I first studied Japanese using Pimsleur audiobooks, then jumped straight into WaniKani without much stopping for grammar or any native content until I was prepping to move to Japan. This being the case, I really struggled picking up vocab in reading/conversation if it wasn’t written in kanji. Since WaniKani is centered around mnemonics, and was my near sole studying tool, I also struggled to learn new words if I didn’t know how it was written using kanji. I would mix words up by flipping the order of their kanji, and subsequently their readings, which would cause all sorts of issues in conversation as my conversation partners wouldn’t always automatically realize what I had done. (For example, 挙選 instead of 選挙, or 段階 instead of 階段).
Then, one day, I had the (incredibly simple) epiphany that: kanji aren’t Japanese. I already knew that kanji had been borrowed from Chinese back before Japanese had a writing system in place, but this was separate. I was always trying to remember words by their kanji, and when they didn’t have one I was frustrated. I had incorrectly, and unwittingly, assumed that the words took their meaning from the kanji. After I realized that kanji were, for all intents and purposes, all assigned to words after the fact, and were more akin to spellings in English than to words in and of themselves, remembering vocabulary became so much easier.
Pretty crazy how much just a change in mindset can change your ability to comprehend things.