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I learn new words really easily, and I recognize words with kanji easily, but I can't seem to memorize 4 kanji 'on and kun readings' without forgetting the 1st once I learn the 5th. This is coming from someone who went through all of highschool without even being able to memorize her timetables (but did great in her final math tests because they allowed a calculator). I just don't think I'm someone who's good at memorizing - I'm good at learning, but not memorizing.

I know this is a topic people seem to feel really passionately about, but here we go - can I just learn kanji by learning how it's said in common words? Or just learning it's most common readings?

The reason I see most people give why you can't is 'if you see a word that you don't know, you won't know how to read it', but I've also heard that A. there's apps that if you take a picture of a word/kanji it'll tell you how to say it and B. the readings are irregular too often to be confident in it anyway. Right now I'm literally just trying to learn the FIRST PAGE of the Grade One Kanji on Jisho (http://jisho.org/search/%23grade%3A1%20%23kanji), and I'm already stuck with:

上 above, up

Kun: うえ、 -うえ、 うわ-、 かみ、 あ.げる、 -あ.げる、 あ.がる、 -あ.がる、 あ.がり、 -あ.がり、 のぼ.る、 のぼ.り、 のぼ.せる、 のぼ.す、 たてまつ.る

On: ジョウ、 ショウ、 シャン

Okay, let's say I memorized this. And then I saw it in a word. The chances of me even guessing the right reading is super low. Look at all of that! It definitely doesn't look like a surefire way to know how to pronounce every word you run into.

I really want to pass the JLPT5 (my goal is actually to pass it this year), and I want to know – do they ask you all of the kun and on readings for the kanji on that test? Or do they just want you to understand and be able to read the words the kanji make and how they're usually read on their own?

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    You're asking several different questions that each could be its own. "Do I need to know all the readings for the kanji for the JLPT5?" Absolutely not. But you seem to also be asking something along the lines of "How many readings of which kanji do I need to get around? Or to be literate?" or perhaps "How are multiple readings dealt with in daily life?". It would help people help you if you could clarify your question. – Mark S. Jan 17 '18 at 19:32
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    Like 人 - if I learn 外国人, 大人, 人形, etc., before I just memorize the kanji's readings (without any words to connect those readings to yet), would that cause problems later on? Or would it cause problems with different kanji? It's just that I've heard so many people say you MUST memorize every reading I want to know why. Learning the words first seems way more simple. – Honebami Jan 17 '18 at 19:41
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    I voted to close this a primarily opinion-based. But look that the 上 kanji you have there. The basic readings are repeated several times for just different verbs (e.g. it is read 「あ」 in あ・げる, あ・がる, あ・がり; it is read 「のぼ」 in のぼ・る, のぼ・り, のぼ・せる, のぼ・す). I think your best bet at this point is to start learning readings based on specific words. Then as your vocabulary increases, you'll start to recognize patterns, and when they should be read which way. I think just trying to memorize all the readings for every kanji is a fool's task. – istrasci Jan 17 '18 at 20:22
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    You picked a few very basic kanji which get used over and over again in the language as your examples. The farther you go, the more often kanji only have 2 or 3 total readings. Very few kanji are like 人 or 上 in the grand scheme of things. – Leebo Jan 17 '18 at 22:08
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    You're better off learning to read words, IMO. I think this post answers your question pretty well: japanese.stackexchange.com/a/52214/1478 – snailplane Jan 18 '18 at 13:15