Trying to understand new vocab without full context

Hello fellow travelers! I’m back on the WaniKani wagon after using it for a couple months once and then forgetting about it for two or three years. It’s going much better this time, and I’m making a lot of progress, but there’s one difficulty that flares up for me from time to time:

When I’m learning new vocab, it’s easy to memorize the correct answer, but it’s not always easy to know how to use that word correctly in a sentence. This usually happens with verbs–nouns and adjectives are easier to visualize. It makes me feel like I’m not really learning the vocab, I’m just learning how to get the answer right within WaniKani.

Does anyone else feel like this? Do you just let it wash over you even if you don’t have a perfect understanding? Or do you have a method for finding more info/example sentences so you can have a fuller understanding of the word? Maybe it’s best to not worry about it for now, and then re-learn the word when I encounter it in native material in the future?


I’d say don’t worry about it, as:

  1. That’s not what WK is for.
  2. Trying to get get that level of understanding from the beginning is doomed to fail.

Vocab breadth is critical when you’re starting out (and you get that as a bonus with WK) so that it’s easier to puzzle through native material. Depth comes naturally with more exposure to the native material.

I heard quite a good analogy, about learning being like spiraling up a mountain as you climb it. As you travel up and around the mountain, you keep revisiting the same views, but each time, you can see a little further.


I would to @denzo 's response that whenever you have encountered two words that seem to mean the same thing, it’s a good time to go to and compare the meanings to get some of that “depth” . If still confusing, then try googling "A vs B. " The “vs” will ensure you get an english response. If one doesn’t exist, then ask a question here or the Japanese Language Stack Exchange


Native dictionaries, native content and using things like Weblio’s example sentences using their EJ-JE dictionary is what I do most often.

There’s also places like HiNative, etc. where you can ask native speakers to help you understand the nuances and provide example sentences.

I tend not to worry too much about the usage of a word when I first learn it on WK. Just having seen the word and having some idea of it’s meaning helps me when I encounter it later while reading or listening, and seeing it in context helps me understand it’s meaning and usage more clearly. If I recognize a word in context but am still confused about it I’ll do a little research as described in posts above.

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Are you reading the context sentences? They don’t cover everything but in my opinion they do help with this.

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My learning strategy with WaniKani is to be able to recognize first so I know how to read and understand things when I encounter them in the wild.

In order to be able to re-produce the words I learn here, I do KaniWani on the side or try to incorporate the vocab I’ve learned here in my weekly class or homework when possible.

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