Mnemonics : problems and solutions?

Hi all,

I’d like to hear from the community on this below :

1/ what are the main problems you are facing with mnemonics. Could be the original ones from WaniKani, new ones you created, specific kanjis you have difficulty with, etc.

2/ when a mnemonic is not working for you, what is your strategy / solution to learn that kanji/vocabulary ? Are you using rote memorization (and obviously the SRS system from WK), or are you spending more time to find systematically a mnemonic that finally works for you ?

Reason for asking : I’ve been working & improving my own system of mnemonics for the last 9 months, I’m happy with it, very consistent and works well… but it is limited in the sense that it is only based on my own experience - basically it’s only solving the issues which I faced myself :grimacing: So I’d like to see challenges from other learners and try to improve my system to (hopefully) solve those additional problems. And share it back to the community of course !

Thanks for any input or comment.

PS : I was not sure in which forum category to post this message, so feel free to move it to a more relevant place if needed.


after level 20 most of them became quite useless to remember, they became a wall of text, that on review, you remember part of the silly story but the main word for meaning or reading make you confuse them or even dont remember at all.

Also those mnenomics for reading become so odd that you also dont remember them

recently I learned “to touch”, (さわ)

mnemonics show “You try to touch a saw (さわ)”

like, what is that reading has to do with it? There are several others that also dont help at all.


Another issue there, saw is definitely used for さ as well (左)
究 also has the mnemonic “You are researching cucumbers”, not very helpful, maybe better because of how the story talks about digging holes.

Though I feel like you are only meant to use the mnemonic for the apprentice stages maybe, once you get to guru, trying to fiddle with the story to remember a reading or even meaning is slow and it for sure won’t work for real life reading with any kind of speed. So it’s meant as a crutch until you engrain the image of the kanji alongside the reading into your brain.

And because of this, how I solve the problem is quite simple, I just try to accelerate this by looking at the vocab or kanji and trying to repeat the stuff about it in my head. Then I prepare myself to fail it a few times before getting it to guru

Doesn’t it help to remember that 究 takes on the same sound as the
九 radical? Kyuu? Kyuucumbers?
There are a lot of examples of bad mnemonics, but this isnt one of them imo…

Mnemonics is usually the last thing I would memorize if I can’t remeber the kanji or vocab at all.


tbf, I was toying with the idea of getting the semantic phonetic composition userscript, would help in these cases, but alone without any outside understanding and resources, if I didn’t know that kanji sometimes are like that, I would only get a sentence, that “you are researching cucumbers” (after telling me, that I should imagine what I’m researching with 9 holes, which is another issue imho, but I digress)

Are you saying that if you haven’t learned 研究 yet, the “research” reference makes no sense? That’s okay, isn’t it? Just need to be patient and then you’ll have an “ah hah” moment when you get shown the vocab word for the first time …

I see the following issues with mnemonics:

  • Add user synonyms
  • For very stubborn kanji and vocab I put them into Anki

I would say a personal approach to mnemonics is the best that will work for you, but not necessarily the most universal. That’s the issue I see with WaniKani mnemonics. Instead of some of them it’s possible to come with simpler and more obvious stories which involve the kanji directly and require less mental leg work.


No, I was continuing the same idea that @evandcs has already mentioned, that there’s almost no way to remember, that the reading is “きゅう”, because it has a very very light connection to what happened in the previous mnemonic, or to the meaning of the kanji itself.
Basically it’s when you miss a reading, and then check the mnemonic and you go “ah right, this is because I’m planting cucumbers, sure”

But there is a connection between 9 holes and cucumbers…
九 (きゅう or く) means 9
I still don’t see how this is a bad mnemonic, sorry…

1 Like

I think this is one of those kanji that don’t even require a mnemonic, because 九. It’s there, it’s enough to mention it :slight_smile: .


The mnemonic doesn’t draw a connection to this though. It does sometimes mention other readings (後ろ), not in this case, it starts you from cucumber. Just because you can remember the reading, because 九 is in it, doesn’t mean, that the mnemonic helped you with that.

When I see 研究 (research) my eyes instantly latch onto the 九 radical at the end because Wk taught me to focus on that radical to make the sound. The mnemonic of planting cucumbers and researching them helped me as a crutch to remember the vocab meaning until I could read this naturally with no help.

I think we completely derailed here, I’m not saying by any means, that the word is hard to read, at all. I’m saying, that the mnemonic definitely has no use like this. You don’t use it to read it.

I see the connection. You don’t.

The connection between researching nine holes and cucumber?

Yes. 9 holes has a connection to kyuu.
Cucumbers also has a connection to kyuu.

And of course the research part is to make the connection to the vocab word later on.

Sorry, but to me that’s kinda backwards, remembering the mnemonic from the reading and not the other way around. It could have been, that the reading is different, with a different thing you research, and you would have to remember the mnemonic to remember the reading itself. Just like with 触る

It seemed to help me…
My 研究室 card is deep in my enlightened pile and I never had problems with it. I always see myself in a lab sticking those 9 cucumbers into 9 holes like a madman …

Hmm, we don’t agree then, I found it difficult to remember, ces’t la vie

1 Like