Mnemonics and differentiating on/kun'yomi

Hello , in my first stages I realize I sometimes have a hard time to be sure whether the mnemonic stories indicate the kun or on yomi reading. I thought about having some kind of system like building stories that would consistently indicate one of the two first and the other one second.
How do you keep track of the readings?

At first it is hard to tell, but after a while you realise that many On readings are re-used for several kanji and the readings used are limited.

I had this same question when I started, as I first thought WK would always teach the On reading as the first reading when learning a new kanji, but WK will often teach the Kun first if it thinks it’s more valuable to do so or if there is no On reading.

There’s no real way to know this at first (without looking out for the reading type while doing lessons) but, remembering them strictly at first - in my opinion - will be a waste of time, because your brain will automatically recognise the pattern after a few levels or so due to the re-use of readings.

So my advice would be to not worry too much if you are not remembering if a reading is On or Kun straight away.


I’m not sure if there’s a general rule that you can use, and in any case, the main reason I can tell if there’s an on’yomi somewhere is because I already speak Chinese. However… ok, if the reading for a single kanji is longer than two kana, it’s kun’yomi for sure. If the reading contains two syllables and the second syllable isn’t a small, relatively short/sharp sound like く、つ or き, it’s probably a kun’yomi. (The reason being that Chinese dialects often end syllables with such sharp sounds, like T or K, and on’yomi are based on these dialects.) Finally, if the reading ends in -ou or -uu, I think it’s probably an on’yomi. However, ultimately, it’s not that important to know whether a reading is a kun’- or on’yomi. It’s more important to know when to use it. The type of reading that is being used should become clearer with experience.


I had the same question when starting out and was struggling with quite a bit.

Browsing the forum only yielded the same results you see here: “It’ll happen eventually”. I eventually gave in and prepared for a long run of “When will it happen?”, “Am I there yet?”.

But it only took me about 6 levels until it did “happen eventually”. I was able to learn to recognize jukugo, single kanji and okurigana without actively focusing on it, simply because they are explained in pretty much every corresponding reading note.

And once I learned those, I realized that you really don’t need to focus on memorizing On vs. Kun specifically.
Whenever I see a vocab in a review or a lesson I know (sans exceptions) whether it requires On or Kun for a certain Kanji. And even if I can’t recall the correct reading just from the Kanji, I can pretty much always remember other vocabulary where that Kanji is used in the same way. And if I know the reading for that other word then I know the reading for the current word too.

So while I can understand the frustration and helplessness you might feel about being told that you can’t do anything about it right now, I will also say: Don’t focus on it, let it happen naturally. It really does work that way.


On the kanji lesson page it actually tells you whether you’re learning on or kun. The mnemonic is always going to be for the reading being taught. In vocab you either already know the reading from the kanji lesson, or it’ll be the other one.

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