Not recalling kanji readings when seeing them out in the wild

I can recall 98% of readings super fast when doing reviews. I can recognise the kanji themselves out in the wild, but most of the time the readings blank on me, or I’m not confident enough that I’m right, or I fail with the kun/on and ultimately give up and shove the sentence into Papago to turn on furigana. Any tips? Just more exposure through graded readers? ^^

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Anecdotally, practice helps a ton. I haven’t done my reviews in ages, but I have a fairly good sense of the kanji I encounter regularly just because I encounter them regularly.

As for not being confident enough that you’re right… maybe that’s the problem? You can know all the readings, but if you feel like you might be wrong and as a result you feel like you don’t know any of them, no study method is going to fix that. Embrace only being 99% sure. If you get a reading wrong here or there, so what? If you know what something means, you know what it means.


It was similar for me too when I began to read. Even now, the first couple of times I see something I recently learned in the wild, I might hesitate that I remember the reading correctly (and might very well check!). But it is less common now than it was when I first started.

More reading should indeed help. :3


In school, when students take a test in a room other than the classroom where they learned the content, they perform predictably worse than in instances where they take tests in the same classroom where the learning happened. There are tons of comfort-cues our brain builds, especially when the content we’re learning is never thought about outside of that “classroom” space. I think this is the same phenomenon - if the only time we think critically about kanji is when we do reviews, our minds recognize the “classroom” where the content is encountered and associate the colors/fonts/speed of input of WaniKani with recognizing kanji. Essentially, yes, you need to be consciously recalling kanji outside of WaniKani as much as possible. Otherwise, your brain thinks kanji isn’t necessary to remember unless you enter your WaniKani “classroom”.

Graded readers would be a great start; if you’re not in Japan, watch Japanese commercial compilations on youtube, drop to random locations in Japan on Google Maps/Mapcrunch/GeoGuessr, and just read more physical manga if you can. Another important aspect is changing the locations where you do this - if you always sit at the same desk, or on the same couch, or on the train when you review/read, those also become part of our “classroom” and it’s important to switch it up to tell your mind that the classroom is much bigger than just one spot.

Keep practicing!


Along with what everyone said, lots of practice helps greatly. That’s also a skill you develop: the more exposure you get (and engage with), the better it gets!

If you’re used to user-scripts:
While doing WK reviews, Jitai plugin, which randomizes which fonts are presented to you during review, helps me a lot!:

  • Original Jitai is currently broken due to recent WK internal changes but it still explains how to install it and also hints at great fonts to test out

  • Jitai v2 is a quick reworking of the script so it works for now

Kudos for those wonderful people who created this nifty tool!!


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