Wanikani asks for meaning, which I type in japanese

As we gain fluency, sometimes this kind of thing happens:

I see 一人 and my inner voice says “ひとりだ!” (because this is feeling like a pretty familiar phrase for me now)… and since wanikani is asking me for the meaning I type “hitori” (and I hit enter because I’m so confident I know what 一人 means, and I touch-type and all). And then I get the red buzzer experience. (Is there no buzzer sound? But it feels like there is…) This kind of “error” is clearly just a failure to register what the the task is, much the way someone might type the kun-yomi when wanikani wants the on-yomi, etc. (and I’m grateful wanikani is patient with that kind of error).

So, why not have a gentle, “Oops, please type what this means in English!” prompt when we make this kind of mistake (at least the first time or two?)? OK: I see there are old threads about this (forum AI tells me so), and koichi answers that it’s important to “slow us down”. I’m still not convinced…

Alternate request 1: Could wanikani prompt me for English translation rather than just “meaning”? (English doesn’t really have a monopoly on meaning, you know?)

Having to double-check what the task is (re-reading that prompt in English and reminding myself that meaning means English) is currently the most frustrating thing about wanikani in my experience. I suppose there are color contrast differences that are intended to help, but they don’t feel like they have any easy or natural association with the difference between the tasks.

Alternate request 2: Instead of (or together with) colors, work with spatial associations. For example, wanikani could have three visual-spatial regions below the cue image, where left region is reserved for English translation input (or radical name), middle is kanji-by-itself primary reading, and right-hand region is reserved for vocabulary reading in Japanese. Only one of these regions would “highlight” as input window at any given (SRS-process) moment. It would feel fluent for me that putting ideas into English is very left/elementary, and working with how real vocabulary sounds in Japanese is the most forward/progressive (or starting-at-right, as Japanese columns of text do). As we gain fluency, translating into English feels less like “knowing the meaning” and more like “Oh, I’m turning back to English to tell my friends what this means…”

I can also imagine other kind of visual cues (various icons or directional arrows) that would help confirm the task in more symbolic, less English-parsing-oriented ways…

Thanks for considering this!


This is talking a lot about “visual clues” but you’re also missing the massive visual clue that is the fact that one is in Kana and one is not. You’re really overcomplicating the system when the simple answer is just “Look.”

Furthermore a blanket “type the meaning in English” wouldn’t work as it would need to be tweaked for words like 着物 and 津波 which are “kimono” and “tsunami” in English.


When it asks for reading, it’s got a black background, and when it asks for meaning, it’s white. That’s… kind of a pretty obvious visual clue.

Ultimately, ひとり is not what 一人 means, it’s how it’s pronounced - which is to say, its reading.

1 Like

I make this mistake a lot with prefectures. I always type saitamaken, and it wants siatama prefecture.


With the reorder script, you can make either the meaning or the reading to always appear first. This way, you get used to always answer one of your choice first. I guess this solves your problem.


Honestly, I agree that WaniKani gives enough visual clues for you to know what’s being asked of you. As Kouichi apparently said, slow down and notice them! (And maybe download an ignore button script so you don’t get it marked wrong every time you misread).


Belthazar, Thanks for your reply.

I do realize that the black/white is trying to be a visual cue. But that visual cue has no intrinsic relation to the difference between translation and pronunciation.

As for what the “meaning” of 一人 is, I respectfully disagree. ひとり (the sounds, or the written symbols) are the way a certain meaning gets expressed in Japanese. The same meaning can be expressed by writing “alone” (or pronouncing it out loud). For any given meaning, it can be expressed in many ways, and English translation is only one way.

I have no doubt that when Japanese kids are learning kanji, they might point to a 出口 sign, and say it means “でぐち” – and that’s correct!

Of course, when English-learners begin learning a language, we speak as though the meaning of foreign words lies in their English equivalent. But part of the marvel of learning a language like Japanese is when you do start to think in the language, and then the kanji increasingly have meaning in that language… ykwim? :relaxed:


@Coyoteclaw11 and @jprspereira: I may try one or both scripts…

Still, shouldn’t it be preferable, from wanikani developers’ standpoint, to have a systemic improvement that prevents users from resorting to installing an “ignore” script?

And I guess I do see advantages in not having everything go in a predictable order… But spatial association is very strong for me (much more than colors, clearly). So, if I were a script programmer I guess I might try something spatial or some kind of visual icon.


You get used to what the black and white colours indicate quite quickly so I think if you just give it a little bit more time the problem will solve it self. I mean, I never read the word “meaning/reading” when doing reviews.


The meaning is the English equivelent for the kanji word, and the reading is how It’s pronounced in Japanese. I can’t see how this would be hard to grasp, or am I missing something? You also get a visual cue from when you type (If the answer should be the meaning then you get roman letters, and if it wants the reading then you will see kana).

Also, learning when a word often uses kunyomi or onyomi of the reading often depends on the word structure, and WaniKani will teach you this fairly fast. It seems like you are seeing this as a problem way too early, when in fact everything will become crystal clear in just a few levels.

1 Like

Mmm… I feel like the meaning of symbols and the meaning of words are different. :stop_sign: means stop, but “Stop” doesn’t mean S-T-O-P. It means “(of an event, action, or process) come to an end; cease to happen.”

You can replace the meaning with a synonym (ex. end, finish) or translation (detener, やめる) but you can’t replace it with a reading/pronunciation/spelling (stäp/S-T-O-P).


Aye, indeed. An English child can point to an exit sign too and say "that means ‘exit’ ", but they’re not stating the meaning of the word but rather the meaning of the sign - they’re connecting the word “exit” which they already know with the text written on the sign. Wanikani is asking for the meaning of the word.

If you want to stick with Japanese only, the Japanese meaning of 出口 is 外へ出るための口. でぐち is the 読み方.


If this is a genuine issue for you you can just add the romaji as a synonym. Nothing stops you from doing that. I’ve personally done that for a few words

1 Like

I found this really frustrating to begin with, but honestly, you will get used to it so much faster than you expect. I can’t remember the last time I made this mistake, and I don’t even consciously think about it anymore.

1 Like

My first language is german and I am “suffering” from “color weakness” (no idea how to spell that but I can’t see red most of the time) so color has absolutely no meaning to me and it is very hard to differentiate on that.

Still I think the system is very effective. Also whats so bad about one or two mistakes of that kind. If you get something wrong it forces you to look closer in future and in fact slows you down.

Actually your proposal is quite good but also could be difficult to realize and is not really needed.
In german we would call it “Meckern auf hohem Niveau” :slight_smile:

1 Like

If you have problems with the colors, than check if kana appears when you write that means it wants the reading. It does say “meaning” and “reading” on the reviews too.

I understand where you’re coming from. A few times I have been going too quickly and started typing the reading into the meaning, or vice versa… But I think if you slow down and read what it’s asking for you won’t have a problem. Meaning is not equal to reading. If a friend who doesn’t speak Japanese were to point to 一人 and ask “what’s that mean?” You would not respond with ひとり! you would say “one person or alone.” So why would it be different on here?

Gosh. I see that everybody else here (except @timmknopf, just seeing you) is perfectly satisfied with the black-vs-white contrast and the word “meaning” to signal translation into English… (and/or they’re satisfied to use ad-hoc solutions/plugins). Maybe I’ll get used to it as you say, @Radish8

The net result of reading these replies is that I’m feeling like making observations/suggestions is not welcome, and/or one wanikani newbie’s experience is not so interesting to consider…:no_mouth:

But I do appreciate the various plug-in and other ad-hoc solutions people have shared. @Gillingswater @jprspereira :smile:


It’s more that given a choice between (a) learn how WaniKani’s system works, and (b) expect Koichi to change the system, option (a) is the only one that will happen in your lifetime. I mean, it’s Koichi we’re talking about here.

yup that’s honestly the main way of getting it right for me :joy: but yeah like I said not a real problem! Thanks for the hint btw :+1: