Level One and Frustrated with Vocabulary

I’ve been cruising through these beginner lessons and having a blast - I never knew the power of mnemonic devices! I’m remembering everything without much effort at all - my imagination has always been pretty strong. Then I got my first vocabulary items today. I find the mnemonic tips they provide for these new vocabulary items AWFUL!

I have 4-5 vocab items all starting with the kanji for “big” in my reviews, but was provided zero mnemonic link to the hiragana characters (only a device for saying the kanji). I’m finding myself memorizing the way EACH item is read and then running through them in my head, one by one, until I stumble upon the one that ends in the kanji I’m currently looking at. Am I supposed to make up my own mnemonic devices? This is nothing like the first few lessons :frowning:

I was excited about how well made the mnemonic devices were up until this point, but now I’m super disappointed. I don’t memorize chunks of arbitrary information easily, so getting this far was a big deal and really cool to me.

Does it get better? Am I coming at this vocab the wrong way? How am I supposed to look at 大きい and KNOW “XXXXkii” is pronounced “ookii” instead of confusing it with 大した and saying “taikii” without a mnemonic link to the hiragana?


Honestly I don’t really like the pre-made mnemonics that much myself. I actually try to make up my own based on something that makes sense to me and follows my own way of thinking, so that the next time I see the kanji/vocab I’ll be able to recreate my own thought process. It seems a lot more effective. Sometimes the pre-made ones are good, though.

As far as mnemonics that differentiate when it’s おお or だい, I actually don’t incorporate that into my mnemonics. I just brute-force remember those ones.


Yeah, I pretty quickly stopped using the site mnemonics because they are too long and I made up my own. Then I’ve mostly even quit making up my own and am just brute force memorizing everything. I’m going very slowly though.

I think with your vocab problem, you have to either make up your own mnemonics or brute force memorize them. If you take them in small chunks (thus go slowly) you can just memorize them.


You can always make your own mnemonics which is actually encouraged if you are having trouble / in general for better retention. There are a few vocab in the later levels where when I look at the mnemonic I think “WTF am I supposed to do with this?”.

Personally, I think the good that Wanikani brings to the table (e.g. consistent mnemonic / stories) is worth paying for even though there are a few questionable mnemonics that probably don’t resonate with the majority and were tacked on simply to have something there (hence the custom mnemonics).

My personal mnemonic for 大した is that you always have to たい your big, great した’s together. Even you don’t know why you たい them together but it has to be done.


The mnemonic for 大きい does give you a way to remember it, because you say おお because you see something “large.” If you remember that the word means large, then you remember that the reading is おお. If you want to, you could say it’s a large key (きい) or something. You should be kind of linking it all together when you do the lesson, repeating the full word out loud and the mnemonic.

The 大した page doesn’t have a mnemonic for the specific word, but it’s an exceptional word anyway, so as others suggested, making your own mnemonic might be the best bet.


It was only when I got to level four did the differences between On’yomi and Kun’yomi finally sunk into my head. I heard about the two different ones but I was all “Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” Paying attention to when on’yomi and kun’yomi is used will help a lot.

As for those times when there are several different kun’yomi readings, well… you’ve got to power through it somehow - either with your own mnenomics or memorization. I don’t think anyone ever said learning Japanese (or any language) is easy.

If you stick with it for a little while, you’ll get the hang of it and look back and see your Guru numbers grow and hopefully become encouraged by your progress.


As others have said, you’re more than free and even encouraged to make your own mnemonics. I’ve personally found them great so far at level 5 with only a few questionable ones. Many of them are very funny which helps them stick in my mind. And some of the vocabulary does include mnemonics for okurigana. 上がる is one I just encountered.

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Look I’m learning Japanese kanji and vocab free now but I use Wanikani as a dictionary the best advice that can help you is you must try hard, try to write those words and kanjis it’ll help you a lot in remembering them. Now I learn kanjis and words with just one time reviewing after writing them. the best method to learn a language in my opinion is you must read and write everyday.

I will be honest, I use the mnemonics as a last resort. Some of those have been very helpful ones (I have no idea why the Ms. Chou ones have stuck with me) and others less so. That being said, most of the vocab is there to give you extra reps with memorizing the kanji.


I often forget the Wanikani mnemonics because they don’t make a lot of sense. But coming up with your own will help you remember better in the long run anyway. Plus, when you eventually want to learn vocab that isn’t covered by Wanikani, it’s good to have practiced coming up with them too!


There are many many threads for alternative mnemonics, you can search them up and hopefully you can find a mnemonic which works for you.

I only read the mnemonics to remember different kanji because there are a lot of similar kanji that only differ with a radical. Then you start to notice patterns with similar kanji having the same readings, difference between on’yomi and kunyomi.

Also the beginning level words are easy enough that you will hear/see them everywhere and remember without any mnemonic. Brute memorization it is! :grimacing:


There is nothing wrong if you are having a difficult time learning more vocabulary. Learning a new language requires patience, time, and effort. Just give it some time and you will eventually know the vocabulary by heart. Do not worry if you are messing up at the beginning.

Vocabs take a longer time to learn than kanji because they are a LOT, so prepare yourself for some disappointment.

I only use mnemonics for kanji, never for vocabs.
Just repeatedly hit my head with the words long enough, it will eventually stay. So don’t worry about making mistakes with vocabulary. It doesn’t count for leveling up CMIIW.

If you need a crash course in hiragana, there’s https://www.renshuu.org/

I like the pre-made WK mnemonics. I like the stories even if they are long. There’s a passage in the book “ Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” about how absurdity in mnemonics is what helps you recall information vividly.

On very few occasions do I find myself making up my own mnemonics on WK. One example would be 年. The mnemonics for the vocabulary reading for year didn’t help me and I kept forgetting so I created my own:

Batteries last more than a year! Duracell lasts forever! But TOSHIba sucks. They only last a year : (

As far as recognizing when to use certain readings when the kanji is the same but the hiragana is not, I just memorize it or try to find relation with the kanji and the hiragana. Eventually, as you keep getting it wrong it will stick!



I started getting frustrated with mnemonics after level 15. Most of them are wall of text (I use flaming durtles for lessons so the mnemonics become a wall of text btw) and I remember words from the story but the main one for the kanji I miss completely.

For these ones I just memorize and that’s it. Recently the mnemonic for ‘to renew’, it tries to connect ‘a lotta’ to あらた.

For me it has nothing to do.

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To me it makes perfect sense.

A lotta sounds like あらた because there’s no L sound in Japanese.

It is very hard to come up with mnemonics for certain words but the idea is to get close enough.

“Hickory” → ひかり
“Talker” → たか
“Car rider” → からだ

The long stories help you make connections and you need the absurdity aspect of it to help you get to the word you need. Sometimes that word you need is elusive but the majority of times it works :slight_smile:
For those you miss, you look at the story again and each time it gets a bit closer to being permanently engrained in your brain!

The problem I have with those kind of Japanglish mnemonics is that WK is generally kind of bad with how they use Japanese pronunciation. Take 乱れる for instance. In that mnemonic, it’s a story about how you grab all the mead (みだ) you can while everything is getting ‘to be disordered’. But Mead isn’t said as みだ, it’s みーど. I can let the long ‘i’ sound go, but it’s that だ and ど that have caused me to get it wrong a couple times unnecessarily. I too had to make my own mnemonic.
As for 改める, since I know 新 really well, I used that for my mnemonic because when you ‘change something’, you often use or do something new (あらた).

I agree. There are some mnemonics that I have gotten wrong because of the same reason. I have also created my own to replace those. I just think that for the most part, they are really good.

It’s just that some words are tricky to nail with mnemonics so they have to come up with the best they can.