What decides if you learn On'yomi or Kun'yomi?

I have gotten the impression that when you learn a new kanji, it is usually the on’yomi version. When you learn the vocabulary version of the kanji alone though, it is usually the kun’yomi. A vocabulary word with two kanjis are usually the on’yomi, and a okurigana word is usually kun’yomi. If I learned the on’yomi for the kanji and kun’yomi for the vocabulary word, it is easy to remember which one is what.
However, some kanjis makes you learn the kun’yomi first. This confuses me, because it means when I do sessions for kanjis I do not know whether it asks for the on’yomi or kun’yomi. It also makes it difficult to remember what is what when learning longer vocabulary, and it is rarely mentioned if you learn the on’yomi or kun’yomi when learning the kanji.
I just started learning japanese, do any more experienced people have any input on this? Thank you


For the kanji lessons, it’s really at WaniKani’s discretion. They teach you the one they think will be most useful. This usually means the on’yomi, as it’s generally the one you find in compounds. So if you see a new word with that kanji, you might know how to read it. Sometimes the on’yomi is rarely used, or WK just doesn’t teach many/any words with it, so they give you the kun’yomi immediately.

This sort of “it’s what we decide” is why the kanji reviews will shake if you input the wrong reading, instead of just marking you wrong. And of course they don’t do the same for the vocab reviews because those are actual vocab words. They have a right and wrong answer.


Thank you. Shouldnt WaniKani tell you wether you are learning the on’yomi or kun’yomi for a kanji, so it will be easier to remember which one is what when you are learning vocabulary?

Just to add a little information to what pahko said, very rarely, you will encounter some kanji that only have either a kun’yomi or a on’yomi reading, so in those cases it’s not wanikani’s fault :slight_smile:


To be honest, I think it does. There’s a chance that’s a script I have and not vanilla WK, but I think it says “on’yomi” or “kun’yomi” above the kana reading on the left. I would screenshot but I don’t have any kanji lessons right now.

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There’s also the Katakana Madness script that turns all on’yomi into katakana, it’s a nice way to practice katakana while you’re at it.


I’m pretty sure it does include that information by default.


Yes, it’s directly above the reading. Granted, it’s not very prominent so it’s easily overlooked, but it’s there.

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Also, don’t sweat which reading is which too much… you’ll have a sense of it with experience.


Thank you very much for all your answers! :slight_smile:

This is very true. It’s very rare that you’ll hesitate between the two readings when you learn kanji as part of a specific word/phrase.

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