Japanese Vocabulary


I can read kana fairly well now but am still new to kanji. I sometimes try to read through children’s books and other material with very few kanji in it for practice. Even though I can sound the words out I often don’t know their meanings. I know katakana is used for foreign words which wouldn’t have kanji but do all (or most) hiragana words have a kanji definition? I’m sort of confused by the relationship between kana, kanji, and the readings.

I know WK isn’t designed to teach you vocabulary for speaking and is pretty much just to cram kanji into your head. I use a number of other resources but I’ve yet to really find a way to efficiently learn vocabulary for things written on in kana or for speaking.

Can anyone recommend a method of learning vocabulary words (for both speaking and reading) beyond just learning the kanji readings? Or would it be more beneficial to just stick to learning kanji for my vocabulary building? I’m looking to improve both reading and listening to Japanese. In essence, what supplements would you suggest for building a “speaking vocabulary” alongside WK for learning kanji?

Any advice would be most appreciated.

1 Like

There are books like シャドーイング日本語を話そう that are designed to teach spoken Japanese. Those kinds of resources will contain many useful vocab and grammar points for spoken Japanese that differ from other forms.

Just to be clear, katakana has more uses than just that. One, for instance, is animal and plant words, which also often do have kanji. The word for ant is usually going to be written as アリ, but the kanji 蟻 does exist.

There are words that genuinely have no kanji counterpart, and you can always check that in a dictionary.

1 Like

In the children stories many kanji are replaced with kana versions, but those books are designed to have someone there to explain the words to you, for me it’s rather hard to see the word boundaries and the words are rather old fashioned (no one uses them™), so it’s actually more difficult as a reading practice.

Do you know this site: http://life.ou.edu/stories/? it provides vocab for everything and splits the sentences a bit.


Yes I am aware of the other uses of katakana. I’ll check out the book you recommended as like I said I want to build my vocabulary for spoken Japanese just as much as I do for written.

I too have trouble with the word boundaries. I noticed that often times katakana, kanji, and hiragana will be mixed which seems to help denote the individual words . Also the grammar/sentence structure can be a clue but since I don’t know much grammar it doesn’t help very much now. I’ll give that website a try as well, I hadn’t heard of it until now but it seems to be just what I’m looking for.

Are there any good sites out there like WK but that are more centered around spoken Japanese?

Thanks for all the advice so far!

Rocket Languages is great for spoken, written, reading, and listening as well as culture.

:joy: Can I see your patent??

P.S. Thanks for the link to the stories site.

1 Like

Wiggum: This is clearly a case of animal cruelty. Uh, do you have a permit for that?
Barker: No problem, sir, it’s in my car. [gets in, and quickly drives off]
Lou: You’ve gotta stop being so trusting, Chief.
Wiggum: Ah, I’d rather let a thousand guilty men go free than chase after them.

1 Like

It doesn’t teach you kana only words (well, there are some that are “almost always written in kana only, but you might run in to the kanji version in the wild” so it got included) but there are 6000+ vocab words to help learn the kanji, so you can learn a fair bit of vocab through wanikani too! =D
You will need to learn from other sources as well though, but seems you have already figured that out =)
I’d recommend focusing on books that teach grammar, like Genki. It’s hard to use the building blocks without a blue print :wink:

If you want some reading material at a starting level, and feel you actually grasp it, try graded readers =)
There’s a mobile app, you can get the first story for a very low price (and they said they are considering or working on having a free sample story) If anyone knows an online resource with free graded readers type material, feel free to link it =)

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.