Multiple Onyomi - no mnemonic

Does anyone have any tips on remembering onyomi variants? I find it weird that Wanikani assumes you can read vocabulary where ‘this is just the onyomi readings’, even when it’s a variant. And example I’ve just hit is the level 34 操作. ‘Just the onyomi readings’ it says. But I don’t know I’ve ever seen 作 as just sa, not saku before, even though of course the Kanji lists that.

Am I the only one who finds the way WK assumes that you’ll know which onyomi reading to use a bit… odd?


what about in 作用

The kanji lesson also says

Also keep in mind that there’s another reading that pops up too that’s さ. It’s similar to さく, though, and I think you’ll be able to learn both the readings via the vocabulary.


Ha! Very good point - 作用. I guess because that was early on, I learnt that as if it was a weird sort of rendaku, with the ‘く’ somehow falling away, because I didn’t understand yet what was and wasn’t rendaku’ed.

You’re also right that the kanji lesson flags this, but that’s not much use if I’m dozens of levels later, and was able to burn the kanji without ever typing in ‘さ’ as the onyomi.

Anyway - I guess I was asking a broader question: if there isn’t any way to predict which onyomi reading any given vocab will need, shouldn’t WK offer mnemonics, or something, to help you with these?

1 Like

Yes - 人 used to be a real sticking point - I could never remember whether I was supposed to be using ジン or ニン. I do try to comprise my own mnemonics as I go, usually based around Ninjas or Geniuses.

SO: Ninjas are more popular than Geniuses, but the head of the household is a Genius, that is why he is in charge; it is only polite to assume that nationals of other countries are geniuses, but if you are counting people, or don’t know many they are they are ninjas, got to count those tricky ninjas. And so on.

I do wish that where there are a couple of common Onyomi readings that WK would give a hint as to which is intended, rather than just saying “you know this”, but now I am in the habit of doing that myself.


Yup. 人 is a big one for me.

I don’t know whether I’ve invented this, but it seems it’s more often ジン when it’s something positive, a real person, humanity shining through, and typically ニン when it’s something negative, a criminal, someone amoral. An obvious exceptions I can think of is 料理人, but I wonder if that might even reflect a cultural attitude.

1 Like


Kinda odd, but I pciture ジン to be a “stronger” person because of the sound difference (easy to remember it this way) and make up reasons why one is weak and the other is strong, for example 住人 is weak, because I imagine them living in a house complex, aka not on their own and 殺人 is strong, because you gotta be strong to kill a guy, dont’chu? Sofar it worked, but I assume it’s mostly because I actually think about it and try to reason it out.


I’d say the major pattern is whether it’s something innate or temporary- 料理人, 職員, 犯人 are all things people do and they all use ニン, but 日本人, 美人, 成人, 老人 etc are things people are and they all use ジン. Obviously there’s some that don’t seem to match up, like 悪人, 詩人 or 軍人 but generally it works and you can come up with explanations for these. Maybe the arts and military aren’t routes open to just anybody in ancient Japan and maybe bad guys can flip it around if they want to.


my brain latched on to that too, somehow. so it now has a category of 人 which one can’t trust. it doesn’t make sense, of course. but then, most mnemonics don’t :smiley:

1 Like