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While studying for the JLPT, I ran into the phrase "見事な活躍をする". I have always assumed that 活躍 means to use effectively or to one's advantage as in

日本語を仕事に活躍したい

But when I looked up 活躍 in a dictionary, I found out that it means active (which I think I understand); apparently it also means success when paired with other words (I saw many examples on Weblio), so 見事な活躍 means a brilliant success. I would love to understand how this is different from 成功 and how you can use 活躍 in this kind of situation.

  • People also say 'go-katsuyaku deshita' when you did your best at something, it's like an acknowledgement of your endeavor. – Chewie Aug 4 '18 at 14:18
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In your example, I think you meant 活用{かつよう} instead of 活躍 as in

日本語を仕事に活用したい

活躍する is when you participate actively in an undertaking like work, sports, etc.

活用する is to utilize or make good use of knowledge, talent, technique, etc.

As for 成功する, it means to succeed in attaining a goal, a dream, target, etc.

Some examples I picked up from the internet:

女性の活躍が期待されるホテル業界

This does not mean that women are expected to succeed in the hotel industry, but that they are expected to actively participate in it.

成功する女性に共通する7つの特徴

This means "7 traits common to successful women". Replacing 成功 with 活躍 here will change the meaning entirely.

Hope this helps!

  • thanks for pointing out my misuse of 活躍 - but that still leaves part of my question - does 活躍 mean success at all? ejje.weblio.jp/sentence/content/%E6%B4%BB%E8%BA%8D has a bunch of examples where it seems to.... – chargerstriker Aug 2 '18 at 17:33
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    活躍 can also mean success/succeed depending on context. 活躍 is defined as 大いに活動をし業績を上げること (Weblio) and めざましく活動すること (Kotobank). Some of the Weblio examples can be replaced by "active participation" instead of "success". E.g. 彼は今後の活躍が期待される may be "He is expected to actively participate in the future." Also notice the examples 海外で活躍する (Succeed overseas), 世界的に活躍する人 (a cosmopolitan person), 世界を舞台に活躍する人 (a person who is active worldwide, and 私は世界で活躍するピアニストになりたいです (I want to be a pianist who is active around the world). These are all about 世界で活躍する but translated differently into English. – DXV Aug 3 '18 at 0:16

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