Weird "keyboard memory"

Weird discussion/question…

It’s been some time since I realized my brain has apparently subconsciously developed a sort of “geometric memory” (whatever that means) when it comes to the readings of some kanji / vocabulary. More precisely, related to the area of the keyboard I “feel” contains the letters I use to write the kana. It got me wondering if that is detrimental in any way.

For instance, when I look at 規模 or 基本 or 根気 I also immediately picture the right side of the keyboard and then proceed to confirm the reading I had in mind.
Other words such as 災い or 技, of which I can’t consistently recall the readings in an instant manner all the time, always instantly remind me that I use a bouncy-like motion with the letters W-A-Z and that gives me the hint I needed to fully recall the reading.
I’m sure there are tons of other examples but I can’t really list them out off the top of my head. It’s probably mostly with past and current leeches or some random vocabulary.

It made me associate kana/readings such as き and けい to my right hand, while せい or さい feel like they belong to my left hand. So in my brain a word like 傾向 feels so… right. 政策 feels left, and 検索 gives me a right-left-right motion vibe.

This has obviously originated from thousands and thousands of reviews with lots of typing done so far. I was wondering if anyone has any similar sort of involuntary “links”, and if this could be a sign of “bad” memory acquisition for a language.

After rereading this, my god isn’t this nonsensical lol. It’s 100% crazy person talk. I kinda wish I were high.


I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. You effectively created muscle memory related mnemonics. Like any mnemonic, you don’t want to rely on it (for recall) forever. But it seems no worse than any other mnemonic to me.


Muscle memory is a common way of memorizing things, so it’s definitely not uncommon.


The subconscious is ridiculously powerful at recognizing patterns and forming associations. That’s a good thing.

The more neural connections you form, the easier it is to recall things and the better you know it, IMO.

I suspect it’s something close to synesthesia. I think I form more auditory than tactile associations, but I know the feeling you describe very well. Often when I’m trying to recall a meaning, I come up with rhyming words for some bizarre reason.


I’ve always loved words that you can type with one hand. I saw a thing about the longest words you can type with one hand a while back, but I’ve never considered the same for Japanese. It’s great in reviews though.

Try typing this:



Yes it may not make much sense, I just made it up on the spot

Right hand only:




I feel this 1000000000%
Sometimes when i’m struggling to recall a reading, I just need to place my fingers on the keyboard and then my fingers feel the right answer ! It’s totally funky and weird haha

I’m grateful for it in the context of wanikani but I’m sad I don’t have the same crutch when it comes to listening/speaking recall.


As a musician this makes total sense. On the piano you basically have a repertoire of hand motions with a network of associations to abstract concepts like scales and chords, so even just moving your hands evokes the meanings. Sometimes I can’t remember the lyrics or melody of a song until I start playing the piano part, then it all comes back. There’s such a particular feeling when a certain motion just immediately recalls a concept into your head. You’ve got all kinds of different memory all over the body, getting that connected to any kind of language is gonna help it stick.


Literally half of the neurons in your brain are dedicated to sequence-oriented memory, and that includes muscle memory. So, not only is this not strange, it’s totally a good thing. It’s the reason behind why I encourage people to mentally repeat reading-then-meaning (or meaning-then-reading, if you prefer) consistently in their head when doing reviews, regardless of whether WK is asking you for the reading or the meaning. Otherwise, you’re only using half of your brain, in a sense.


It’s absolutely NOT crazy talk! I relied on muscle memory quite often back when I was in the higher levels. It’s a crutch and probably isn’t great, but it also can’t be helped.
I do reviews on my phone at times too, which feels a bit different.


I am old and I still mostly use a telephone that does not remember numbers. Most of the numbers that I call regularly, I have memorized.
Yet I have certain “wiggles” that I do to recall specific numbers. For instance, if I need to call my voicemail, I have a voicemail wiggle. I can’t remember the voicemail number without doing the wiggle.
The mind and the body are one.


Heh. THIS fired a neuron …

Many years ago, I once worked for a company with “a voicemail culture.” This was back when cell phones were actual cell phones and not everyone had one, so you had to call into the company’s voicemail system (I think, but not sure, from Northern Telecom).

Anyway, I was a sales engineer so had to check my voicemail quite frequently. There’d invariably be a ton of messages, only about 20% of which were important (the remainder were “win messages” or other administrivia to file your expense reports on time or whatever).

Surprisingly, I’ve forgotten the “wiggle” to call the voicemail number, but boy-howdy was it easy to recall the “wiggle” to delete a message: 337 came back to me instantly after reading your comment (the ring and index fingers on my right hand twitched!).


I do most of my reviews on my phone with テンキー input and I haven’t noticed anything like that yet, however whenever I need to recall the reading for 頭 I have to visualize the keyboard because I know that it’s just the left column from top to bottom.


I’m also a pianist so I understand where you’re coming from @alessandrotakesh. For some reason I hadn’t thought of this type of typing as much related to muscle memory, but it makes total sense. I was thinking more about “sides/areas” on the keyboard rather than actual hand movements per se, but I now realize the two are essentially connected when it comes to typing (or playing). On a side note, I always feel like my muscle memory on the piano is very unstable as I rely a lot on reading sheet music.

I wonder how different my brain would have developed these memory connections had I used a Japanese (kana) keyboard (exclusively on my phone I suppose?) instead of my qwerty keyboard. In addition, how these connections will develop (stronger or weaker) when I leave the review typing galore of WaniKani behind in the future and use native content “exclusively”.

Thanks everyone for the replies! :hugs:


As someone who regularly forgets their passwords if they have to use a different kind of keyboard, I would just recommend that you read the reading out loud (or mentally) to yourself before typing it in order to make sure that you actually remember it. I had a similar problem when learning kana through a game where I really just memorized the position of the kana on the selection screen and not the readings themselves. Like the first reply said, so long as you don’t rely on it, it’s probably not going to be a problem. You can use the verbal/mental test though to check if it is or isn’t a problem though. :slight_smile:


It probably works for Romaji typing outside Wanikani as well. Not really remembering Romaji visually, but just typing without thinking.

I think I can recall the keyboard layout sequentially vaguely for each words as well.

I don’t think as far as which side (maybe I do, but just didn’t name it), but on some levels, sound is spontaneously converted to muscle memory.

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Recently I noticed if you asked me to tell you how to type a character on a phone I couldn’t tell you, but if you asked me to do it I could instantly. I seem to be forgetting “how” but can still do it… おかしいな。。。

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So I’ve been an edgy memelord for about 19 years now and switched to Dvorak keyboard when I was 13. I can touch type perfectly, even blind drunk, but it would take me an age to actually write out the keyboard layout. I know exactly how you feel. Trying to type one handed (on the phone perhaps) looking down at a QWERTY board and typing in Dvorak is a chore too!

It does mean I avoid OP’s issue mind, since I jump between Dvorak on PC, and then QWERTY/12-key on my phone, depending what I’m doing.

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I don’t believe it is at all… Instead, it makes perfect sense to me.

I somehow did something similar in my grade 12 Math class, once… I remembered how to do a type of equation (or the equation or the answer to the equation) itself by remembering where on the chalkboard it was written… we had two chalkboards (they were green, so…), one in front, and one on the left, which was rarely used… But when taking a test, I saw it there, in my mind, to my left, between other students’ heads… and somehow it was correct.

There being a sort of muscle memory in your fingers isn’t a strange thing at all, in my opinion. I don’t believe it’s detrimental, either. In the future, will it help you out in the real world? It might, it might not. If you put your hands in front of you and start to imagine wiggling them typing on a keyboard, however, the reading might come to you… All things are possible.

I believe it’s a good thing that your brain is making (seemingly) out-of-the-box connections like this. The more connections you have, the stronger your memory will be in the long run. (Even if it seems a little weird.)


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