イギリス: is Wanikani wrong on purpose?

This is my first forum post and I am reliatively new so forgive me if I have formatted this wrong or placed it in the wrong category. I am only level 3 so this is the turning point of where I am to make my decision of if it is worth paying for a whole year of WaniKani or not. However today I came across a descripton and translation that I am unsure of which makes me doubt WaniKani.


I have spoke with some Japanese people about this before and it seems just as in most countries the average person does not know the difference between the nations contained within the UK but some people do. To me it seems that イギリス means the UK and イングランド refers just to England. For example in English atleast a ‘British person’ and an ‘Englishman’ are not synonyms at all. So my question is does WaniKani know this and is simply trying to teach me what the average Japanese person would think of this word or are they wrong?

5 Likes

I think those synonyms have more to do with the fact that many English speakers don’t understand the structure of the UK, and therefore use those loosely or incorrectly.

19 Likes

Yes I would agree with that however I would expect more from a professional piece of software which is paid for. Do you know if such a thing happens with other WaniKani vocabulary in future levels?

Ummm… they are to me. When I hear “British person” I think of a person from England. A person with a British accent is an English person. Although the U.K. includes Northern Ireland, if someone is described as British, I would never assume that they were actually Irish.

18 Likes

But what about Wales and Scotland…

7 Likes

As someone from Scotland I very much do not like to be labeled as English but I do understand why many people would make this mistake. I would prefer to be called British or Scottish.

16 Likes

Anyway, I do see some dictionaries suggesting that the same way people might lazily call all British people English, some Japanese people might use イギリス when they are actually only talking about England. It reflects a real world usage you might encounter.

8 Likes

Well where I come from, Austria - we don’t know the difference either so…

13 Likes

I think you may want to think about this differently. There is no way to directly translate one language to another, and that is true about translating Japanese to English. There are so many nuances, culture points, and other things tied up in the meaning of a word.
I am saying this as you are going to run into a lot of words in Wanikani which you will look at and question the translation. I am level 20 now and have had to change my mindset; to see that any translation can only be an approximation. Even a word as simple as “dog” in English - the word いぬ in Japanese translates as “dog” but Japanese speakers may have a different view of what an いぬ is versus what English speakers see as a “dog”. Maybe that’s not the best example, but in summary, I think it will help you to think differently about what Wanikani offers.
I am very happy with my lifetime membership and making steady progess and learning so much!

26 Likes

You may be right and I have been too quickly annoyed by WaniKani because of my countless times explaining this mistake to people in English. If so how could I go about telling Japanese people that I am British but I am also not English? Is it even possible without ambiguity.

2 Likes

The イギリス Wikipedia article has a name section you could point people to.

2 Likes

I guess you have to keep in mind that this software is created in America, and Americans are generally ignorant of the difference between English and British. I’m not sure if the person who wrote this definition is similarly in the dark, or they’ve just dumbed it down for their users to avoid confusion.

5 Likes

This was what I was worried about when I created this post. I feared they are ignorant and worried that in the future I may learn words incorrectly.

I’m English, British and live in Scotland so I feel the pain here :slight_smile:

From how I understand it, イギリス covers both England and Britain as a whole. Scotland is スコットランド but seemingly Wales is small enough not to have a generally recognised term of its own. So British person should be an acceptable synonym, but many Scots would reject the term on principle anyway so you’ll never please everyone!

So イギリス人 です。スコットランドに住んでいます。

Of course, the language (apart from the minority of Gaelic / Welsh speakers) is English throughout - 英語お話します。

5 Likes

I feel that I am exactly that sort of Scottish person that would not be happy with this synonym. Not that I hate England or English people, it’s simply that I am patriotic and proud of Scotland. Thanks for the idea of just saying both to describe myself in Japanese sounds about the only way to be clear.

5 Likes

They may also just be simplifying it for a global audience who may or may not know the difference between English and British, or may not even be native English speakers. I’ve seen this exact mistake in many other places, so I don’t think its exclusive to WaniKani.

As for learning words ‘wrong’… that is a bit complicated. Japanese and English are very different languages, and we really can only get an approximation of what words mean. What you learn on WaniKani isn’t going to agree with every single source that tries to translate Japanese into English. They’d have to give dozens of synonyms to do that. The idea is to give you a general impression of what the words mean, and if you read the context sentences it helps further reinforce that. If you’re worried about getting everything ‘correct’ WaniKani may not be right for you.

6 Likes

I feel like calling it the “U.K.” is a fairly recent thing for most of the world. After looking it up, I found that it technically became that through a treaty with Scotland in the 1700’s, though it was more often called Great Britain at the time. They were at the head of a Great British Empire for quite some time, after all.

Additionally, the term イギリス apparently actually predates the signing of that treaty, waaaay back when Japan was still mostly isolated, and only interacted with the Dutch and Portuguese in the early 1600’s.

7 Likes

It seems that you and @Mkalbert have similar views on this and it may be my understanding of how learning a very different language goes. I will try to keep in mind that everything is an approximation.

1 Like

Where are you from? I think like @jels808 you can get away with something similar to スコットランド人 and if people don’t know say it’s one of the countries that make up イギリス or 英国.

2 Likes

I’m sorry, this is going to come off somewhat harsh, but if you use English (or pretty much any language), you already call so many other nationalities by words that are not what they call themselves, so I feel it’s a bit hypocritical to be coming in so hot about the Japanese language for doing the same thing. (The what language? I’m sorry, i mean the Nihon language?)

23 Likes