"whY doES WaNikAni tEaCH sO muCh StrANgE voCaB?1"


Today my Superintendent dropped 親孝行 in a conversation, which also happens to be the first word I didn’t firmly know the English equivalent for and had to look up. I never thought I’d ever have to use it, let alone in conversation, yet here we are. Don’t take WaniKani’s vocab system for granted.

We all know those words that pop up and we think, "wut."

Whether it’s because a coworker was snooping happened to see your studies over your shoulder, someone makes a fool of you publicly kindly points out the word you just used in conversation isn’t the best way to convey what you mean (althought still technically correct), or even those times when WaniKani completely makes up words introduces you to a new English word (native speakers and non-natives alike).

Here’s mine:

親孝行/おやこうこう: Filial piety.

Even as a native speaker, this one threw me. It was my first time encountering a word I had to look up in a dictionary. I had an idea of what it meant, and I knew I’d learned it before at some point, but I was only about 60% sure.

Well, today it happened. I went to deliver some Omiyage to my supervisor at the Town Hall and ended up having a conversation about my trip with my parents (the source of said Omiyage). Near the end of the conversation my (admittedly older) Superintendent of the municipality I teach for said something about おやこうこう and I regrettably didn’t catch all of it because as soon as that word dropped, my brain started racking trying to remember what it meant. It certainly sounded familiar, but damn what was it?? About the same time my (younger) Supervisor was searching her phone’s dictionary while muttering something about it being such a rare word to the Superintendent, I remembered! Filial piety!.. Wait, he really just used that word?

I then explained that even in English, that word doesn’t come up super often and may not always be immediately recognized (I can’t even think of another case where either of those words would be used individually off the top of my head).

All that to say, WaniKani might teach you some weird words, sure, but to all the people pointing them out to you (and while we should be grateful that they do, if speaking naturally is a goal of yours, regardless of if it’s unwarrented or the millionth time it’s happened), they do still know the word and who knows? You may just use it some day.

Feel free to share your own stories like this in the replies, if you have them! I’m sure some people would love reassurance that even when it can feel like it, vocab here is definitely solid.


When I learned the kanji for wisteria, I had no idea what that was. I’d never heard of it, never thought it would ever come in handy. However as time grew by, I came across so many names and vocab that use 藤 that it’s easily one of the most useful kanji on this site (regardless of whether I needed to know what a wisteria is or not).


wisteria lane, duuuuuuuh


Is that some kind of reference? We didn’t have one in Romania when growing up.

Filial piety is important in Chinese culture, which is also much more present for the Japanese. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that Confucian or Buddhist terms are not really in the top ten hit list of words used in English, but still useful (as you said).

Reminds me of that thread some time ago complaining about 交番 police boxes because there are no police boxes in their country … Learning a language is also learning the culture :slight_smile:


Desperate Housewives


Ah, I see. I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that particular cultural artefact. My apologies.


People complain about the baseball vocab, but for me it’s the military vocab. I figure if I don’t know what the precise ranking is in English, it’s not that important to know the meanings in Japanese either. If I can read them and know “that’s a military rank” then I’m satisfied.


Don’t worry, I wasn’t being serious with the “duuuuuuuh”.

I can’t get the military vocab past guru :))))) Even in English if you ask me what the difference between a major, a lieutenant, lieutenant-colonel, sergeant, etc is, I’d be hard-pressed to answer that. I was considering just adding “military guy” synonym to all of these, but I can’t bring myself to.


But then you miss a lot of the context in the interactions between ドーナツ軍曹 and ヒナギク大尉!
注: probably not missing anything


For me it’s the trains. I got so fed up with constantly getting 急行 and 特急 confused, I simply added ‘train’ to the synonyms. If I am ever in Japan trying to pick a train, I’ll figure it out


A friend of mine recently went to a Wisteria festival somewhere, and it turns out to be quite more common here in Japan than back where I’m from. Admittedly, I only knew the term because I worked in a flower nursery in High School. (At least I assume that’s where I learned it, I can’t imagine anywhere else.)

That’s a big oof. Gotta be ready to embrace other cultures if you’re going to learn a language. It plays a huge part in how they develop. The number of people who don’t realize that always surprises me, with all languages not just Japanese.

The baseball vocab wasn’t an issue for me, either, being from the Southern US. And even with my limited military knowledge, you both certainly don’t have me looking forward to these last 16 levels :upside_down_face: I’m guessing the kanji combos make loads of sense. /s

Even living here (though inaka) these still screw me up. It’s not that I don’t understand the difference, I just always mix up which is which. Ultimately, as long as you’re on the correct line bound for the right direction, you’re fine. It may just take longer. (Unless your train has reservations, then you’d best not get on the wrong one :sweat_smile:)


The 急行 goes 急, the 特急 goes especially 急 (even faster).

Maybe the problem is that “limited express” (aka “not very express”) sound slower, but is actually faster? :slight_smile:


Limited number of stops? I.e. skips a bunch, so goes faster?


Yeah, from wikipedia the name seems to come from the limited number of stations it stops at … still a misleading name :slight_smile:


Yea, basically there’s the 各駅停車/local train, then it’s 急行/express train, then finally 特急/limited express train. As you go up in the levels of express-ness, each stops less frequently, but also runs less frequently, and can sometimes be more expensive.

Sorry, I didn’t realize you were actually looking for a definition or I would’ve chipped in sooner :sweat_smile:

Edit: Looks like @acm2010 beat me to it!


No worries, I wasn’t😉 I appreciate the opportunity to learn, nonetheless

Like mentioned above filial piety is pretty important in Asian culture.

I asked my Japanese gf if she uses the words and she said, yes sometimes. So it’s not as rare as you might think.

I learned 宇宙船 (spaceship) a few weeks ago. It’s not that strange, but I though I wouldn’t see that word again for a long time.
Until I read this article on NHK easy news about the gundam they want to send to space ^^. It was a nice feeling to be able to understand that article easily.

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