Remembering two-kanji vocabulary when mnemonics are copy-paste


I passed the halfway point about two months ago, yay! It’s not the time to be celebrating for long, though.
I will most probably slow down a bit, while focusing on other aspects of the language.
Doesn’t mean I stop WaniKani entirely, but while I turtle along, one aspect that I feel like is holding me up, or giving me headaches is tricky two-kanji vocab. So, take these:

They are fairly recent ones I could remember from the top of my head, which have meaning identical or very close to one of the kanjis, but not to the other one. I encountered plenty of those, and I find it difficult to really get them down.
Of course, if I can get to reading way more, I will probably internalize them better, but yeah, building this habit is a slow process for me + the time constraints are killing me. Maybe I could use the example sentences script here.

If it’s a word that has two kanjis which are pretty much the same in meaning (like 功績) and the vocabulary’s meaning is aligned, then there’s no problem for me. Even if it’s completely unrelated, then it works out for me.

But, in cases where it’s basically [A][B], and the mnemonic tells me “so the meaning is obviously B, because yeah,” I have the most trouble somehow. It’s like I feel like there’s no additional meaning information in the vocabulary, so I need to wrap my head around why it’s the first kanji versus second “contributing” meaning and the mnemonic is like “it’s obviously B”. And my question is simply, why the heck not A?

The way I used to deal with this until now is I assigned “stronger” meaning to one of them to memorize that the vocab’s meaning comes from this kanji and not the other. Not like altering, but thinking that when I see these two characters together, this one would dominate.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can try to get these kinds of words down easier? Creating my own mnemonics? Like せつ reading being 優木せつ菜 for me. Tips and thoughts appreciated.


With two kanji words, there are really 2 kinds, one where one of the kanjis shows you the general meaning, and the other pinpoints it, and one where both kanji mean sorta the same thing, and they together point you in the right direction.
Good news, the second type will be quite simple to guess, and for the first one, 90% of the time it’s the first kanji that pinpoints the general meaning of the second one.
Let’s look at the examples you provided:

  • 序文 - a thing about 序, it can mean “precedence”, so this translates to something like “preceding text” => preface
  • 順序 - another meaning 序 has is order (makes sense, right? precedence, order), so this is of the second type, sequence - order => sequence
  • 宗派 - 派 has the sort of meaning of “faction, group, sect”, so the religion clarifies it, it’s religional sect => sect

The most important thing about these, is that if you know you struggle with them, use logic. Not only will you see a connection, your brain will cement the ideas better, because “oh, we are thinking about this? must be important”. Also, I’d suggest checking a kanji dictionary for a full set of meanings if it seems the logic doesn’t work out. More often than not, if a pairing doesn’t seem logical, it is because wk might not have the correct meaning for it.


I just want to agree that jukugo vocab without any explanation of how the meaning comes about is the most frustrating aspect of WK for me. Most of my leeches are words like that.

I just wanted to say that since I’ve read this, I feel like I’m having an easier time memorizing 2-kanji words. Obviously, I don’t know that yet, since it has only been a day. But I feel like I can logic the meanings better and that gotta be helpful in the long run.


I think that checking the full set of meanings, for example on Jisho, is something that I will for sure have to start doing as a habit, especially if I encounter jukugo that seems like it doesn’t glue together from the given meanings.

There are, though, words like 折角, which really are the third type for me, when the connection seems really obscure, if any. At least it’s a fairly known one, and WK actually provides a short mnemonic and actual meaning note for this one.

Well, this for example doesn’t quite work for me, because I already primarily understood sect as a religious group, even if it could be broader, like a radical/differing group following a leader
In any case, if it’s not purely idiomatic, trying to form connections between meanings of kanji is certainly the way to go.

I found this one while trying to do some digging:

There’s also this question on reddit, which is admittedly very old, but the answer seems sensible and pretty convincing to me, which makes me think that I should try to do exactly what the poster recommends, which is to look for semantic patterns:
Tips for deciphering jukugo

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As with most methods, the best thing you can do is to come up with your own logic. Just going through the steps, acknowledging that indeed that word is difficult and trying to come up with something to remember it by is what will make you remember it. You probably even came across this during lessons. Seeing a word and going “there’s no way I’ll remember that, that makes no sense” then you proceed to get it to burned without a single mistake. Try to trick your brain into working harder and you’ll remember it better.


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