Wanikani needs some mnemonics for jukugo words whose kanji have multiple readings

90% of the time I fail to spell a word I’m learning not because I don’t know on’yomi but because I know several of them and have no idea which one wanikani wants, at least till I have the word memorized through rote memorization.

“This is a jukugo word, which usually means on’yomi readings from the kanji. If you know the readings of your kanji you’ll know how to read this as well.”

Also starts to get pretty insulting as you get frustrated with the spelling of a word as you try to brute force it (or make your own mnemonics) into your head.


T’is naught but pain and suffering that lies before me with bitterness and nashing of teeth. - Me upon encountering a burnable word with multiple possible readings

I understand your frustration, but anytime I look at such words, I ask myself “If I had encountered this word in the wild, would I be able to accurately read it?” If not, it’s on me to get it right. Frikin’ sucks.

I also feel this one too, but it is mostly getting angry at myself for not learning it in the first place. I usually have to add my own mnemonics if it becomes a huge problem under the notes section.


I don’t understand what you mean. Each word/kanji has mnemonics as far as I know. If a vocab word matches the kanji reading taught, then the mnemonic is with the kanji rather than the vocab.

Are you letting your vocab lessons lag your kanji lessons?

You should be getting the vocab just as you guru the associated Kanji, so you should have a handle on the reading by then.

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They mean including mnemonics to help remember whether 大 is dai or tai, 人 is jin or nin, 日 is nichi or jitsu, etc. While it’s true those are the readings you learned with those characters in the lessons, it could still help to have something to help you remember which specific on’yomi that word uses.

Oh I felt this frustration today. 執着 and 執筆 have been especially bad for me recently

but I do highly recommend you come up with separate mnemonics for certain vocab with kanji that has multiple readings.

Like is it a shih tzu or a shoe? A neck tie or did someone die?

Sometimes even the already existing mnemonics confuse me when I try to remember the reading

Yesterday I failed a review for ‘continue’. it was supposed to be zoku, but I remembered the boso part, and I typed ぼそ lmao.

A very basic example is 他人 (たいにん), this one isn’t so bad but the only reading explanation for it is
“This is a jukugo word, which usually means on’yomi readings from the kanji. If you know the readings of your kanji you’ll know how to read this as well.”

Except 人 has two On’yomi, にん and じん.

I understand that this is frustrating and unhelpful as an explanation, but the problem is that (at least, as far as I know) there are no reliable rules that work 100% of the time to explain which reading should be used for each kanji. That’s probably also why people generally just…do learn these things by ‘rote’ aka through repeated exposure. I think that seeing this in a context sentence might actually help more.

In my opinion, the key to learning the readings of these words is to not break them down kanji by kanji, and to learn the readings as single units. You have to reach the point where the other reading just sounds unnatural/wrong to you. I’m sorry to say this, but while Japanese on’yomi are generally tons more consistent than readings in Chinese, Japanese readings in generally a much less consistent when it comes to the link between reading and meaning. In Chinese, ‘one reading, one meaning’ applies most of the time, whereas in Japanese, that’s not always true. If WK’s mnemonics aren’t doing it for you, then I think you’ll have to come up with something on your own. For example, with 他人:

When other people come by, you serve them tea. In tea, there are tannins. Tannins for 他人.

If the word ‘tannin’ is meaningless to you though (or if it’s likely to get you to mess up the spelling of the reading), then this mnemonic might not be helpful. Another possible approach is to look for some sort of link between the letters in the word: maybe you can remember that 他人 has two N’s in romaji, or that it starts with ‘tan’ and not ‘taj’. Whatever helps. When there isn’t a consistent rule, there’s only so much a teaching system of any kind can do, because what’s memorable for some people might not be memorable for you.

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You misunderstand, I’m talking about adding mnemonics to help remember how a word is said, as in that specific word.
It is often a fools errand to try and learn the all the readings to individual kanji because even if you do and you encounter a new word you have not seen before odds are you still won’t know how to read it because it could be written in various ways.
It is why I used 他人 as an example, the first time you see it you won’t know if it’s にん or じn or some strange exception like 明日 (あした) so adding a mnemonic to help remember how the word is said and thus how it’s spelt would be nice.

I had trouble with this one too. My mnemonic: The “alligator” “leader” can たにん to anOTHER PERSON.
たにん to = turn into

For 大事 (だいじ): People could die, G. This is IMPORTANT!
For 用事 (ようじ): Yo, G. I have an ERRAND for you. Get me some yougurt!

These worked for my brain but yeah, once you miss some a few times you need to work out your own mnemonics when just remembering the on’yomi isn’t cutting it.

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So… in essence, you’re saying that you intend to do what I suggested (learn the reading for each word), but that WK doesn’t provide the tools for that? Are you telling me that WK doesn’t have any reading mnemonics for vocabulary words that are combinations of kanji you already know? I’m quite surprised to hear that. (I don’t use the WK SRS at all, so I’m sorry if I misunderstood because of my ignorance.)

There are still a few patterns that allow you to guess how it might be read, though they aren’t perfect, and you can check your guess against the actual reading and learn from there, in my opinion – the joy of being right or the frustration of being wrong can sometimes help you remember better.

However, I agree that it’s not particularly helpful to try to learn all the readings for a particular kanji and to try all the permutations for every word you encounter.

Yeah, when I was in Japan for the first time, I wasn’t sure if 人気 was にんき or じんき even though I knew how to write it in kanji, so I get the issue. All I’m saying is

  1. I didn’t know that WK doesn’t have mnemonics for these things. I thought reading mnemonics were universal for all the words WK includes in vocabulary.
  2. I’m not sure if there’s a good way to come up with mnemonics for these things because there’s no way of knowing how everyone remembered the individual kanji readings. There’s already so much disagreement on individual kanji reading mnemonics, meaning that not everyone finds the mnemonics provided for those helpful, so I’m not sure how it would work out for compound readings. As an example, did my suggested mnemonic for 他人 help you? If it didn’t, well, I think that proves my point.

That’s kind of why it gets annoying when all you get is:
“This is a jukugo word, which usually means on’yomi readings from the kanji. If you know the readings of your kanji you’ll know how to read this as well.”

I’ve started making mnemonics when these come up as well for trickier words.
ps: Your mnemonics are amusing!

I did find tannin helpful especially since I live in Canada and so it’s a fairly common tea to run into XD

But ya later on wanikani will throw jukugo (compound words) at you with no mnemonics and tell you hey this word is probably written using on’yomi.
Which is nice and all except lets say that each kanji in the jukugo has 2 ways the on’yomi can be written, that’s 4 different combinations of writings and you have to guess and try to remember which one it was.

Wanikani’s mnemonics may not be perfect but at least it’s something, as for tools thankfully you can add a note to a work and create your own mnemonics but it would be nice if they were there from the start.

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Oh, it’s a type of tea? I know they’re a type of chemical compound that’s common in teas, but I didn’t know there was a tea called ‘tannin’. Interesting!

I guess. The issue is just that WK seems to prefer having mnemonics fit into a system… They might need to expand that system if they start creating reading mnemonics for compounds as well. I mean, two Koichis in school uniforms on their way to 高校 (こうこう=high school) is one thing, but there’s a whole bunch of other readings for which I’m sure there aren’t any recurrent characters who feature in the mnemonics. That could be complicated to create. They’d also need some way to differentiate long vowels from short ones in the mnemonics as well… Yeah, I’m just not sure how I would do that personally for all the kanji compounds I know. I’m fine with my word-by-word system, but I’m not sure how I’d do something systemised the WK way.

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Ah I see.

I think that’s a good suggestion for them. Shoot an email to hello@wanikani.com

I mean it does tell you the actual reading on the left, so I don’t see why you need to guess. It just doesn’t repeat the mnemonics or give you a new mnemonic for the combo, but you’re free to make some on your own for the tricky ones

They do, most of the time.

Emailing them when exceptions are found is the quickest way to bring it to their attention.

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