Remembering Words outside Wanikani

I am struggling with something and wondered if fellow users might be able to help? I can remember the readings and meanings of vocabulary words when I am given them in reviews a lot of the time, but if I try to recall that word outside of wanikani, I can’t remember it. Does anyone have any tips on how to improve my recollection or is it just a case of keep doing the reviews until they stick and they will by time I get to burn? Thank you!


I had (/have!) a similar experience; what helped for me was reading more (graded readers, manga, native content etc.) so that you can see the words in context / in sentences, rather than in isolation! You’ll notice the same words appearing near other words again and again and it becomes easier to remember (over time!) :slight_smile:

I guess it’s similar to why people recommend "chunking" in language learning, rather than learning isolated vocabulary.

Good luck!


For me personally the easiest way was to use these words in sentences or essays. That would be boost my recall instantly.


I noticed that was true for me in the first few levels as well. Two things that helped immensely are:

  1. Reading appropriate level Japanese material every day
  2. Doing KaniWani alongside WaniKani which forces production of the things you learn on WK since WK only covers recognition. That in turn helps move them into your active vocabulary instead of just being in your passive vocab.

As for reading, I started with graded readers and other absolute beginner things like:

Then, I moved on to Satori Reader which is paid, but has been an excellent resource well worth the money for me. There is a Satori Reader Appreciation Thread here on the WK forums if you think you might be interested in reading a bit more about that.



Read manga, read books, start using your knowledge.


my daily immersion is reading news articles and watching anime with JP subtitles.

It has to be a constant thing otherwise you will forget the vocab.


I just want to say something that might be obvious and yet:
Don’t be harsh with yourself.
I think it’s normal that the brain forms a picture of the word with the Wanikani font, the Wanikani background color and nothing else around it, and all of these elements combined give your brain a clue that make recall easier. The first few times that I encounter a word in a different context, font and color, I feel like my brain says “WTF” before it eventually recalls the reading and the meaning (or doesn’t).

When I read stories online, I try to read without furigana and allow myself some more time to identify the kanji before I peek at the furigana, and usually it helps, and if it doesn’t then next time I’ll remember it better.


Something that really helps me is watching J-dramas (comedies in my case) with japanese subtitles. I think it’s really useful, heck I would even say important.
Why? Because it gives you the most context.
With a live action tv series, you can understand the gist of it on mute without subtitles, because you have so many clues from the set itself and the interaction between the cast. That’s soooo much context, and real context not a mnemonic, so it helps identify words you know in an authentic fluid situation and not a mnemonic, or an example sentence, or grammar drilling which is a really good transition.

It’s also really fun, and extra fun when you realize you can read the subtitles while they’re running on the screen. Pretty awesome feeling of accomplishment.

You can also work on your listening skills that way (this one can be done gradually by using English subs first, then japanese subs, then none).

It also works with anime, off course, and with all the baseball terms you learn on WaniKani -
ダイヤのエース is really a walk in the park… lol.


Thank you so so much everyone for your really helpful replies!!!


I’ve tried a few Tadoku level 0 books but I’ve only known maybe two words over 3 books. I am only on level 1 of WK though.

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I had the same issue and it’s pretty normal when you first start reading. Unfortunately, even if you already have a fairly large vocabulary, reading is pretty much always challenging at first because of things like unknown grammar, colloquialisms, informal vs formal speech, etc.

The good news is that it quickly gets better if you just keep at it consistently day by day. You’ll start to see a lot of the high frequency words over and over. You can do it!

Something to keep in mind too is that if all you’re doing is WK, WK doesn’t teach the vocab in order of frequency, rather it teaches based on the complexity of the constituent kanji given its goal is to teach kanji with vocabulary as a byproduct of that goal.

As a case in point, I’m level 9 on WK currently and a lot (probably most) of the words I come across while reading I still haven’t learned here on WK yet. I’ve learned a lot of the high frequency vocabulary by looking it up as I’m reading and by doing the JLPT Tango N5/N4 vocabulary books (はじめてのほんのうりょくけん N5/N4 たん 1000/1500) which use full sentences with an i+1 approach (aka each new sentence typically only uses vocabulary the book has already introduced along with the one unknown new word that you’re learning). I used Anki decks alongside the books to further cement the vocabulary.

It’s all been really effective for me as I started from absolute zero too:



Oh, something else you might want to consider if you haven’t really read anything at all are the Hiragana and Katakana Books by Japan Foundation:

These obviously won’t help with kanji readings, but they are very simple, mostly single word pages with illustrations depicting the meaning of each word and introduce a fair amount of high frequency vocabulary like colors, body parts, animals, common objects (e.g. tree, car, train, plane), scary, cute, etc.

I found they served as a very gentle way to start reading very basic things that are only Japanese without feeling entirely lost and overwhelmed.


Those are great, thanks. Also adorable.

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Thank you so much, this is really helpful! And the books look great =)

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Similarly to Kaniwani, there is Kamesame. I personally prefer it’s more customizable. I also used to struggle with remembering the vocabulary Wanikani teaches and was already at a high enough level that I couldn’t motivate myself to start either (since I would have had a lot of lessons / reviews).

Since resetting, I’ve been using Kamesame and I suggest people who are thinking of using those “reverse Wanikani” services do so sooner rather than later. Of course, you can always pick it up later and go at your own pace, I just know that for me, I’m not mentally strong enough for this :sweat_smile:.

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