Oh, the abstract feels

I’m really struggling with so many abstract words right now. The kanji meanings and pronunciation are working out well, probably due to how often I’m missing and reviewing these words. However, there are many words with similar meanings made up of those kanji and learning the vocab has been difficult.

Here are some examples with these kanji:

念 感 情 思 想 信 心 望 願

感情 - feelings
思想, 感想 - thoughts
信心, 信念, - faith, trust
予想, 期待 - anticipation
感心 - admiration
信用, 信望 - confidence
念願, 願望 - desire, wish

Does anyone have tips for remembering them? Part of the problem is that I don’t understand the subtle differences between usages, so there’s not much to help distinguish them in my brain. I suspect I’m not the only person that struggles with the abstract.


Talk about them. Try to explain them to other people. Write them on paper. Add them to Anki and review them a couple times a day. Try to use them to build sentences. Write those on paper too. Try to explain them to yourself (aloud). Keep getting them wrong and eventually you’ll get them right.


14 and 15 are real nasty levels, to the point where I knew you were going to be level 15 based on the topic title. I don’t have any specific advice, besides power through it, because it gets better (probably before it gets worse, lol). Eventually some of them will stick.


I don’t worry too much about the differences in usage. If I answer it wrong by inputting a somewhat similar concept, I use the ignore script, since whatever minor difference won’t mean anything to me until I see it in the wild anyway.


if the words have multiple glosses, i sometimes use one of the secondary meanings of one of the words to differentiate them.
for example:
完了 completion
完成 completion

but the second also has the meaning of accomplishment. I would use accomplishment for the second. so at least you aren’t trying to remember identical glosses for multiple words.

but like @sigolino said, the english gloss of a word isn’t the real definition anyway, as long as you are not way off, you will eventually learn the words by context in japanese sentences.


This, definitely (if you have the opportunity). I explained to my sister what 桜肉 is when it came up in my lessons and her reaction made it so I’ll likely never forget it.


I have the same problem with words that do/don’t mean “action” or something similar, usually involving 事

Yep, my current biggest leech is 事情.

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I found those levels difficult as well, but I think the biggest help for me was using Kaniwani.com at the same time. Because it goes in the opposite direction, it forces you to think about these words as sounds first and kanji second, which goes a long way to making you think of them as words instead of just combinations of kanji. And I think that’s how Japanese people think of them in their heads: first as sounds, second as kanji.

And then if I couldn’t remember a word in Kaniwani, I’d make a mnemonic there that would help.
Desire: “I desire some GUMBO” 願望 がんぼう
Thought: “I have a lot of thoughts about SHISO” 思想 しそう
Hope: “I write my hopes on my KEYBOARD” 希望 きぼう
Retrospection: “I remember that time I flew my kite so high” 回想 かいそう
Hypothesis: “My hypothesis is that you have to be careful when you sauté onions.” 想定 そうてい
Situation: “How did GI Joe get into this situation?” 事情 じじょう.

I note on your list that you have 信望 under Confidence. That’s a word, but it isn’t a Wanikani word. Don’t make unnecessary work for yourself!


If you’re at level 15, you probably are already able to understand definitions as written on a Japanese-Japanese dictionary (Just google “word you want to know” + 意味), the results will definitely help clear out doubts about nuances between these words.

Have you found this:

I think it is also helpful to look up the kanji in other sources and see other interpretations of what a kanji means. Sometimes WK’s meanings don’t seem very precise. Looking at the vocabulary where it appears is also helpful.

This is from Kodansha’s kanji dictionary:

念 – 1. THOUGHTS, mind, wish
感 – 1. SENSE, feel
思 – 1. THINK, feel; wish
想 – 1. CONCEIVE, think
信 – 1. BELIEVE, trust 2. MESSAGE, signal
心 – 1. HEART, mind, center, core
望 – 1. HOPE 2. LOOK AFAR
願 – 1. WISH 2. ASK A FAVOR


It may be that you are giving the similar words the most common meaning between them as it will be easier to remember for review. You need to make it initially harder for your self by giving them different meanings. I look up in jisho and google translate(lol) to get other interpretations.

思想, 感想 - thoughts
I would look at this as think-think vs feel-think, ie thoughts vs impressions.
信心, 信念, - faith, trust
This could be ‘believe with your heart’ vs ‘believe with your thoughts’, ie faith vs belief

I hope not to offend, is English your native language?

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Oh my, I’ve been quoted! blushes

I’d like to point out this particularly and recommend that you make sure to check all of the synonyms a vocabulary word can have, as this can help you tremendously in cases like these.

予想: Expectation, Anticipation Expect, Anticipate, Predition
期待: Expectation, Expect, Anticipate.

予想 contains 予 (beforehand) and 想 (think). In other words, you anticipate/expect something to happen. There are dark clouds in the sky, so you expect it to rain. If it doesn’t rain, you’ll be surprised.

期待 contains 期 (period of time) and 待 (wait). In Chinese, this actually means to “look forward to something.” If you go on a trip and your friend says they’ll feed your cat, you expect them to feed your cat. If they don’t, you’ll be disappointed (maybe angry, possibly quite sad depending on how long your trip is).

The point here is that, while both words illustrate considering something that has not yet occurred, the purpose and reason behind them is different. A meteorologist can 予想する that it will rain without actually caring whether it does or not. He’s simply thinking about something before it happens. Meanwhile, the farmer who listens to that report is waiting for that thought to come to fruition.

You’ll hear it a lot in anime, but the parents with high expectations for their child aren’t considering the likelihood of their child becoming a doctor. They are investing their thoughts about the child eventually becoming a doctor. They have 期待 for their child, not 予想 (although, in technicality, should it come to fruition, they could most definitely claim that they’d expected as much 予想 :rofl:).

Taking a quick look at Jisho, the links they provide from the words quite useful (in my opinion, at least). 予想 is a conjecture (though you’d have to add that to synonyms) while is the definition of expectation used in Epistemology (if you are at all into Philosophy).


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