Any tips here? Dwelling (住 / じゅう) vs location (場 / じょ) vs place (所/ しょ) all sound the same and have similar meanings in english. How on earth do we differentiate?
I won´t be able to give you a complete answer, but for the first one it means to reside. It´s the place you live where the other 2 are used in other contexts. Though, I can´t tell you more
I’m not sure that I have any great advice (to me, 所 looks sort of like the stage of a theater where you see the “show”, but I realize that’s moronic if you’re not me), but just so you know: The reading that Wanikani has you memorize for 場 has a long vowel, so it is じょう, not じょ, as in your post.
所 and 場 have essentially the same meaning; no use worrying about some “difference”.
住 refers to the place of residence, i.e. where you live, so it’s a more special kind of “place” (e.g. とうきょうに住んでいる, “I live in Tokyo”).
As others have explained, 住 specifically implies the idea of a dwelling or residence, while the other two characters are more generic.
There will be many more kanji with similar, somewhat vague, overlapping meanings like this.
Realize that vocabulary items tend to have distinct, specific meanings, while individual kanji tend to be much more conceptual with vague, often overlapping, debatable meanings. Nouns and names of things are easy, concepts are much more difficult.
You may have noticed that sometimes, but not always, individual kanji character shows up as a vocabulary item on Wanikani as well as a kanji item. This means that even on its own, the character represents an actual word with a specific meaning. Characters that don’t have a corresponding vocabulary item on WK are rarely used on their own. Usually they are part of compound words (熟語). When you do see them on their own it’s usually sort of like an abbreviation.
Over time, WK will introduce more and more vocabulary that use individual kanji. Your brain will start to recognize the patterns and meaning/concepts of the underlying characters and how they combine.
For this specific set of characters, these vocabulary items probably give the most canonical senses of the individual characters:
住所 (Your address, where you reside.) Conceptually, this common word basically means “residence place.”
所 (A place/spot/scene). Note that this character does have its own vocabulary item (with a distinct 訓読み reading).
場所 (a place). Conceptually, “location place” or just a generic “place” rather than a residence or other more specific type of place.
The latter two have nearly identical meanings. There are linguists here who could tell you better than me when each is used. I’m not sure that this is correct, but to me 所 feels more like a place I or another human might find themselves while 場所 has an even more generic sense of a place for “things” rather than people. That’s not completely correct though since both can definitely be used for things.
It’s a very good idea to always review the context sentences for every vocabulary item. They usually provide a decent clue as to the usage and underlying meaning. With enough usage practice, your brain will start to recognize the nuanced distinctions (like place for people vs. place for things.
Finally, realize that English also has a bazillion ways to say the same thing: location, place, spot, site, …
You get used to it eventually. Just do your reviews.
Thank you for the in depth explanation - that makes sense! I’ll keep in mind to review the sentences, I haven’t been doing that which is maybe where I’m getting lost.
Also… good point re: english having a bazillion meanings too.
I’m a big fan of the Hide Context Sentence Translation script. It’s hard at first since there will be so many unfamiliar characters, but it’s good practice and gets easier with time.
I also find Yomichan invaluable: hover your mouse over any unfamiliar characters and hold down shift to see the reading and definition in context (you’ll have to install some dictionaries). It only works with Chrome but it’s so useful I can’t consider any other browser for Japanese content.
Example of both in use:
Ah amazing, will go download Yomichan now!
Just don’t use it to cheat on your reviews! (laugh)
Yomichan also works with Firefox! That’s the browser I use.
所 seems to have more specificity than 場所.
But, I think you’re right that practically you can interchange them without too much trouble.