Telling apart readings for 人

I always mix up the on’yomi for 人 - にん and じん. Items from early levels are dropping back to apprentice because of this. Does anyone have any good mnemonics for this kanji?

When it is a nationality it is always じん.

When it is a counter it is always にん. With 一人 and 二人 as exceptions, of course.

Any others it is largely a matter of remembering. I know 人数 always gave me trouble.

Which ones are you having trouble with?


I just got 人口 wrong. I also get 人数 wrong, since 人 has two readings and 数 sometimes has rendaku. I think almost never get 求人 right. Looking at the vocabulary list, it seems completely random.

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For words that don’t belong to the rules mentioned, it basically is random. It’s based on when the word was borrowed from Chinese. にん is older and じん is newer.


With these four, maybe it helps to think of which kanji gets the dakuten. Since all ofthe words only have dakuten on one of the kanji.

人口: since 口 never gets dakuten, it has to be じんこう
人工: since 工 never gets dakuten, it has to be じんこう
求人: since 求 never gets dakuten, it has to be きゅうじん
人数: just gotta remember that 数 gets dakuten in this one, so 人 doesn’t :joy: にんずう


Does anyone have any good mnemonics for this kanji?

I suggest moving up from mnemonic for kanji to making mnemonic for the entire word, as readings are too random.

(Personally, I remember them as a lot look like names after transliteration to Russian - e.g. 他人 in Russian transliteration is Танин, “Tanya’s ”, 役人 - Якунин is just a name, 人気 - Нинки - several Ninas)

There isn’t really a rule of thumb. In my experience, I’ve found over time I just “know” what it’s likely to be. Like the reading just feels right. Hard to describe, really.

Relatable i mess up on the 人口 too (burn review)

This has been the been the biggest secondary benefit of using Wanikani for a few years. The correct “feeling” for the pronunciations gets into your brain. There are still a few exceptions, but generally it works, and I know there’s something to it because I can predict new pronunciations pretty well, other than the seemingly-random on-kun combos.

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After listening to this, you’ll never forget the reading again.

Thanks. I’d rather never get the reading right again, but that is no longer an option.


I forgot to mention side effects might include never hearing vanilla the same way again.
Oh well, it did its job.

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I personally use “ninjas” and “genies” as mnemonics for words outside nationalities/counters. For 求人 for example I pictured a wish granting coffeeshop that’s looking for new genie employees. For 病人 I pictured ninjas that had food poisoning at a ninja get-together and fell sick. So long as I make a tiny story involving the meaning of the word, it sticks.


What do you mean? There are loads of words like 出口 and 窓口.

I was talking about on’yomi in these cases. こう is never ごう for 口

It’s easy!
Words with じん refer to the BTS member Jin.

And words with にん refer to German singer Nina Hagen.


That’s disturbing enough to work… :joy:


I’m having the same problem, with the same kanji… I started making my own mnemonics. I use Jim Carrey for じん and Ninja にん

悪人: I imagine an evil ninja
老人: I imagine an elderly Jim Carrey

But I think these might work better (and I’m shocked I hand’t thought of using SeokJIN, considering I stan BTS).


As others have mentioned, there is no good basis on how to remember which reading and you will have to “brute force” it. In my experience, many of the confusing and exceptional words are much easier to remember when I’ve hear it enough in media and conversations. So in order to help brute forcing it, supplement your WK studies with other kinds of topics.

Edit: oops, I didn’t mean to make this a response to @milila directly.

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