Multiple Readings Confusion!

Hey guys! Question for ya’ll. How do YOU keep from mixing up readings for Kanji/vocab words that are DIFFERENT, for example, water. The Kanji is sui, but the vocab word, which is JUST the same kanji, is mizu. Obviously that’s a fairly easy one, but for others, how do you keep yourself from getting mixed up?

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It might help to clarify a few things. The kanji 水 has the readings みず and すい. It is not one or the other. It’s just that WaniKani happens to ask you about すい for the kanji. This is why if you answer with みず, WaniKani doesn’t mark you wrong. It just asks you to try again because they want you to focus on すい. On the other hand, the word 水 is only read みず. すい is wrong, because the word 水 can’t be read that way.

So how do I keep them straight? Well, if a word is common, like 水, I remember it from repeated exposure. Less common words, like まつりごと, are harder for me to remember. (Looks like I finally remembered the reading though!)

Additionally, there are some heuristics you can use. For example, a word made up of a single kanji is more likely to use the kun’yomi reading than the on’yomi reading. (This is far from guaranteed, such as 本, which is why it’s just a heuristic.) If you look at kun’yomi and on’yomi, there are some sounds that simply cannot show up for on’yomi. In this case, みず cannot be an on’yomi. With all that said though, I wouldn’t worry too much about studying which sounds can or cannot be on’yomi, because you’ll naturally acquire a sense for that over time.

Hopefully that helps a bit. If you think it would help to go over some of the specific words you’re having trouble with, feel free to mention them.


Thanks! I understand why WK is doing it this way, as you said, the WORD 水 cannot be read as すい. It’s just confusing for me to remember when to use which, and then I end up almost not remembering either lol I’m sure with time I’ll get it. I am still just a lowly level 2 after all lol

Yeah, it just takes time. Remember that it’s okay to get reviews wrong. The point of the SRS is to help you learn the items by giving you reviews sooner when you get an item wrong.

By the way, are you going through a grammar textbook/workbook alongside WaniKani? It might sound counterintuitive to suggest adding more to your study workload, but (good) grammar books teach you a lot of really common words. I personally used Japanese From Zero before ever using WaniKani, so a lot of words in the first several levels or WaniKani were already familiar to me, which made it easier to ease into the process of learning kanji. I’m not suggesting you drop WaniKani in favor of a grammar textbook, but it might help to do them both at the same time.

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So, I’m religiously following Tofugu’s Learning Japanese article, which suggests I get to level 10 of WK before diving into grammar. At that point, I’m planning on doing Tae Kim AND Genki. I may do Japanese From Zero just cause I own the first volume. I’m going for 100% fluency in 4-5 years (hopefully) so I definitely need to tackle everything. Part of me is waiting (probably in vain) for Tofugu to release EtoEto (or its’ spiritual successor) so I can use that, as I LOVE Tofugu/WK’s material.

yes, it can. 水曜日. - すいようび

Just not 水 on it’s own.

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Yeah sorry, I meant on it’s own. Sorry for the confusion!

You should ignore their level 10 recommendation. Despite Tofugu’s recommendation, many prominent members of the forums suggest starting grammar as soon as possible. There is no reason to wait unless you have a really limited amount of time for studying Japanese. And if you want to be fluent in 4-5 years I sure hope you have plenty of time. :slight_smile:

Side note: 100% fluency is not really a thing, as there is always something new to learn or a different situation you may be put in. Being able to have an everyday conversation in Japanese fluently doesn’t mean you could discuss politics, science, engineering, or any number of specialized topics. Similarly, being able to read a slice of life novel without issue doesn’t mean you could read fantasy or sci-fi books without encountering a lot of words you don’t know. This isn’t to discourage you, but rather to suggest that you come up with incremental, measurable goals. Things like “reach level 10 on WaniKani” and “finish Genki I” to start, followed by things like “read a manga in Japanese” and “talk to someone in Japanese for 10 minutes”, and so on. Because if your goal is too vague or distant, like “100% fluency”, it may be hard to notice significant progress that you have made in learning the language.


That’s very wise and true, thank you. Right now my goals, I hope, are measurable. I want to finish WK in about a year and a half to two years. I want to get through Genki AND UNDERSTAND IT. My ultimate goal is to read light novels/manga and watch anime without subtitles or translation. I know it’s gonna take a LOT of work, but I’m willing to do it!

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For 月 it’s mostly wether you’re looking for a specific month (何月、四月) or a general month-thingy (先月、来月).
For 人 someone posted a link somewhere here in the forum to this: 人, hito, nin, jin, ~bito, ~ri, ~to | Japanese with Anime

You’ll encounter the word みず about a billion times in real Japanese, and so it will sort itself out.

For starting WK, I’d say you’d need to at least know what verb conjugations are and a rough idea of particles. You don’t need to know specifics yet, just that things like 食べる and 食べます mean the same thing.

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