Mnemonic vs. component-derivation vs. literal meaning explanation

One thing that sometimes frustrates me with WaniKani is when I mistakenly learn the wrong meaning of a vocabulary word: I memorize the English word association correctly, but my brain latches onto the wrong definition for the English phrase.

Often, this is simply due to the imprecise nature of the English language. “To see through” can mean to take something through to its conclusion or to avoid being tricked, seeing the reality behind the facade.

見極めるみきわめる means only the former, though, and 見抜くみぬく is closer to the latter. Both have exactly the same English “meaning” in WK (“to see through”).

Just through level 30, there are already many occasions of vocabulary words with the “same” English meaning:

  • Idea: 観念・思想・概念
  • Criticism: 評論・非難
  • Atmosphere: 雰囲気・大気・空気
  • Compete: 争う・競う
  • Proposal: 提案・求婚・
  • Break: 折れる・ 休止

Sometimes these words mean nearly the same thing. Other times they mean something completely different. It’s frustrating to eventually realize you’ve latched onto the wrong meaning.

I think the WK team has done a fantastic job with putting the aptest translation first in each list of meanings and alternatives, and the context sentences also help to distinguish the correct meaning (though I’ll admit I’m usually too lazy to always read the context sentences during lessons).

I think that the “Explanation” given for each vocabulary word is primarily focused on mnemonic imagery for associating the component kanji, rather than as an explanation of the actual meaning (in English).

I realize I’m asking for more “spoon-feeding,” that WK is aimed at just memorizing Kanji, that actually implementing this would be a gargantuan task, and that using the editable “Notes” section to create my own personalized meaning explanations actually helps me learn things even better than spoon-feeding, but I sincerely wish WK provided “English meaning notes” for each vocabulary word as well as the current “Explanation” for the derivation/components/mnemonics.

This would make me very happy.


I’m totally with you! What I hate even more is when a mnemonic latches onto an English homonym and exploits the wrong meaning :woman_facepalming:
(most recent example: 扱 means “handle” - the mnemonic latches onto “grip” but the meaning really is more like “to manage”…)

I’m using this script to get a better understanding of what a kanji or vocab means: [Userscript] WaniKani Part-Of-Speech
and I usually add synonyms during lessons already with the [Userscript] WaniKani Lesson User Synonyms v2 script.

Of course the proper way would be to research the vocab in another dictionary, ideally a J-J one, but oftentimes I just can’t be bothered…


Ooooh. Fresh meat. I need to check out both of those scripts. :slight_smile:

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I think they’re already working on it. A month ago they introduced this:

The common word combinations feature provides context about how the vocabulary item is actually used, which seems to be what you’re looking for. As you’ve said, it’s a lot of work to implement this for all vocabulary items though, so currently it’s only available for a small number of items. We’ll just have to wait while they roll it out for more items :grin: