Spoken japanese... VS 書き言葉 (かきことば// kakikotoba)

Hello to all my fellow Japanese kanji learners,

I’m pretty sure this feedback/question/personal hell has been posted before but I can’t seem to find it in the forums so far so I’ll go ahead.

Although the vocab section of Wanikani is in my opinion very helpful and to a certain extent vital, I feel like it’s a big problem that it doesn’t state if the vocabulary is 書き言葉 or 普通, or even 丁寧(teinei, polite) or not. It would be a blast to add this in the context section when learning the vocab.

I’ll explain myself : as you all know learning Japanese is like learning two different langages : there’s the spoken “normal” Japanese that you speak on a daily basis in normal situations and then there is the written Japanese that has nothing to do with it. Given that Japanese is Japanese, there’s also different degrees in which you will use the spoken Japanese (丁寧 “teinei”) or not, but I won’t get into that in here.

My problem is basically that I use written words when speaking and sound weird, but I also do the opposite thing which is using oral words when writing, which also feels weird, especially in a working environment.

I currently live in Japan and go to Japanese school every day, we have a lot of oral presentations and essays to write, and although Wanikani gives me a huge advance on kanjis and vocab, this one and only thing is still very problematic to me : as a European I have zero context or clue/heads up to naturally understand what is the nature of any word. In my opinion, adding this context to the vocab is very important for those who want to speak Japanese normally, which I believe is the vast majority of us in here :slight_smile:

If there’s an add-on that I don’t know of, please let me know !

Cheers and good luck for JLPT tomorrow !


I agree that this is an issue. I remember when I’d first started using Wanikani and tried to use 助言 in normal conversation and the person I was talking to looked at me like I had 3 heads lol.

I think the important thing to keep in mind is that Wanikani isn’t a vocab resource. I always make sure to preface that when recommending Wanikani to people. The vocab is there to help you remember the kanji, not necessarily because it’s useful vocab to know as a beginner. I always take vocab learned from Wanikani with a grain of salt and try not to use words learned from here until I’ve seen them used in context.

So, I totally agree that Wanikani marking which words are 書き言葉 would be super helpful, but I also think that as learners we should recognize that Wanikani wasn’t made to be a standalone vocab resource and should take vocab learned here with a grain of salt


Thanks for your feedback on this !

I agree, I’ve been relying on WK a lot even for vocab which might not be the right thing to do. But since it’s here and they worked so much for it… it would be a shame not to use it ! I don’t think adding this 書き言葉 to the context is very complicated for WK, but then again I might be wrong as I’m not a programmer.

What’s your source except real life to understand if a word is 書き言葉 or not ?

Cheers !

If we look at the example sentences for 助言, however, it seems like it’s used in spoken language. What’s up with that?

But I totally agree that the main focus of the WaniKani vocab is to practice the kanji. This is a kanji learning website after all, and not an online Japanese course.

助言 can be both apparently, thing is every japanese that I spoke with has a different set of words they know and use (this is of course true with every langage but even more with japanese).

Another good example is 根気, when I use it (say it or write it on a message for instance) some people look at me with round eyes and don’t understand, some do.

It’s a tough language to learn, to develop and to keep, even for natives.

Purely real life lol. I live in Japan, so that’s a lot more feasible of a plan for me than for most people. In general though I feel like kanji compounds (漢語)tend to give off a more formal vibes than their hiragana filled equivalents. You can sometimes have success by just Googling the word and seeing what type of articles pop up and how the word is being used. When articles entitled 「○○とは?」pop up you can be pretty sure you’ve run into a 書き言葉 haha.

10/10 agree though that it’d be a lot simpler if WK would just mark the 書き言葉


That’s very true for the 漢語 but tons of them aren’t formal though, so there is of course no rule (that would be too easy right). I also live in Japan but here in Osaka people just speak so fast it’s still hard to grasp every word :sleepy:


You could try something like that. :grin:

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Maybe a bit extreme, but i just legit won’t use a word until I know for sure what context to use it in. It often results in me using more circumlocutions and smaller words, and as a result people sometimes think I have a smaller vocab that I really do, but I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially since a lot of Japanese people will just let you keep using a word wrong and never correct you. As my Japanese has gotten better, I’ve started to rely more on Googling new words if I’m unsure what context to use them in. You can gain a lot from looking at the type of articles the word or phrase is used in.


I don’t see you having a vocabulary problem.

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