Doubts on kanji and vocabulary translation

Hi everybody,
During my reviews I’ve encountered a couple meaning variation for some kanjis or vocabulary from the first time a learned them.
For example the first time I learned the word 化ける it was translated as “to transform”.
Now i see it’s “to transform oneself”.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t read wrong the first time, because I always add my italian translation in “user synonyms” when I learn a new word.
So I checked 化ける in and Tangorine and it’s translated as “to take the form of”, “to disguise as”. A little different.
About different meaning, the kanji 表 that wanikani translates as “express” (to express) on jisho and tangorin is translated as “surface, table, chart, diagram”. Not even close!
I’m really worried about that. I hope I’m not learning wrong translations.
Did anyone found similar discrepancies?


There’s no good way around the issue especially when the J-E dictionaries are trying to distill the meaning into a seemingly equivalent English word/phrase whenever possible. Sometimes it’s effective, but there will be a lot of cases where that approach just isn’t good enough or is overly dependent on reader being familiar enough with the native term being used. Edit: I should point out a lot of J-E resources taking that approach are just modifications (if even) of JMDICT.

If/when possible consult a monolingual dictionary and make use of the user synonyms. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Understanding will come from context and natural use, which 1-3 sentences in some SRS system isn’t really going to provide. There’s a certain degree of “this is temporary and incomplete knowledge” we just have to accept as relatively new language learners. Most of the time I’ve found it easy to just sort of course correct after seeing words used in the wild.


keep in mind, the kanji definition/translation is more general and intended to fit a wider variety of the compound uses of it in vocabularly. if you search jisho with to show words containing the kanji, express (or variations that are similar) are quite common. as for 化ける, that was recently updated to ‘transform oneself’ to help make it more apparent that it’s not to transform anything, but more specifically to do so oneself (ie to take form of something or take on a disguise).


They do some adjustment from time to time, you can see that 化ける was changed recently here:

Now I think it’s cleared that 化ける is mainly used in the sense transform oneself, turn oneself into. You can check the example sentences to have some idea.

表 has quite a lot of meaning. You can check on kanjipedia that “express” is one of them (meaning 2). I think they chose this one because almost all the vocab taught by WK involve expression/express. But the meaning of surface is also important (and it’s probably the original root meaning of the kanji), and is taught as a vocab.


I too have noticed some discrepancies between jmdict (what jisho uses) and wanikani sometimes but the general idea still kinda fits even if the “literal” translation can differ a bit. The thing is, regardless of if it’s from a J-E dictionary or wanikani or whatever, I find the “real meaning” and proper usage of a word doesn’t really click until you encounter it in the wild and see it used.

So don’t worry about it too much, the english translation is a useful crutch to get the general idea in your head, but it’s not everything.


Thank you for your reply. :+1:

Thank you for all the info you gave me.
I’ve never checked the community to see updates of wanikani. Now I’ll often take a look.
I also didn’t know kanjipedia. It’s still quite hard to consult for me but it seems a precious source.


Thank you for your reply :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you!

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