Stradegy for recalling vocab when speaking?

Hey guys! I’m new here as of about a week ago. I was just curious… wanikani seems really good at teaching recognition of vocab (and of course the kanji and radicals) but I feel like my ability to recall words of the top of my head without the visual cues of the Kanji isn’t that great.

Do you guys find that with time you can easily recall vocab you learned from wanikani while speaking or do you use other study methods to basically be able to recall a Japanese word based off it’s english meaning when trying to speak?


I haven’t tried speaking, but I have ventured a bit into communicating via writing, and I’ve found that I absolutely need to practice recall with the words that I’ve SRS’d if I want to have any chance of being able to call them to mind when producing writing. If I’d been studying for longer than I have and if I’d done more reading/listening than I have, it might be less of a problem, because I’d get a lot more exposure to the words, but immersion is still slow enough for me, the vast majority of words that I’ve learned, I haven’t seen enough of them in context to be able to absorb them into my internal vocabulary without the aid of SRS.

I use KaniWani to practice recall with the WK vocab, and I have recall cards in Anki (though I’m much more strict about suspending leeches with them than I am with recognition cards). It’s a lot of extra time to put into studying, and for some people, depending on your goals with the language, it may or may not be worth it, but for me at least, I’ve found that it helps me learn words better, and be able to apply them much easier when producing Japanese.


I was going to ask about this too. I can’t remember most of the vocab unless I see the words. I’ve kinda concluded that Wanikani isn’t really the best resource for actually speaking Japanese. But it is an incredible tool to read. Would love to hear suggestions on other platforms that fill in that gap.

WaniKani didn’t help me for output, but it’s not like I expected it to (Okay well I kinda did but). I think the best way to practice recall is to just output. Writing, talking to native Japanese basically. I got a native JP exchange partner recently and that made me realize how awful my active vocabulary is, but talking a lot with him has been a huge help. Plus I get to practice my grammar and help him learn English so it’s a win win.

I’ve only been studying since January though, so people studying longer than me might have had a better time when it comes to recall.


Several ways:

  1. Immersion via putting yourself in an environment where Japanese is the only language spoken

  2. Consuming content: Lots of it, through anime shows, music Lyrics, manga (in furigana) so the words start to appear naturally when you try to speak

  3. Learning diligently using some textbook: You certainly don’t need 8000 words to communicate. Those examples found in textbooks are usually pretty helpful to recall most useful vocab

  4. Insisting on WaniKani: As it isually teaches you several synonyms for many words, most of the time you will surely remember at least one of them

And Finally

  1. Trying an app like “KaniWani” which teaches you in the same fashion as WK does but in the opposite way: It gives you the word in english and you must write it in japanese…
    This one is like a desperate measure, I don’t think there’s enough time to do WK and KW at the same time. Numerals 1 to 4 seems more fun to me :wink:

Good luck with your project :muscle::grin:


First of all, would be breaking off from visual cues of Kanji, that is, recalling Kana or reading before Kanji. A proof would be, how well do you recognize vocabularies in audio? (either, of vocabulary kind, or of sentence kind)

In the past, I did EN => JP on Anki, as well as KaniWani, but I saw some people like KameSame more. Nonetheless, it probably only helps with de-Kanji’d or Furigana with wrong base-text (Gikun), and for some extent in listening, but probably quite limited in sentence production.

I feel that to recall vocabularies when speaking, it is a layer above that. Some actual production has to be practiced, to at least see the actual problems, like which vocabularies are personally more frequently used, or word choice. On the partner side of the dialogue (listening to the partner), however, the ability to recall vocabularies helps more.

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Thank you all for the replies! Correct me if I am wrong but since I have so little vocabulary (both active and passive) since I’m just starting would I even get any benefit from immersing myself in media? I’m thinking with 99% of it going over my head and only being able to catch the rare word here and there I’d be better off working on building a vocab of at lease a few hundred words first? What do you guys think?

But I will check out KaniWani because that sounds exactly like what I was looking for!

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Having the basics never hurts with immersion imo. I tried starting with immersion, but quickly gave up as I realized I couldn’t recognize most of what was being said. I stepped back, focused on grammar and vocab, and now I’m dippinh my toes again and it’s much easier for sure

I actually use KaniWani right alongside WaniKani, not only does it help solidify the vocab from WK, but it can help you learn to write the kanji as well; instead of going back later to learn how to write all 2000 kanji. This just further solidifies the kanji! I keep a notepad by my desk for KaniWani reviews, before submitting my answer I write it down in kanji, otherwise I’m only ever associating that word with hiragana. I don’t think my learning with WK would be as useful if it weren’t for KaniWani and learning to write the kanji.


KaniWani is great. :slight_smile: I also recommend KameSame (as mentioned above). It expects you to use your computer’s IME to type out the Japanese and get to the kanji that way, which is exactly the way you’ll have to do it if you want to write to/chat with people online. Quite helpful in that way. :slight_smile:


I don’t particularly like SRS for production. I just jumped into trying to speak to people, and if I can’t think of a word that’s fine, I just ask. it’s quite daunting at first, but speaking in a new language for the first time always is.

it gets easier with practice and I think this way you reinforce the more natural ways of expressing yourself.


Couldn’t agree with this more strongly.

Like most worthwhile things, if you want to get better at that thing, the answer is practice.

Seriously, that’s it.

Just don’t expect to get very good at it until you’ve done massive amounts of input (listening as well as reading).

Output/production does exercise different neural pathways, but you can’t extract anything that isn’t already in there.


How do you go about practicing output if you don’t really know any Japanese speakers? The only thing I can think is trying to order food a my local sushi place (which many of the workers are migrants from japan). In a case like that do you guys find they appreciate you trying to speak the language or get annoyed?

I recently tried italki for the first time and loved it. It was difficult to talk myself into it because I’m extremely shy, but I’m glad I did it now.

I also recently tried a practice method that I got from a YouTuber named Language Lords…

  1. Talk about whatever’s on your mind in Japanese, extemporaneously, for five minutes. If you can’t think of the word or phrase you needed, say it in English.
  2. Listen to yourself. Look up everything you couldn’t think of. Language Lords uses DeepL. There exist different schools of thought on this but I don’t see a problem as long as you run what you get by a native speaker.
  3. Record yourself again saying the same thing with the list you just made as a reference.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

I’ve done this a few times. It hurts but it hurts in the same way the day after a workout hurts. I can tell I’m learning and I’ve already improved at thinking of some words off the top of my head. You really should get a native speaker’s help if you can, though.


Well, it’s hard to have a conversation without someone to converse with, but it’s not hard to speak without someone else.

Just practice talking to yourself. Keep it simple at first, just describing to yourself what you’re doing or what you’re observing throughout the day. 今ゴミを出している, あれは青い鳥だ, that kind of thing.

During my reviews, I regularly make up short sentences. You can just say them in your mind, too. You don’t actually need to speak out loud to practice recall and production.

Holding a real conversation with someone else is much harder because pauses and panic can kill a conversation. But the great thing about talking to yourself is that your audience doesn’t worry much about mistakes or pauses.

Eventually you will want to find people to have conversations with, but you can get started without anyone.


I will throw in another vote for KaniWani. Now that Apple introduced Japanese for their Apple Pencil “scribble”, I exclusively use KaniWani with my Apple Pencil to write the Kanji that the English word is looking for.

First, I say the word out loud, then I write the Kanji/okurigana via Apple Pencil / scribble. It really helps!


My 2 cents is just what some of the other fellow travelers said… If you want to improve spoken recall, you need to practice spoken recall. Hell, spoken recognition is even hard on a WK-only diet.

So much of the vocab you get on WK is just not useful in most conversations, or (more interestingly) you hear it but don’t recognise it until someone shows you the kanji and you’re like ‘oh yeah I totally know that from months ago’. Never mind that you need to get familiar with some sentence forms and grammar.

I used a language exchange website to find a native speaker in my home town. It’s great, and conversation is really hard at times! I definitely feel I’m at the bottom of a different mountain than the kanji one. Slowly but surely I feel more in control. I listen to Benjiro on YouTube, which was a real revelation on how to maintain interesting conversations using simple Japanese.

Keep at it!


Thanks for mentioning Benjiro. It was nice to see the conversations…

I looked peoples’ suggestions on here. I’ve been studying a LOT for 3+ years, but I barely ever tried speaking very much. It’s still very difficult to recall words when I want to use them, or recognize words that they said that I already know. I’m focusing on listening-only a lot these days. Basically, listening is super-fast SRS that doesn’t wait for your answer LOL.

Now that I have a pretty nice-sized vocabulary, I’m really writing on trying to express myself and say things. It’s very slow and difficult, but it veery sloooowly solidifying and getting better.

Some polyglot was recommending listening over and over at full speed while reading along… then reading out loud and really REALLY visualizing a story over and over until you can tell it to someone else in full. That’s similar to sentence mining, in my opinion.

I should make up sentences constantly like RrWrex…

I’m finding people to do the partner exercises from Genki with me.

I haven’t done HelloTalk for a while, but it was pretty cool (and very similar to what BrandS was talking about) when I was just writing a few paragraphs and then recording myself saying them. I used Dictionaries and machine translation, but always tried to use words that I knew (to practice those), and sentence constructions that I understood.

I re-recorded several times until it sounded “natural”–that was making me memorize it, essentially. The Japanese listeners thought my Japanese was really good… but when we tried conversation without my pre-preparation and practicing, it was much MUCH harder. Not nearly as smooth as Benjiiro! But… over all, it had improved.

I was leaving messages on Hello Talk… that’s much easier than live conversation. But it’s good practice for listening and production.

I just don’t take time for talking to myself or KameSame… but more and more these days, words pop into my mind. But this is after 3 years of trying! I’m like a 3 year old! lol

good luck dklims finding things that work for you


Great advice!! I think I will give this one a try!!

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It’s a LOT of work to get good at speaking. I have friends who do immersion and who have learned Japanese the opposite direction from what WK does (attaching meaning directly to sound, and later learning to read; “like children do”). Cure Dolly talked a lot about this sort of thing.

Anyway, I’m on here again to point you toward Satori Reader, that does an outstanding job of forcing large chunks of language to be possibly comprehensible. They explain everything, from grammar to vocabulary, with audio that you can play and replay until you get it… from only a sentence to a full passage. I find it helpful and a time-saver, although I don’t use it often. And it’s free!

PS: Here’s the Hukumusume folk tale website that CureDolly mentioned in the linked video… I think I’ve read a few books of this before…

Here are those polyglot links
Language Lords