Unpopular Opinion (Maybe?)

So recently I came across the words 「法規」and「法律」was confused about the nuanced meanings since WK only labels them as “law”, asked a few of my colleges at work, and somewhat came to understand. That leads me to wonder why is there seems to be a big trend where WaniKani teaches very similar but just so slightly nuanced words with little explanation on differences. And when I looked at other posts I see a lot of people try to write them off by stating that it’s designed to teach kanji and not vocab.

If that’s truly the purpose, then what’s the point in the user having to provide English to vocabulary words? So, I would say I disagree, partially, with the fact that it’s just for learning kanji. Through the sheer amount of vocabulary words it introduces, it also teaches vocabulary, even if it’s a by-product of learning kanji (I think you actually learn the kanji through concrete vocabulary, but maybe that’s just me). Also, wouldn’t having confusing vocabulary actually hinder the learning of the kanji?

So, because of that, I think WaniKani does have a degree of responsibility for distinguishing nuanced words, archaic language, and the likes, especially if the platform is aimed at Japanese beginners (I could be wrong on who the actual target market is). And I’m not asking, let alone demanding, for them to put a whole detailed dictionary article in it. It could be as simple as just a small disclaimer with the word like “used mainly by the older generation” or “similar, but different to ○○”, “used in select situations”, “more formal”, or simply to encourage the user to look up the differences.

And yes, I do understand the fact that far out there words can appear at any time, I understand the need to understand archaic language, I think though for the learner, especially if they’re self-studying or new, it’d be good to point it out. I’m not saying the choice of vocabulary is bad, it does reinforce the kanji. I think though, to write off the lack of vocabulary explanation is just well wrong, since naturally, it’s a part of learning said kanji.

(Side note rant: Though this could be just me, I’m also getting a little irritated at the number of questions I have my colleges about the difference between words that WK has said to be the same in English, and well the fact its a paid service.)

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You mean your colleagues? You can ask the internet, too! Wikipedia is usually a good place, and google image searches, too.

In the particular case of 法規 and 法律 the meanings are expressed differently in the WK meanings.

法規 has two meanings: Laws, Regulations. The fact that it is in plural form is actually important for getting the exact meaning across.

法律 is just Law.

The context sentences also help a bit, even if you can’t really get the Japanese sentence, the translation can give you more information on the meaning of the word. As English is your second language, I think you might need to open a second resource like jisho.org a bit mire often to really get the correct meaning.

Sometimes there will even be a convenient link to the Wikipedia page, so you can even correctly compare to your own language in some cases (depending on whether the article is available in your language):

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Would it be nice if WaniKani taught vocabulary usage in addition to kanji reading? Of course. I don’t think anyone disagrees. But I don’t think offering some glosses in English for the sake of being able to at least identify what the word is generally about means they are actually already a vocab usage resource and are just doing a bad job.

Kanjipedia.jp has definitions in Japanese for the kanji, but they don’t go into detail on how to use the words they offer as examples. That’s just not in the scope of the site.

I get that that’s not a paid service, but I’m just saying you can have vocabulary in a project and not automatically have it become a vocabulary resource.

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Agreed. Totally miss few extra lines to differentiate all these “employments”:

or “reason”. And all other vocabs alike.
It was neat to have such for 混- “mixes” to differ them from 交- counterparts.

Not like I can’t google it or read another article or two or banned in Wikipedia. Still, same here I can do all the kanjis and vocabs and make all the mnemonics myself for my Anki deck for free, right?
Lets make it clear: I pay WK to save my time and efforts. And I highly appreciate the mnemonics and proper schedule already done here.
There are lots of other things I’d like to see implemented, and yes - more detailed nuances disclosed in such similar-looking vocabs is totally one of them.

No offence. I love WK and just want to emphasise it’s pros and bring/support ideas to make it better.

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Yeah, I would also like a bit more explanation on similar words. I’m lazy so I’m not looking them up elsewhere, and I want WaniKani to do the work for me.* Let’s hope that mighty Crabigator will hear our pleas eventually.

*I realize it might sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. I’m serious in my lazybumness. And I don’t even need Japanese that much, I came here because the app is fun.

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What annoys me more is when you have 2 words that are synonyms (or very similar) but you can’t use both of them on both words. For example 批判 and 評論. The first one being Criticism and the second one Critique/Criticism. But if your solution to 批判 is critique that would be wrong. There were plenty of even better examples throughout WK that I just can’t recall right now.

But of course compared to the great service WK offers that is a very small nuisance.

EDIT: Remembered a better one: 来賓 賓客 貴賓. They all have slightly different meanings. But I think you wouldn’t be wrong by describing them all as “guest”.

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Critique and Criticism have a bit different nuances, so I would consider marking it incorrect be good in this case. But if you want to “loosen” the definition, you could always add a user synonym.

Regarding the original questions, personally, I dont find detailed vocab nuances to be in the scope of the site. That’s just going to amount to extra bloat (and feel like extra work). Reading those words in context is what is going to cement the meaning and usage, not reading some explanation of it in English. Having a ballpark of the English meaning is fine. Context sentences already give some usage information if so desired.

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I feel like just one sentence of explanation wouldn’t be much of a bloat. And I just did ‘lumber’ and ‘wood’ and it had an explanation passed as an example sentence (so like, zero bloating):

“Mokuzai” refers to raw wood material that is not yet processed, and “zaimoku” refers to wood that is a finished product and can be used immediately.

How cool is that. Just more of that please.

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Is that really so ? Care to explain the difference ?
Anyway I said there are better examples. See my Edit. Although I already fear you’ll say there is a difference between a guest and a guest of honour. For learning purposes I think guest for both is fine.

But again it is really not a problem since it will only take a little longer until you get the hang of it. And like you pointed out anyone can add a user synonym. I just wanted to share my 2 cents.

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Sure, it’s a nice to know anecdote, but I wouldn’t go as far to think “this is WK’s responsibility”. I wouldn’t mind if something like that is added for the small number of edge cases, but ultimately don’t think it adds that much value (from the perspective of WK). Maybe others do :man_shrugging:.

@Thofte From my understanding, criticism is often more negative, whereas critique can be perceived more of as a thought out response/commentary. In this case the meanings seem to map to the English ones well, so WK has decided to signify the difference. But yeah, for learning purposes (like in the guest example you gave) I agree that the the difference is not too significant.

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There is a difference between a guest and a guest of honour though.

A guest is just that, a guest. A guest of honour is an important guest who is being feted.

A guest of honour is a guest but a guest isn’t necessarily a guest of honour.

An example is at a charity event. All attendees are guests but that one member of the royal family in attendance is your guest of honour.

It’s the same with critique and criticism. A criticism is a critique but a critique isn’t necessarily a criticism.

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Alright I’ll give one last example, let’s see how many people will want to split hair over this one:

満悦 = delight
娯楽 = pleasure

Feel free to enlighten me about any differences :wink:

A lot of the differences are semantic and arise from genuine differences in usage in English. For me, I’d been pulling my hair out about when WK accepts “humanity” vs “human race” or such for very similar things. I’m a writer, and am very persnickety about words. I want to get it right, but I also know a LOT of synonyms for words and I keep getting “punished” for coming up with something that I ultimately thought was a fair reading. And there are a lot of words in Japanese whose differences just don’t translate well – that’s one of the joys of learning a foreign language!

What I finally did was start going through the example sentences, looking up the words on Jisho.org, and then finally add what I considered to be reasonable synonyms. And often enough I wind up agreeing with WK! But often I don’t, and WK gives me the ability to fix it.

Now, what I do wish WK would add would be a class of “close-enough” items for translations - something that’ll do the “no I want the on’yomi, not kun’yomi” shake but not count it as wrong. I think that would alleviate a lot of these issues.

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I mean if we go by the English usage, those two words are quite different in usage. It would look quite weird if you’d use them interchangably :sweat_smile:. Pleasure being a much more “bodily” and “intimate” feeling (sans. idiomatic expressions). Delight feels a lot more like a fleeting happy thing.

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It has been a pleasure talking to you.
It has been a delight talking to you.

When you google it it shows the two as synonyms.

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In that case, yes.

Or maybe standardised expression.

I agree in general with the OP as well. It would be nice to know when I’m learning a word if it’s actually used in normal context.

For example 嘆息. I used that once and was corrected with ため息. Since then I have only seen ため息 (books, subtitles, etc.). Of course my experience does not mean 嘆息 is not used. However just labeling 嘆息 as “sigh” and never teaching the more common word is a little frustrating. Even the “common” label from JMDICT would be nice to see in general (although in this case both words have it >_>).

Of course I can always do my own due diligence to research everything on my own, but it would certainly be nice to see it here.

edit: If anyone is curious, goo jisho lists them as synonyms.

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You should not treat WK as a source for learning vocabulary. It exists to teach the kanji, and the vocabulary simply exists to give words where certain readings exist.

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I agree that this would be helpful.

Sometimes I get the impression that the staff at Tofugu are more interested in cracking jokes than clearing up misunderstandings (which is why I can barely stomach the podcast).

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There are a lot of things WK could do better. The answer is always “WK isn’t for that” or “you could do that yourself”.

Obviously it does what it already does well enough that people pay for it, and it actually does get occasional content updates, but substantially improving WK by making it do more or better seems to be pretty low priority.

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