How do I know if a word I learned is actually used?

Besides learning with Wanikani I also attend beginner japanese classes. Sometimes I make sentences with vocal I learned on Wanikani or I ask about vocal from Wanikani. And in many times it turns out the word I said is not the normal way to say it or the word is especially formal and basically never used, unless you write a formal business letter. The word 近日 is apparently such a formal one, but the example sentences made me believe it is just a normal word you can use in every day conversation.
I suppose in different parts of japan different words are seen as normal but that made me wonder if there is a website or tool that can tell me how formal (or normal) the words are.

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You could use something like the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese.

Now, before you say “but I don’t want written Japanese!” rest assured that it includes casual sources, and you can weed things out.

So for instance, if you search for 近日 and limit your sources to Yahoo Chiebukuro and Yahoo Blogs, you get 83 results.

If you do the same search but for すぐ, you get 7188 results. (to be fair, some of those might be random times す and ぐ were next to each other, but you can look at them and check to see if you’re getting the kind of results you expected).

That’s just one way to check how common a word is.

At the end of the day, 近日 is a “common word” in the sense that every Japanese person knows it and it’s something kids would learn to write by grade 2. WaniKani is for learning how to read, so it’s expected that there will be words common in writing.

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It might be frustrating in the beginning and I can’t say that I have any great adivce for you. All I can say is that when you start to consume media and words in context, your brain will start to process the frequency of words + how, where and when they are used.

I personally refrained from creating my own sentences for a loooong time until I sort of had a grip around how the language works. Now when I attempt to communicate in Japanese I have a sort of subconscious bank of knowledge of what is spoken, written, formal, informal Japanese etc.

Not a fun answer but I just wanted to let you know that the future is brighter. Maybe stick to using the words you learn in class and keep asking about wanikani vocab whenever you can.

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What Leebo said. Find a corpus of word frequencies based upon the material you’re interested in and base it on that. I’ve been using a Luminoso project called Exquisite Corpus, which for Japanese includes both formal sources such as Wikipedia and other websites, and also less formal stuff like Reddit and Twitter.

This won’t give you context or formality of words, but it gives you a quick idea of how common certain words are in general. I look up leeches to see how much I should care that I get them wrong, for example. Rare words aren’t worth the trouble.

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Thanks for providing this link! It looks like if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll click the red box with the arrow on it and accept the terms and conditions. After you get to the next page, you can type in a word to see where and when it’s surfaced in writing before.

It’s hard at first to figure out which words are popular and which are less-commonly used. I think it comes with lots of reading and speaking with native speakers!

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This is a good question that comes up often. One thing I wanna say is, if you’re interested in eventually being able to play Japanese video games, almost all words are useful. Just something to keep in the back of your mind if you ever get bummed out about words not being used.

Others gave you good options and another option you could check jisho.org and see if it’s a JLPT word or if it’s included in a lot of example sentences.

jisho

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A great option to check that on the fly is using Yomichan and some of the frequency lists provided.
On the official web you’ll find the Innocent Corpus ( a list coming from 50000 novels and their respective most common words).

I have a couple more with the most common words from anime and shows and another one from the shows in Netflix.

So I can quickly get an idea of how common any word is by just hovering over and using Yomichan.

This looks like this (the green lines at the beginning).

I think it’s a real time saver and probably one of the functions why I love Yomichan so much.

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