The problem NO ONE is talking about with kanji

Lol I wanted to make a click bait title lmao.

So here’s my problem by and large I am really grateful to WaniKani for how much it has helped me, HOWEVER, there is one problem I am coming across more are more as I get higher into the levels. Many kanji words are actually only used in written language. Compound words that are great for teaching kanji are also more likely to be written language.

So when I’m talking to me friends and I say, 試験は難しかったから、吉が必要です。They understand but laugh and say of きち isn’t really used when speaking and you should say うん, which is fine but I learned うん so long ago that my brain remembers きち better.

And then when I say, 機械を搬送しちいます。And my tutoring says oh はんそう is mainly used for transporting BODIES, gasp, what? Like taking someone to the hospital.

Has anyone else has this problem that even if your grammar is fine you are pulling out fricking legal jargon level words to tell a story about watching Beauty and the Beast over the weekend? I don’t forsee it getting better. I just wish there was a way to know if a word it appropriate for a conversation.


Why not? I used plenty of “thesaurus”-words when learning English and have learned moderation and appropriate language in appropriate settings through immersion and practice afterwards.

Rome wasn’t built in one day, all roads lead to Rome, and so on and so forth.


You mean that everything doesn’t need to be perfect right from the get go, and that learning is a process. I demand to see your manager.





I feel like a lot of these can be addressed by reading lighter stuff like manga and light novels. Never would’ve come to my mind to use 吉 like this, for instance.


This is an interesting nuance because it’s not in most dictionaries, but if you do a Google search for uses there’s an awful lot of hospital stuff in there. EDICT does list it as a second sense:

(n,vs,vt) (1) transportation; conveyance; delivery; (n,vs,vt) (2) hospitalization; transfer to hospital

The EDICT edit history shows that sense 2 added in 2013, with the suggestion that this is “an emerging sense”, i.e. too new for some older dictionaries.

My guess is WK originally created its item for 搬送 before that second sense was added. It might be interesting to ask the content team what they think (they’ll certainly have a better take on which sense is most common than my ten minutes googling can provide!). Perhaps the word explanation and context sentences could be expanded.

More generally, I think the long term answer is “learn vocab from reading/listening/watching and not from an abstract word list”; that way it comes embedded in a context and with a use example.


That’s what I’m talking about, it’s just うん is level 17 and きち is level 44. I burned うん two years ago now, where as he kanji card of 吉 just came up for a review. Another problem is that sometimes the kanji cards are misleading because 吉 is good luck on the kanji card, but 吉 is good omen on the vocab card , so my brain relates seeing that kanji to good luck even though it isn’t really the best translation of it as a vocab.

Another problem on the upper levels is just that my brain can’t handle around image of a geoduck on the street. A geoduck with a slide on the yukuza playground.

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Mmm, but hopefully you’re also seeing うん in the wild a lot, and 吉 somewhat less so?


Maybe it helps a little bit to think of it that way - 吉 by itself can have a positive meaning, 運がいい is the expression you might be thinking off.

But in general, the more you interact with native content outside WaniKani, the less these things will matter :blush:

Which one is this? :sweat_smile:

This isn’t a problem with kanji, this is a problem with how much vocab you know.

And this isn’t a criticism, you’ll probably know over 20k words (easily) in your native language but currently don’t know that many in Japanese. So the problem is two fold, firstly you don’t really have such a rich vocab base to choose from, you also don’t have the full nuances of each word just yet.

You’re doing, literally, the best thing though and using this language you are learning with people that know better and they’re being really nice and pushing you in the right direction. People pay a lot of money for that privilege so don’t waste it :slight_smile:



and answered.

You’re having the best case scenario here - people that you can speak japanese with and that correct you.
Yes there’s the embarrassment element here, so the issue is simply your, well - age. Because when you were a child and just bubbled the people around you and exposure taught you gradually how to speak and which words belonged to which field.
So yeah, you’re ego is a little bruised, which is totally understandable but you’re very lucky to have friends that go the extra mile to correct you and explain why. And the laugh I assume is more of a being surprised reaction, not malicious.


What do they understand? Can you help me out? What does that mean.

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I made it up but that’s how they all feel to me now after 2000 nmemonics.

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They understand that I mean I’m need luck if I have any hope of passing. She knew the sentence that I wanted to say.

よう was meant to be “need”? That’s impressive if they picked that up.

So it was supposed to be something like 人って運が必要? (oh, maybe the よう of 必要 is what you were thinking of?)

(Or was 人よう just a typo of ひつよう but you said ひつよう when you were speaking?) If that’s the case, I see how they understood you.

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Sorry that a typo, I said 必要, I thought I fixed that.

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Collocations are hard. But I think they’re one of the joys of talking in real life to natives. Gives you stuff to laugh about, so I wouldn’t worry.

If you’re really dead set on them though you could pick up

It’s a bit too dry for me, I’m happy to learn through trial and error :joy:

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I think WK really missed a big chance in their development of the app by not adding more nuanced explanations. They already have people reading 2-3 paragraphs for each word, how difficult would it have been to add a little sentence with some explanation like „This word is mostly used in this context.“

Maybe they’ve been adding things like this more recently, it’s been a while since I actively used WK.


there’s some great advice here from people about learning in a context dependent way from your Japanese friends and tutors.

I’d just add, just in case you haven’t discovered this through reading and conversation yet, this problem isn’t just kanji, it’s just about any word you look up in the dictionary for Japanese. Context like the formality, circumstances of speaker (gender, age, relative social standing), perspective of the situation (direction of action, objects/people involved, animate/inanimate), even what assumptions you’re making about the situation, etc, all of these things affect the word choice. Any word I’ve ever used after looking it up in a dictionary is corrected by my friend. So as others have said, it’s training me when I come across words whether in reading or conversation, look at the context. I’m trying to hoover up clues that I can attach to that word in my mind so that the next time I want to use it, I decide, does this “feel” similar? If I come across a new word in a newspaper, for example, I now know that is unlikely to be the word I use in conversation with my friend, and I should stick to the one I know and ask for the difference. Then after a while, I have enough of those “anchor” words, when I see a new word somewhere, I can guess how to categorise its context based on what other words are used in the same sentence. My friend also sent me a whole book on teineigo, keigo, and humble speech, that could be an area you could look into. Basically realising for every common word like 来る or 待つ there are 2-3+ other words depending on formality. All these things start to build up a feeling for things.

WK gives more context (with sentences and collocation examples) than most dictionaries, so I think actually they are doing ok on this point.
At least that’s my fuzzy memory before I moved on. I seem to remember the context sentences are actually ok and even the descriptors, I think the description for 翌日 says it’s formal use, right? It’s worth reviewing those now and then when you’re doing reviews and ask yourself - when is it appropriate to use this word? And when reviewing, tell yourself the context before marking it right. And if WK doesn’t explain it, look it up and add it in the custom notes field. I think their assumption is people would be reading a lot post level 20-30 or so and would build up that feeling. And while in my earlier days I didn’t think that was fair, actually, there is only so much you can learn theoretically. It’s a chicken and egg problem where vocab is properly useful in output after 1) you can remember it, and 2) you know how it’s used properly (context). Or is it 1) you know the context and 2) you can remember it? This is the problem you have, you know one and not the other. But the solution may not be more or better SRS, the brain will learn context best… in context.

Also, I hate to say it, but using a word embarrassingly out of context and being corrected is a great way to crystalise it perfectly after just one use. That’s gold.


Usually when users flag a specific flashcard via the Report feature. But yes, I agree that for some items there is a long paragraph which acts as a mnemonic, but doesn’t really explain what the word really means which I feel like is more relevant than the mnemonic. I do painfully remember there being words whose meanings I learned incorrectly via WaniKani, because the explanation text was misleading.

However, that’s been a long while ago and after being exposed to actual, native Japanese it has gotten way better.