Quality of Vocabulary

Hi all. Just started out recently and I was really proud of the progress I made until I ran a couple of vocabulary items past both my Japanese teacher and my wife (who is Japanese). They either had no idea of the word I was talking about or looked at me like “what the hell are you learning there / that is never used”. I’m specifically referring to:


I am sure there is plenty of useful stuff in the vocab, but there are probably other “useless” words as well. Question is, are there a whole bunch of “useless” words or just a few? Anyone have any experience with this?



Can we just link to the last 500 post topic on this?

TLDR: this is a site for learning to read kanji. It is not a vocabulary-focused website, and using any words in conversation without learning context and details around them is not recommended (generally, not just from here).


“We never say that in Japanese” = “We never say that out loud in Japanese”

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Most words we know in our own language are probably not that useful.


It’s not hard to find examples of the useless words people mentioned being used.

The question is how did the Japanese learner try to use them.

I just searched for 一本気 in the balanced corpus of contemporary written Japanese, and it appears 29 times (which is a pretty low number). But it’s still something that appears in Japanese.

EDIT: originally I said it appeared mostly from 50+ years ago, but I was mistakenly looking at the author birthyear column. Many are from recently.


Whenever I think about this topic, I think, “Yet they still know what it means.” Which is kinda the point I guess. WaniKani seems to be a site targeted at getting you to be able to read quickly, not necessarily how to write coherently structured sentences or speaking usage. That’s my two cents, anyway.

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To give a parallel to English, how often do you think most people say something like “desalination” out loud? Probably not super often, but it’s still a “useful” word in the sense that it has meaning in a practical sense and it does get used. (That’s not a perfect parallel, since English isn’t composed of logographs, but this is just a rough example.)

The vocab chosen for WK is often useful in the sense of them being common words, but not always; the vocab is also chosen to reinforce the kanji you’re learning.


This is koichi’s response to the topic Leebo linked, which is quite a good read - and is a pretty official answer from WK


Thanks for the link.

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This corpus data is machine-generated, from my experience with Japanese word segmentation I think for 一本気 it would probably segment it into other things as well, it looks tricky with 一本 and 本気 being very common :slight_smile:

Edit: 公用車 seems to be widely popular.

Thank you for your contribution! Truly your personal experiences with native speakers in your life is a perspective all of us on this forum look forward to hearing about.

Good luck in your studies!

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Thanks for the link. That’s a great answer. Good to hear that they are aware of this and it was considered.

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I don’t want to step on any toes and “useless” is probably not the right word to have used anyway. My question was just how many vocabulary words are not really used at the level they are learned (desalination is not learned when starting out to learn English I would assume)?

The answer seems to be that 1) while there are some, probably not many and 2) as Koichi writes in the link above they are aware of this and constantly reviewing usefulness of vocab.

Sounds pretty good to me, in the meantime I will make sure to run new vocab by my wife or teacher before using them in real life.


There is a thread for changes in the forum just now:

The other updates are on their blog. Seems like they made some changes to the system to edit content while the system in running, so maybe there will be more changes from now.

The vocabulary depends on the kanji available, not on what a beginner needs. If you learn “salt” and “extract” you will probably see desalination :slight_smile:

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I’m sure my posts were blunter than intended, so I apologize for that.


Keep in mind that the levels are structured by kanji/stroke difficulty - not word/concept difficulty.
If antidisestablishmentarianism was a 2 stroke kanji, it would probably appear at level 1



Sorry if we come off a bit strong. Some of us get huffy about this topic because our love for WaniKani is so great that we poop turtle and/or durtle shells (and that’s okay, I love all the huffy and defensive folks, This community is ultra cool and also a bit dorky).

It’s fair to be worried that you might be learning out of use/archaic terms, I understand that worry and I share it!

The amazing thing about the WK system though, is that it is so laser-focused on getting you to a decent reading level ASAP and that is where you really learn how words are used (or not used).

Something that I study relentlessly are Japanese ‘Collocations’ which means what words are used together. For example in English we turn on a faucet, shut a door, do our taxes. What verbs would I use in Japanese for these actions? There is always more to learn and reading native materials will accelerate that learning in a way that you can’t really get through other methods.

Also welcome to the forums!! I hope you stick around and make friends, this place is full of cool goobers and silly topics and cute pictures of fluffy animals and stuff

✺◟( • ω • )◞✺


Show us the spreadsheet or it didn’t happen!


You know I already have a problem!



But I need something to load my Anki deck with!

Hurry up and do it! :laughing: