How do you remember synonyms, or keep them apart?

Make no mistake, I am in no way critical of KameSame which is a great app that makes all the difference to my learning to produce, rather than recognize, Kanji and vocab. But at least once a day, something like this drives me crazy …

You know, I’m rather proud of my having come up, within a couple of minutes, of no less than six Japanese words that mean something from the general semantic field of “feeling”, but KameSame still wants the seventh (or maybe the eighth, or ninth, what do I know?), and I’m running out of options. Even more notorious, in my book, are the concepts of “close/neighborhood” and “soon” for which Japanese seems to have an almost infinite supply of synonyms. (Or are they?)

As I said, this is no criticism of KameSame (hence I’m also not posting in the dedicated thread for that app). The “Hint: it’s not …” feature is a great improvement. This is more about my ability to memorize not one Japanese equivalent of a simple concept, but rather a whole list. For learning to actively use a language this seems, to me, not necessarily the first step. It’s fine if I can read/understand seven ways of expressing “soon”, but for actually saying myself “I’ll come soon” I suppose I could do with one or two. Even there are slight semantic differences between the words, appreciation for those will more likely come with practice (as if I’d ever get there :roll_eyes:) than with learning vocab.

I reckon I do wonder if the energy and time required for reproducing lists of synonyms is wisely invested or not. And I also wonder, if so, then whether people have strategies for doing this. One idea I came up with is picking a different translation for apparent synonyms. So for instance, I try to learn 情熱 as “passion” and 熱心 as “enthusiasm”. But then this doesn’t help me with the other direction, and besides, I may be picking entirely the wrong semantic differentiation.

Any better ideas?


BTW, it was 感じ. The seventh. :wink:


I’m certainly not an expert but a thing you could do is to look at the “Alternatives”-section. As far as I know neither 気持ち nor 心持ち can mean sense or impression (as an example).

But that you know that many synonyms is really impressive!


I’ve never used Kamesame myself, but when it comes to acquiring synonyms, it’s all about the “sense” of the word. In this case I think context is needed to differentiate them.

  1. One solution would be allowing all synonyms of a word as a “correct” answer.

  2. A second solution I’ve seen in practice methods like this is asking for multiple answers, such as: List all of the words that mean “synonym”, but it’s not as elegant for an application.

  3. Contextual cues. The biggest problem with some language learning apps is they ignore the 101 ways language always has to get to the same answer. This isn’t a problem in Wanikani for vocabulary because each vocabulary has one or two readings maximum, so it can easily include both. Meanings are more difficult, but again Wanikani allows many synonyms (and user synonyms).

Learning synonyms is the same thing as learning the difference between formal or informal, or flowery vs. utilitariation. Some learning simply can’t be done without studying in a real context.
But if you wanted to approximate that, the application would have to present the learner with a context, either through example sentences (with blanks), giving a formality level, giving a situation… etc. This would also help recall by connecting the vocabulary to a real situation.

Knowing which word is best for a situation (pragmatics) comes from encountering it yourself in that situation, multiple times. That’s how an English learner would know when to say “it smells nice” and when to say “it has a sweet fragrance”. Even if they study ‘fragrance’, it’s unlikely they’re going to commit the word to working memory until they encounter a situation where someone is being aggressively poetic at them. Or until they watch a few perfume commercials.

TL;DR: If you want to acquire synonyms, read/watch native Japanese texts and interact with other speakers! Pragmatic knowledge is largely outside the domain of formal learning… as it currently stands anyway.


All synonyms on WaniKani is listed here
Synonyms/confusing words, reupload
You can perhaps search for all theese words and add a user synonym that is more of a hint during your KameSame reviews.


I think this is a general problem with learning by being taught, and is what leads to people from saying something flowery, and me as a native English speaker thinking “wow, I’ve never heard someone say that before, and I’d generally just use ‘s***’ instead” (not that using a more eloquent alternative is a bad thing…)

Now that’s an amazing resource! :+1:
How could I ever have done with just a single word for “counterattack”. :joy:


Evidently! For the moment, however, I’m just not even remotely there yet … :slightly_smiling_face:

That’s true, of course … the problem being, I usually struggle to remember just one translation for an item; memorizing the whole list for every item in a whole list of synonyms is waaay beyond me. :roll_eyes:

My best advice would be not to worry about it for now. Focus on learning the sense of the word. If the application you’re using asks for specifics to the point of confusion, maybe it isn’t for you.


Hypothesis also needed that many synonyms… I use that word so many times in my life :face_with_monocle:

Today’s lessons did it for me again … they had, all in one session, 完了, 完成, 完全, which all appear to mean more or less the same, and 念願 which seems pretty much the same as 心願 which I learnt a few days ago. Reproducing them actively will be a total pain. I guess I have to remain pretty 頑固 (also in today’s lessons) to see this through. :roll_eyes:

then maybe don’t care about it yet? lol just a suggestion but i don’t see what the point is. memorizing lists outside of context isn’t going to make you fluent. read whatever native material you can until you get a feel for the differences between them.

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Honestly, I don’t think memorizing lists of synonyms is the way to increase your fluency to the point of being able to read texts. You need to read language, not words, and they need to be contextualized.

Forgive me if that isn’t what you meant, however. Might I suggest leaving Kamesame be until you are able to reinforce your learning by reading/watching samples of native Japanese?

The only way to learn how to do so is, unfortunately, by doing so. I’m not sure where you are on your journey learning, but it sounds like the vocabulary you’re studying might be too far above your actual Japanese level, thus leading to problems. Someone who can offer eight different synonyms for feeling should normally be able to pick up a newspaper and read it.

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All that is true, of course. But then it’s also true for WK, or any kind of list-based vocab learning. And still this is one valid way out of several for acquiring a language. For me, KameSame simply supports WK by offering the reverse, reproduction instead of recognition, and I find that vital. I often find it easy to recognize the meaning of vocab from the Kanji, and even to reproduce the reading, at least for nouns. The reverse is not quite that easy, which is what this rant was about … :wink:

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Yeah, you really have to listen to actual Japanese to figure out the nuances between all the words. Like, 完了is more the about the end goal of completion and 完成 is completion as the act of becoming complete. It’s, uh, hard to explain. :expressionless: lol

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I came to the same conclusions as OP and I’m having a hard time with synonyms on WK. Especially vocab words related to feelings and time relative from “now” (last time, before, few days ago, soon :rage: :sweat_drops:). Some of those words have been leeches for ages.

The compromise I’ve found regarding KameSame is to use it only for producing kanji (actually drawing the kanji on my phone instead of using the keyboard) and not vocab at all. At least for the time being.


Heck, no. I really do get that. :slightly_smiling_face: It makes sense when one looks at the 了 as opposed to 成 part.

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Seems I’m just getting started … today I learned 望み and 願望 – both signifying wish – and to round it off I had, in the same lesson, 木材 and 材木, which on the bright side both mean actually more or less exactly the same, and expressing it both by reinforcing one Kanji that means forest or wood with another that means wood or lumber, so that’s simple and obvious. The flip side being the question why there are two of them?

Sure, I’m aware that the vocabulary of a language is not a logical system, it developed independently in different times and regions, and some people probably had an equally compelling reason to say 木材 as others had to say it exactly the other way round. Just bunched together in the same set of lessons on the same day it still has the potential of driving one crazy. :stuck_out_tongue:

If they are really synonyms and you got one right, skip it.

It’s NOT worth your time to focus on which word is associated with the english “random english word”. As you said it’s something you’ll pick up in context after multiple exposures (You’ll get a sense of the context each is used in) or even more quickly in actual speaking/writing when you’ll have the chance.

It’s definitely NOT worth your time to memorize whole lists of synonyms.

I’ve always heard 望み, so I’d use that in a real scenario. If I’m wrong so be it, doing mistakes when trying to speak is the way you learn the language.

I decided they both mean “lumber” and have never got them wrong afterwards. :man_shrugging: (もくざい sounds better, but that may be just me)
Really every time I get into a scenario of “is what I inputted really so wrong?” I just look it up a little bit. If it’s worth correcting (i.e. there’s a real difference and I know what that is) I try my best. Otherwise I just add it as synonym. WK, KW, Kamisame…they are not here to actually teach you the language. Just to make it possible for you to actually use those approximate ideas to decrypt real Japanese (i.e. crutches).

At least that’s my opinion on the “how do you remember synonyms” issue.

One of my high school professor used to say “There’s no two words that are the same” , just the act of translating deforms the real meaning. And I agree.

As beginners, focusing on learning them all is a waste of our time. (Just make sure you can recognize them)

Also, please note that WK vocabulary is often Kanji-oriented, it’s not there so that you can speak Japanese, but so that you can read kanji. WK is not the best tool to learn appropriate vocabulary.

This is the end of my ranting. May we choose the right synonym. :wink: