Need mnemonics for different readings in vocabulary combinations

Hi! I’ve recently reached 6th level and have problem with words that have multiple on’yomi or kun’yomi readings in different context, like 大, 月, 日. The most hated part is seeing this:
“This is a jukugo word that uses the on’yomi readings of the kanji. You should be able to read this on your own.”
How the hell I’m able to read this on my own? I’m trying to deduce some rules myself, like, when you see something related to month number, you use がつ, but I have no clue why “big energy” is たいき, and “big study” is だいがく. I think wanikani needs mnemonics for jukugo vocabulary words, if there is more than one readings of compound kanji. Or maybe description of generic rules if there is some. What do you think of it? Maybe you can give me some advice to help memorize this? :slight_smile:

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There are some very loose patterns as you’ve noticed, especially with 月 and 日 about which reading is used when you’re talking about months vs talking about the moon, for example. Other than that you’ll just need to trust memory and repetition to teach you which reading is used in which context. Much in the same way we’re required to learn homophones and homographs in English by familiarity.

I can’t really put it much better than this:


this one is yoyoing through SRS stages for me.

i finally got it: taiki because aTmosphere.

tbh, a lot of those become leeches. you either have to self study, let the SRS take care of it or come up with a deconfusing mnemonic/trick.

school related is always dai. schools kill us apparently :wink:


Thank you, that was my thought also. And I believe that sometime Wanikani editors will notice this post, understand this problem and update reading description with mnemonics for such words, that’s why I posted it to Feedback forum :slight_smile:

I get that and it’s not a bad hope to have, but identical posts to this have been made in 2017, 2018, and 2019 (if you look for posts about jukugo words in the feedback category) and there have been no moves to add specific mnemonics to jukugo words - so temper your expectations accordingly :slight_smile:


It’ll stick eventually, I wouldn’t worry about it that much tbh.


I still get にん and じん mixed up,
だいーたい、おおーおう、じょーじょう、しょーしょう、さんーざん、とうーと, and some others.

As time passes, some of those words are finally getting into my long term memory. I hate Japanese. Stupid confusing idiotic language.

I love Japanese though Lol


It takes a lot of practice for the common words because there are so many use cases that no rule of thumb applies to every situation.

Here are my thoughts:

大: 70 WK vocab words have this kanji
おお(15 words) - Something is quantifiably bigger or louder: 大文字 (uppercase letter) , 大声(loud voice)
だい (34 words) - Something is to a greater degree or more prestigious: 大学 (University), 大好き ( really like)
たい (21 words) - Something is conceptually or psychologically big: 大気 (atmosphere), 大変 (serious)

There are probably a lot of exceptions and nuances to my broad categories, but it might help frame your thinking on different words. 大腸 [だいちょう] isn’t just the “large” intestine, it’s the ‘bigger than the small’ intestine. The Daibutsu isn’t just a big budda, he’s bigger than all the others around.


This is the opposite of how WK teaches the vocab items, but what works for me in these cases is focus almost entirely on the reading when memorizing a new word. For example, let’s say I get the new vocab lesson 大気. What I do is commit to memory that there is a new word with the meaning of “atmosphere” and the reading of たいき. If the reading isn’t a special one (like 大人 or something), I only make a brief note of the kanji readings. Then when I see the item in reviews my mental process goes like this: “Hmmm let’s try to read this. Big and energy, hmmm. Do I know any word だいき? Hmmm, no, doesn’t ring a bell. What about たいき? Oh yeah I remember that, it’s atmosphere.” And then I let the SRS do its job until I don’t have to go through the entire process all the time and it comes naturally. That does mean that I’m mostly ignoring the mnemonics for vocab which isn’t the way WK designed the system, but it works for me.

The reason I started doing this is because I was learning a lot of words just from conversations, and hearing them (so no kanji), and then much later seeing them written for the first time being “Oooh that’s how you write it, makes sense”. So I adapted this method for WaniKani as well and it seems to be working well for me.

If you think about it, Japanese is a spoken language first and foremost, so focusing on how to pronounce the words first makes a lot of sense. That’s how native kids acquire new words for the first years of their lives, before going to school and learning to read and write them.


That’s kind of a similar approach I take for words with new unique readings I came across in WaniKani.

What has helped me also is using my own mnemonics for words, in the sense of just going for the simplest possible way of combining kanji meanings (WK-derived or from user synonyms). It works most of the time, unless the kanji has a very abstract meaning by definition.

For kanji I am just learning in WK I add user synonyms based on meaning in words I already know or from dictionary searches.


Nice breakdown, I’m almost level 20 and this is still hard for me sometimes, this is really helpful for 大

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Oh this is very useful! Thanks for taking the time to write that. Ever since I saw the tip for げつ and がつ for months, I haven’t gotten it wrong. This is the tip that helped me.

And now your tip may help me for words containing 人 :slight_smile:

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That trick with gatsu/getsu took me a lot longer to figure out that I would like to admit. One of the downfalls of WK is that you never see vocab in group’s on the same screen, it’s all sequential and random for reviews.

I just realized these week there is two kanji that are visually similar that I’m confusing, but getting someplace to compare and study them side by side takes extra steps :weary:

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