Mnemonics for speaking/listening

I’m just starting Wanikani, coming from a decent beginner’s foundation in Japanese.

I’d like to hear other people’s experience with speaking and listening to Japanese, having learned from the mnemonics and SRS. My fear is that speaking and listening are real-time endeavors. If you need to picture some crazy scenario to connect pronunciations to meanings, you’ve already missed the rest of the sentence.

For my personal goals, listening/speaking is more important than being able to read, though I know it’s all coupled.

I’m curious what long time Wanikani users’ experience has been with using SRS to learn kanji and vocabulary, and how well they’ve been able to transition that to real time word-meaning associations? Any tips? Are my fears unfounded? What other resources do you recommend I supplement Wanikani with?



The mnemonics are only temporary. After a word has been through the wash of SRS a few times, you just remember it - that’s the point.
I have a few mnemonics that were so good/silly that I can’t forget them, but they dont get in the way of actually recalling the word.


I think the mnemonics are meant to help at the beginning when you’re first learning the words/kanji, to give you a way to get the information in your head easier. Ideally by the time the word is at the enlightened/burned levels, and when you start encountering it “in the wild”, it should be solid enough in your brain that you won’t need the mnemonics anymore. For me, that happens most of the time.

I can’t say much about speaking/listening in real time because I’m a beginner too. That’s a challenge for me too, but I think those are skills that improves over time with more study, exposure, & practice. I’ve been listening to Japanese podcasts aimed at beginners a lot lately and my skill at understanding them has improved greatly from when I started, and I certainly don’t use mnemonics to remember words when I hear them, I just sort of remember the word if I’ve encountered it enough times that the meaning comes to me immediately

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At least be aware that making pronunciation into meaning, and making a concept into a word, are different kinds of recalling.

Also, Japanese is quite context dependent, and that goes even more for listening than speaking words. Still, one should expect to speak sentences in a way that can be listened to and understand…

In the past, I did recalling “words” from a list of English glosses (multiple meanings collapsed into a single Japanese word), then try to write the word along with recalling the pronunciation. Perhaps that is probably OK if you don’t know many vocabularies or quite intermediate yet… Anyway, mnemonic works, creating a mnemonic is sometimes helpful, but I don’t always need to create one.

So, what did I earn? In the end I recalled the reading well, along with the Kanji used; but the actual meanings become blurry.

Perhaps “a concept into a word” isn’t much of English to Japanese as well, but rather reminiscence to Japanese.

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I’m known for long posts, but I’ll try to keep this short.

Yes, they happen in real time, which is why I think that speaking and listening (or frankly any sort of fluidity in language) are a matter of getting a feel for things and creating habits. My experience with listening is that you typically understand better when you’re able to match what you hear with specific words that you know – it’s not simply a matter of recognising sounds or getting enough exposure, though both of those things are important.

However, as others have said, mnemonics are temporary, mostly, and I know that I’m not particularly conscious of past mnemonics for, say, French, which is a foreign language I’m fluent in. (In this case, I pass for native – most people I meet think I grew up in France.) Some mnemonics I once created still get triggered, but I don’t need them to understand anymore.

Still, you could try to improve on mnemonics by making them more vivid or more intuitive/obvious for you. My favourite mnemonics are emotional or sensation-based (e.g. “creux” in French means ‘hollow’, and my throat feels plenty hollow when I say it, so the word stuck from day 1). Like I said, I believe it’s about getting a feel. Therefore, I decided I would make my mnemonics into experiences I can feel, albeit I don’t make a mnemonic for every word. The main aim for me is to understand the word and the mnemonic immediately (or at least, as quickly as possible).

Practically speaking, some practice frameworks you could consider, and which you could use with the same resource:


  1. Pick something you’d like to say, ideally from a recording of someone else saying it
  2. Read through the transcription if you have it, then ‘shadow’ the recording (i.e. listen to the speaker and imitate what you hear in real time)
  3. Rinse & repeat until you’re satisfied


  1. Pick something you’d like to understand, ideally with a transcription
  2. Listen without looking at the transcription and pick out as much as you can
  3. a. Check the transcription to see if you’ve made mistakes, and figure out what you couldn’t understand
    b. (optional) Listen again while reading the transcription so you can match what you see with what you hear (may strengthen understanding and memory of words)
  4. Rinse & repeat until you’re satisfied

That’s how I do it, at any rate. I used to do that with textbook lessons, but now I do it with anime episodes. I don’t do that so much for speaking, but it’s one way. Another thing you can try is talking to yourself/explaining something aloud. You might not make perfect sentences, but at least you’ll gain confidence in putting words together, and in making Japanese sounds. (It’s a lot less daunting saying a word in a conversation if you’ve already pronounced it once. I know because I once used words I’d only ever seen on paper during an oral exam.)

EDIT: Oops, guess that still turned out a little long. Mission failed. Sorry! :laughing:


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