WK recall while reading native content

Hello, all!

This question is mostly aimed at those that have started reading quite a bit of native material:

How often did/do you struggle to recall a word you know you learned on WK?

It’s not like I expected everything to stick, having learned 4.000 WK items in less than a year, but I sometimes find myself a bit disturbed at how I fail to recall things.

Having learned items before does speed up the process, of course. Sometimes I don’t recall the reading, but I can easily look it up via the meaning. Some of them are just leeches for me, so of course I end up looking those up (and then proceed to retain them far better as a result!).

I suppose the question is: anyone relate to this? Am I being overly harsh on myself for something very natural - since I didn’t regularly read until mid/late lvl20s? Is my memory just a colander?

Like I said, it’s not that I expect to have perfectly retained thousands of items by the end of WK, and it feels good to be cementing things better through something fun and engaging like reading. However, if many others say they did great on the WK items when they began incorporating reading into their daily studies, I may have to re-evaluate how I engage with WK lessons.

Thank you for taking the time to read and/or respond, and I hope everyone is having a great day!


Yeah, sometimes I notice that when I’m not on WK, I don’t necessarily get that “you should know this” feeling from words. On WK, obviously every word that appears is one I should know, because I had to do the lesson, so even if I draw a blank at first I know to give it some time and take a shot.

But in the real world, words don’t have little markers saying “you studied this on WK so try a little harder if it doesn’t come back instantly.”


I’ve definitely failed to recognize words I’d learned on WK before. I’m not sure, like, what percent I recognize or fail to recognize the first time I see them in the wild, but it’s just the nature of having thousands of items in your review queues. If you don’t see it regularly, it’ll fall out of your immediate recall no matter how much you’ve drilled it in SRS.

It does give you a leg up on committing the word to memory after that point though.

If I know it’s, say, a compound of two kanji I’ve learned through WK however, I might take a little more time to rack my brain over it before going to a dictionary.


Just 2 hours ago I blanked on 物語, a word that I already knew way before I learned the kanji (and way before I started to learn Japanese, i.e. genji no monogatari). That’s a pretty egregious example, but it happens more often than I like. I find that it happens most often in words that I remember by tying to other words that are learned in the same set (like, “it’s not this word in blank set, so it must be this”). It’s actually a really bad strategy that I do unconsciously that it makes it so I’m basically only able to recall the word during reviews and no where else.


I read quite a lot and I still often blank on words I know or have seen countless times. Sometimes it can be the simplest words but for the stupidest reason (a different font, a line break, surrounding kanji giving the impression that the parsing would be different, etc.), my brain just refuses to recognize them. I’ve accepted it and try to not beat myself up when I look up what a word is and realize how silly it is I didn’t recognize it.


Welcome to the club of everyone ever.

How many times do we see the average word in WK? Maybe 5-10 times. How many times have we encountered most of our English words? Probably thousands to tens of thousands for any native speaker. It’s just a matter of exposure.

Stay the course. You’re doing just fine. Believe in yourself and if you can’t, believe in the me that believes in you.


I haven’t done a lot of native reading at my level, but even with what I have done, something interesting I’ve noticed is that I can usually just read my usual WK leeches, whereas I struggle a bit more with the ones I always answer correctly. I suppose the leeches instantly trigger that “god, you should know this, you’ve seen it a million times” response, whereas the “easy” ones do not. That’s my theory, anyway.


ughhh, I’ve realised I’ve been doing a bit of this for vocal that is learned with similar looking kanji. I’m trying to take more time to distinguish similar looking kanji when I first learn them so that when I get to the vocab its more concrete in my mind. But I can totally relate…

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@Omun I haven’t been reading too much native material yet, apart from yotsuba to, and goji kara kuji made manga’s, which all have furigana. But I do sometimes blank on meanings of kanji and vocab that I have learned here. I don’t worry too much about it, though.

A little while ago I came across 沢山. My first thought was that it must be place name (trying to read it as たくやま) but it wouldn’t fit into the sentence. So I tried changing the pronunciation to on’yomi and then it was clear right away.

The same thing has happened with 物語 for me I think. Since 語る is not a word that comes up often, but 〜語 does, I immeadiately want to read it as ご. Especially since the word usually doesn’t came with okurigana. And then having to choose もの/ぶつ or something for 物, I just can’t come up with a good word. But then I try the kun’yomi, and suddenly it makes sense.


もの/ぶつ messes me up a lot as well. There’s probably some consistency to it, but I’ve yet to pin it down (like にん/じん or the 3401 readings for 日). With jukugo words I’m much more liable to forget the meanings for the expected reasons, but with some others I’ll actually forgot the readings, especially ones that are irregular but also aren’t used often.

As the number of kanji I’m learning with 門 in them increase seemingly ad infinitum, I’m really starting to get this problem. The real killer is when you learn 2 kanji that look incredibly similar but are like 10 levels apart so you don’t realize how similar they look. Recent example is when 南米 came up for review and I got really confused because I could not stop reading it as しょうべい (商品 kind of しょう), as I hadn’t even realize how the two were similar. I’m only level 20 and I’m running into this so I expect it to only get worse yay


well I don’t know about 10 levels apart but I’ve run into this too and I’m only level 13. Also sorry to OP for derailing the thread a little, or continuing its derailment maybe?


I was looking for lots of “already known” words while reading the first volumes of the collection with which I started reading native content.
Most of the lookups were mostly confirmation though. Then after a few volumes I stopped been so aprehensive about it, and if undestanding the meaning I would simply kept reading when encountering one of those.

Now most of the time, the case is that I find a word using known kanji, and I would assume I know the word… but after some appearences I finally will search for it and realize it wasn’t under my radar. :sweat_smile:


Thank you all very much! I legitimately feel better about it. ^^

As I was reading all your comments, I found myself thinking "Of course it’s not that weird of a thing," and I felt a bit silly.

I think I got a little hung up on the “red screen mentality.” Forgetting a word that I could recognize as something from WK kind of felt like an impromptu review that I was failing. Reading was and is still fun (slow and challenging for me, but fun), but as I ran into other words I couldn’t recall, I began to wonder if I was being too lacks in my standards of retention.

So it feels good to hear about other experiencing the same thing. Just another one of those language learning things. :purple_heart: Thanks again!


I chose the colander option:
with a smile



I think WK suffers a bit from being a walled garden… there is a fixed pool of content to pull from your memory, so you know automatically that when you see something here that it is in your brain somewhere.

When reading native content, it is quite different in that you frequently encounter things that you haven’t been exposed to, so when you struggle to recall, you may have a feeling of doubt that you actually know what you are seeing. I think it is easier to give up faster on those things and not try quite as hard to pull them from memory.

Yes, what you are experiencing is real and you are not alone with this happening. Naturally as you start to make real world connections thing get easier and easier with practice and things will get sorted in your mind for easier recall next time.


I’ve recognized kanji but then forgot how to pronounce it. So it makes reading difficult.


I get this feeling all the time. Except for the ones that are for some reason super easy to remember, I have to see a word in multiple contexts before I have really „learned“ it.

It feels a bit like training your dog: just because he knows how to do a new trick in that same spot in your living room where you always do the training, it doesn’t mean that he can do the same thing tomorrow in the park (in a different context).

For me that is the main reason why I want to go through WaniKani as effortlessly as possible (using the Anki mode and being super liberal with certain errors) because I know that for me it doesn’t really matter how well I learn an item on WaniKani. And this way I have more time to see my new WaniKani items in other content.

Yup, I feel the same. It is a good preparation for creating a mental model of all the kanji but you have to get out of the garden and into the real world as soon as possible, in my opinion.


Well they f*****g should.


What really gets me its that some childrens book have words in kana instead of kanji, and that shouldn’t make it harder but it does… I see a verb like 作る written as つくった and my mind just goes poof :snail:


There is research that suggests that simply memorizing words without a communicative function does little to no good in language acquisition.

This is not to say that WK is in any way useless. Personally I’ve found it invaluable. But I believe it is true that you don’t really learn words in a real sense until you use them for communication (and I’d include reading or listening in that definition).

So it’s not surprising that many words we “know” in WK look unfamiliar when we encounter them in readings. But the more you read them, the more you’ll remember them in future.

I compare WK to a cookbook in the sense that maybe you’d like to make a Japanese cheesecake but don’t know how. So you sit on your sofa reading a recipe for Japanese cheesecake in a cookbook.

Now, you think, I know how to make Japanese cheesecake. But until you’ve actually made a few of them, you really don’t. You’ll make a few failures along the way before you finally get it close to how you imagined it (totally not speaking from personal experience at all). Still, that recipe was essential to get you started.

It’s an imperfect analogy, but the point is that in both cases, we’re using an abstract tool to learn something concrete. That abstraction helps but doesn’t get us all the way there.