t mean “I know the general meaning but don’t get the exact thing Wanikani wants”, I mean “I don’t know what this means at all until I see it in a word and then I totally know it”. Like, my kanji reviews would be legitimately approaching 100% accuracy if there was a “please show me this kanji in an untranslated word” button.

If it’s just for reading books, it’s still not really a problem in the vast majority of cases(aside from things like made up words where you’d need to somewhat know the kanji to guess what they mean and books that actually talk about some individual kanji at some point, but I don’t think either of those is particularly common, and if it’s the latter you’d probably get an explanation anyway), since books use words and not individual Kanji. I won’t say anything definite about other stuff since reading fiction is what I have the most experience with, but I personally have a hard time seeing it being more important for speaking or listening than for reading. (For writing, I don’t know how useful or not it’d be to know the individual kanji well)

That said, not knowing the individual kanji well does mean that you get more reviews on wanikani, and sometimes you can guess what words mean without having to look them up if you know the kanji(which you probably already know, but still), so it’s not like it’s entirely useless to know them either. I also personally find that I have an easier time telling similar-looking words apart if I know the kanji well. I have no idea how to go about learning them better if you want to do that though, because it’s not something I’ve put a lot of effort into(since it hasn’t been necessary for what I want to do at the moment).

All of this is just based on my experiences though, and it’s not like I’m an expert or anything

You are now. :eyes: Congrats. :tada:

I know what you mean - I’ve started using a KameSama (the reverse of WaniKani - gives you the English prompt, and asks for the correct Kanji/Kana) for this reason, to force me to start focusing more on the individual Kanji, rather than just on the context, etc.

I have this same problem with some kanji for sure. While it’s not as much of a problem when seeing WK vocab, at least for me it can be more of a problem for recognizing said kanji in the wild in NEW vocab. But if you’re supplementing vocab (through reading, other SRS systems, etc.), then it’s probably not such a big deal.