Why only teach on'yomi of some kanji?

After going through several levels I’ve noticed that for most kanji you learn the on’yomi reading as the kanji item, and then the kun’yomi reading as the vocab item, so that you know both and can use the on’yomi when it shows up as a part of a multi-kanji vocab items. However, that’s not the case for all the kanji, as a lot of them use the kun’yomi reading for both the kanji and vocal items. Is there any deeper meaning behind this? Why not teach both across the board?


Some readings are a lot rarer than others. For items where they teach only one of the two, most of the time the other reading is relatively rare, which is why they leave some out.


It’s mostly how often a kanji is used in its kun’yomi form (as a standalone concept or in compounds) vs the on’yomi form, but for some kanji I wish the on’yomi reading was taught instead, because the kun’yomi reading would anyway be covered by a vocab item, for instance 暑, which actually has a standalone on’yomi reading しょ as “heat” and a couple of fairly useful words like 暑中 (peak of heat) and 暑気 (hot weather, heatstroke).


I believe they want to teach the most common/important readings.

Also, because 9 times out of 10 compound kanji use on’yomi (and there’s a lot of compound kanji words lol), if you know the on’yomi for the kanji, you should be able to see the vocab and already be able to read it unless there’s sound changes.


The most annoying exception I ran into recently is teaching 頭 with the kunyomi あたま even though the onyomi とう is extremely common


That’s my point, you should teach the on’yomi reading of a kanji, before teaching vocab items that use it in that form, even if it’s not used on it’s own with that reading most of the time (that’s what the vocab items with the kun’yomi reading are for).

Going back and looking at some of the early kanji that teach the kunyomi, most of them have vocabulary that uses the onyomi but that vocab doesn’t show up until the later levels (like 40+). So I can see why they’d choose to hold off on teaching the onyomi until you have some vocab to use it with


I agree, that probably makes more sense. I am sometimes a little impatient and would like to get more practice for a specific kanji via WaniKani, but that can be done through Anki (which I use) and other means. To be fair, despite some minor hick-ups here and there, I think the entire system is really well designed :slight_smile: .

I don’t know, but for me would be more difficult to learn both readings, the shape, and the meaning of one kanji at once, even to distinguish wich reading is kun or on. I love the fact that I just need to know one reading first, and once that I recognize this kanji, get the additional readings when I learn vocabulary. It has worked well for me.
If I want to remember both readings, I just see the specific kanji on the search bar.

I’d say always having on’ in kanji and kun’ in vocab would be less confusing. This way you’d learn them in pairs from the beginning and know which one’s which, instead of learning the kun’ at level 5, and then having on’ randomly thrown at you at level 12, making you wonder why they heck is it spelled that way.

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酷暑 Level 54

Although 暑中 and 暑気 are probably good examples to email them about.

You’ll get a bunch of vocab for the とう reading from level 10 to 54, including one for the しら reading.

That pretty much sums up the reasoning as far as I know.


But by level 12 (and earlier I imagine), there really shouldn’t be that many “why the heck is it spelled like that” moments, no? By then it should be pretty normal for every kanji to have multiple readings.

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I guess, I just found it weird. Kinda like teaching someone how to add in first year of school, then multiply and divide in second year, while completely omitting the subtracting part, since it wont shop up on the test until the second year. There’s an order to things like that that you usually follow, you teach the component before teaching the complex uses of them.

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I guess I just don’t really see why it matters that much. Japanese kids don’t even learn about the two categories at all until they’re in third grade. They just learn readings and words for them before then. So it’s not like always teaching them a specific way is integral to the core of reading kanji.

And if a particular reading is worth learning in school, but only appears in difficult words, they don’t teach it initially and wait until later. For instance, 上 is taught in 1st grade, but the しょう reading is taught in high school. So yeah, similar to how we see things play out here for some kanji.


Well, being an adult, and an analytical type at that, I like to find patterns in things to let me organize them better in my mind. Kind of like a good mnemonic makes it so much easier to remember things.

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