Remembering when to use long/double vowels

So I’m still pretty new to WaniKani, but I do feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. The one thing that I’m really struggling with, however, is remembering when words have a long vowel sound, either via a -u at the end or with an extra vowel.

For example, the kanji reading for woman I always seem to want to put a u at the end, so it’s jyou instead of just jyo. Or for the vocab reading of small I want to extend the i sound, so chiisai instead of just chisai.

I also run into the same problem of trying to remember when to use the little kana, for example eight things is yattsu (with the little tsu), while five things is itsutsu (with two full size 'tsu’s)

Does this require just straight rote memorization? I had remembered woman and small enough to get them to guru, but then after the long delay I accidentally put the extra vowel in again and they bumped back down to apprentice. Just felt a bit disheartening since I “know” the reading, I just mess up the length of the vowel.


It took me until level 20 until I had gotten 女 じょ and 上 じょう wrong often enough to finally remember them. That might not be super encouraging but at least it happened eventually.

It helps coming across them in other contexts which will over time reinforce what you learn here. 女王 and 上手 were words I finally had heard often enough that I stopped making this mistake. If my only exposure to them was WaniKani then I think I would be getting them wrong at level 60 still.

So except for stuff like “write your leeches down, invent better mnemomnics, practice them in Anki or the leech trainer script” I would say: keep learning and exposing yourself to different kinds of content (listening, reading, speaking to people) and eventually it will (hopefully) sink in. That’s at least what I’m hoping since I also still have a long way to go.


Are you shaky with your kana at all, or are you fully comfortable with it? I ask due to the way you worded your question about the “tsu.” Being shaky with kana can definitely impact your memory and understanding of these words.

WK tries to solve this problem by using different mnemonics for short versus long sounds. Do you use the mnemonics at all? It can help you distinguish which kanji use which readings.

The other thing that helps me is the audio for the vocab words, because the short versus long sounds are typically pronounced very clearly. If I ever reach a vocab word and I’m not positive about the reading, I try to envision which reading sounds more natural and recall the word from when I’ve heard it spoken in the past.


Whenever I find myself struggling remember a reading like that, I just add Big/Small to the mnemonic. So in your case for 女 (じょ) I would try to remember a “small jō staff” instead of just a “jō staff”. and a giant Josef for 上 (じょう).
I use it for にん and じん for 人 constantly when new words arrive with じん being the small variant.

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Practice and fail. There is no shortcut.

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Was a challenge for a long while, but the way I go about keeping them straight is to really exaggerate the long vowels while practicing them, and to add the consonants in the case of consonant doubling.

With the kanji/words you provided, 女, I would say the entire sound within a single clap. As for 上、 I’d hold it for two claps. As for the consonant doubling, like with 八つ、I’d add the consonant of the second sound to the end of the first one. It’s still a two clap word, but mentally, I’d read it as yat tsu. With enough practice, you’ll find yourself holding the sounds for just the right amount of time in normal speech, and able to recognize when you hear something if it’s long or short. My last bit of advice is to find words to associate it with to help solidify your recollection, so if you forget the kanji, but remember the word, you can remember the reading you’re looking for.

Short answer to your question is: Yes, it’s rote memorization, but there is a way to practice it to help embed the correct reading into your memory, and ways to recall even if you forget the sound length.


It’s ちいさい, not ちさい


っ and つ are pronounced completely different. Seems like what you need to do is work on your pronunciation (and listening), are you able to tell apart a long vowel sound from a short vowel? Do you know how to pronounce them?

It requires practice. Once you learn your kanas this things will get easier.


For jyo I imaged a woman named Jo who was very curt and not flamboyant or flashy, just plain simple Jo. And for jyoo imagined that Joseph Stalin’s toes were very long and stretched out.

Ironically, 女王 can be read as both じょおう and じょうおう. I discovered this after pointing out to my Japanese teacher that the way she’d written it was not the way I’d learned it. She did some research and apparently they are both used commonly. Though the internet does seem to be in favour of じょおう, with some but not all dictionaries including じょうおう

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I think っ counts as it’s own mora, so it should really be a three clap word, ya t tsu.

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I never really had trouble with this, aside from the actual remembering of the jou reading for up, which I find hard to recall at times.

女 reads as onna to me now anyways, kunyomi ftw!

Sometimes I feel like saying “you know what? this is just not fun anymore, I quit!”. This is one of those times…

But well… yet another thing learned. “yay” :wink:

I checked forvo, a person did pronounce it じょうおう but the pronunciation got downvoted by other japanese people. :thinking:

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Both 大辞林 (the dictionary that most often shows at the top of Weblio search results) and the 広辞苑, which I own a hefty paper copy of, have both readings. Those are considered the two main dictionaries. So I’m not sure what is meant by “some dictionaries” not having it, but the ones that matter do.

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If you have the opportunity to listen to Japanese, you will notice that there is a difference in pronunciation. That always helps! Take the time to hone your listening skills (Sneak level 100) and you’ll get it in no time :slight_smile:

I only checked a couple. The one that didn’t have じょうおう was takoboto, which I have as an app on my phone Takoboto | Word 女王, じょおう, queen

It’s a Japanese-English dictionary? Very few of those kinds of apps are actually made by professional dictionary writers. Often they just use freely available open-source databases mostly maintained by volunteers.

It is. Unfortunately I’m not yet in a position to make good use of the professional dictionaries

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