Well, that one thing

There is no old feedback, so even though it was probably mentioned, I’ll do it again.

The one and only thing that makes me frustrated with WK is lack of explanation on synonyms. At level 3 there are about 3 ways given to say ‘girl’, and from what I know, those are not all the ways. So I get how WK works and what it’s purpose is, but as learning aid, this seriously hurts. Synonyms are not always so ‘same’ especially in languages like Japanese. There is a reason for and difference between those three ‘girls’. And yes, I can use google images (I think that’s the advice from TextFugu), or ask the community, or use any number of resources. But! WaniKani uses mnemonics, it forces us to remember kanji using very specific method, and it will only be harder to relearn that vocab later, when I actually have to face the subtle differences in meaning, tone or context.
I don’t know, maybe it’s problematic, maybe nobody wants to tackle that issue (as a lot of dictionaries don’t deal with it all that well) but this is the biggest problem I have with WK.


You can always make your own.

The thing is that WK teaches kanji, not vocab. I get that it’s not optimal that we don’t get a mountain of context sentences for the context vocab, but it’s just not the point of WK. You’ll learn vocab on WK, but not how to use it, for that you’ll need to read actual texts.

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You can always make your own.

you make it sound so simple


The problem is lack of Synonym explanation, right?

If Wanikani doesn’t do a good enough job, then make your own.
I’ve posted before but for those who do not speak English as their first language, they have to make up their own ways to remember the meaning.
Wanikani should be used a supplement. There must be sentence where you can use the word.
Translate it into your own words and use that to remember the meaning.

The words do often have synonyms listed that disambiguate a bit. And of course, there are the (often maligned, but better-than-nothing) context sentences.

Sometimes words really do mean almost the same thing. When they don’t, the things I mentioned usually clear it up or at least point you in the right direction.

Well, Wanikani’s job is to teach kanji. Sometimes the differences in nuance aren’t going to be easily explained, so it would be wrong if they sometimes explained synonyms and sometimes didn’t. So they just don’t. You have to take charge of your own learning and do your own research or wait until you’re ready to read and figure out the differences through immersion.

I feel like, vocabs are better taught by textbooks / vocab books / phrase books (though, I currently study via JLPT vocab lists.)

In the end, there are limited vocabs you can think of, for production, but not every synonyms are equally important.

I gotta say I agree with you, OP. People say WaniKani is a tool for learning “kanji, not vocabulary”, but I don’t think that’s true. After all, WaniKani does teach vocabulary. You could say that’s just to teach how the kanji are used, or something, but even then I’d say it fails - differentiating similar words is a part even of that.

I’d say the meaning explanations for vocabulary are missing in several aspects - you’re not the only one!


I do agree that some meanings could be fleshed out more (especially among synonyms) for some vocab pages/lessons.
I recently emailed about 期間 due to the sentence using it as “time” however that was not a synonym. I got a nice explanation, but it sounded like no change to the item itself (part of the clarification I asked for) would be joining the lesson. /shrugs

I think we should all start reading more/as soon as we can, though, too.

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All the people, who said either ‘WK teaches kanji’ or ‘look elsewhere’, please notice I said all of that in my original post.
This is a feedback post though. I’ve been using WK for few years now and with various additional learning tools. But, I have also at one point in my life took extensive classes on using mnemonics and various learning methods. As such I think this is a problem. The way WK works I will remember those three vocabs meaning girl, but I will have to struggle to remember the difference while reading and have even bigger problems when it comes to using those words and kanji correctly. Going with the WK mission of just teaching us necessary kanji, why not put in only the most universal way to say something? If it is because it can be said differently in different context (obviously) then not putting in why this works this way in certain situations is in my opinion a bit negligent. And makes it a lot harder when the chosen learning method is SRS and mnemonics.

The benefit of teaching 女の子 and 女子, even if you wanted to ignore that they’re not always interchangeable and just wanted to pick the one that was purely most commonly used, is you get two readings for the kanji 女, which is the true point of WK.

This kind of confusion will only last until you start encountering the words in the wild, if you don’t look up the words on your own. I find it hard to believe someone would get far in studying Japanese while being confused by them.

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I wouldn’t say that’s the “true point” of WaniKani. The vocabulary part is more important and in focus than that.

The vocabulary on WK is chosen to work with the kanji. Sure, you will learn tons of common words by studying kanji, especially at the beginning, because a lot of useful things are genuinely kanji-only vocab.

However, WK does not go out of their way to spend time on just the most useful words. Plenty of common words are omitted for the sake of including more obscure vocab with a kanji you learned or to teach a less common reading for new kanji you’re learning.

If vocab was the primary objective, WK would have a lot more of it and fewer kanji. And also non-kanji vocab.

Vocab is a side benefit of studying WK’s kanji lessons. The vocab lessons are themselves basically just extensions of kanji lessons.

While I’m not saying vocabulary is the “main focus” of WaniKani, I do definitely think it’s an important part of it. Regardless of which view you have, people will learn new words from WaniKani and they will use them. Providing more of the necessary information for actually using and properly learning them (without misconceptions) could only be a good thing.

That’s actually a well made observation. Thank you for pointing that out.

Still, I believe that adding even one sentence explanation about contextual use of words with ‘same’ meaning would make WK that little bit better.

If you provide some more examples, that would be better indeed

Perhaps a commonality indicator and additional context sentences would round the system out. The sentences could be community curated then confirmed by Tofugu.

Honestly, not even pure vocab-learning materials that I’ve encountered (iKnow and JLPT vocab books, from direct experience) do a great job differentiating synonyms.

The only way to really do it is to read and listen, and to do them a lot, and strive to notice and remember which synonyms are more common in which circumstances. Just engage with Japanese and let it come exposure. Someone could give you the exact breakdown of each and every difference in nuance for every bit of vocab, but as far as I’ve seen vocab sources seem to have universally decided that’s not worth the space.


For context sentences, a good dictionary (like the iPhone app Sirabe Jisho) provides a lot of those. But basically it’s really hard to explain the difference between words with similar/same meanings. It’s probably better to just be aware that they exist so that you can recognize them in writing and speech.

For example, I can’t imagine trying to explain to a beginning/intermediate English learner the exact difference between wish, hope, want, desire, longing, and yearning and in which situation to use each.

But! It’s good that that hypothetical English learner knows that these different words exist so that she can add them to her passive vocabulary even if she only uses want to express those feelings for now.