Recognising vocab

I am only level 5 on Wanikani yet I feel like I’ve learned so many words already. I’ll be watching an anime and hear a word that I understand due to the vocab section in Wani Kani. however, 99% of the time I won’t hear the word and will need subtitles to be able to hear it due to recognizing the kanji used. Is there anything that can help me get past this or will I just have to learn through watching more shows? Thanks!
Edit: Just so you know im a complete beginner, still on Genki 1.
Edit 2: I also cant really remember Vocab without seeing it infront of me. For example, i wont remember how to see baby until i see 赤ちゃん infront of me. I associate English to the kanji But i cannot associate Japanese to english.

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Every vocabulary item has audio samples with both a male and female speaker.

I’m a big fan of the self-study quiz which has options playing these samples while you perform “out-of-band” reviews.

You might benefit from regularly doing self-study quizzes using the Vocabulary Audio → Meaning and Vocabulary Audio → Reading settings.

If you want to improve your listening comprehension and spoken Japanese, I think it’s incredibly important to hear the readings (in your, uh, “mind’s ear”) as you go through your reviews. The audio recordings let you use your real ears. :slight_smile:

To be clear: you can also play the audio in your actual Wanikani Reviews. It’s under your app settings.


This comes with practice. The more you listen, the more you will pick up on individual words. Give yourself time. You are still a beginner, as you said. It will come. Don’t stress. Enjoy your listening and watching!


I’m not entirely sure I understand what you mean, but recall is much easier with context. Even native Japanese speakers struggle to recall individual kanji with no other context: it’s much easier when it’s used in a sentence, especially as part of a 熟語(じゅくご) compound word or with surrounding hiragana.

There is also a distinction between recall and production.

Recall means seeing written Japanese and knowing how to pronounce it and what it means.

Production means knowing what you want to say and then coming up with the appropriate Japanese words.

(These are my own words, I’m sure the linguists here have proper academic terms for these concepts.)

Wanikani is solely focused on recall and doesn’t really help with production (only indirectly). Others have created tools to focus on production (notably kamesame and kaniwani).

Recently, I’ve started using the “Vocabulary Meaning → Reading” checkbox with the self-study quiz to help me practice production for stage 1-2 items.

Also, the more ways you stimulate your neural pathways the better. You will remember items better if you practice both visual and audible recognition, and focus on both recognition and production. There are only 24 hours in a day, though. :slight_smile:

Finally, note that “meaning” does NOT mean the English words themselves. This is hard to express, but translating between two languages is much harder than speaking just one language or the other. It’s important to eventually “think in” the target language rather than constantly translating in your own head. Without getting too abstract, the concept of a newborn human is universal, but the English word and Japanese words differ: it’s better to go from “newborn concept” → 赤ちゃん than from “newborn concept” → “baby” → 赤ちゃん if that makes any sense.

It takes time and effort to get there, of course.


The skill of audial recognition is separate from your ability to read, so yes, you simply have to do more listening practice.

For starters, watching anime, tv, youtube videos with subs is fine. Just get used to the sounds of the language, expand to recognizing words (both known and unknown) and gradually work yourself up to hearing in phrases instead.

Listening to audio only media is the most effective means at that point, as visuals always affords a layer of meta or additional information that you simply will not have in a conversation, or on the radio, public audio announcements, or any number of situations IRL.

There are plenty of resources to practice your skills, just look around the forums for “Listening practice”-threads. You’ll find lots of recommendations.

But, starting out, just watching more shows is great practice.

Good luck with your studies!


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