After a bit of discussion in The quick and short language questions-thread, I’ve decided to also post it here. It’s about po-tay-toes!
I wish I’d taken screen shots of the lessons, but alas. But I felt it was confusing in how we were taught these vocab.
WaniKani first teaches you the kanji of 芋, いも, meaning “potato”. WK then goes on to teach you the vocab of: 芋 “potato”; じゃが芋 “white potato”; and 焼き芋 “roast potato”.
There are a couple of things that are confusing here. Firstly it’s what’s meant by potato in a Japanese context, because culturally it suggest sweet potato, not the potatoes used in Western cuisine.
So, to clarify things might I suggest some minor changes in how the words are taught?
The kanji 芋 can still be defined as potato, but perhaps better as tuber (as that’s even broader in scope) and includes both ordinary potatoes and sweet potatoes.
The vocab of 芋 really implies sweet potato in a Japanese context and should probably be taught as the main meaning, with potato as a synonym.
じゃが芋 should have the main meaning as potato (because non-Americans don’t use the concept of “white potato”. That’s speaking American not English for me as a non-native English speaker I had no idea what “white potato” meant, but “white potato” can remain a synonym)
EDIT: Also, now that I’ve had my first review, WK do not accept “potato” as the answer for じゃが芋 which is just wrong, according to Jisho which lists “potato” as the meaning. So, forcing people to answer “Irish potato” and “white potato” neither being concepts I’ve ever encountered before, when there is a much more common one, “potato”, adds to the confusion, I feel.
焼き芋 should also be translated as roasted sweet potato (because that’s what’s implied in a Japanese cultural context) with roasted potato as a synonym, because it could be both.
It might also be a good idea to comment on this double meaning of 芋 during the lessons, either on the kanji or vocab or both. I dunno.
But, I think this would make the differences in meanings more transparent to the learner. Especially if we encounter these words in the wild, we need to understand that a recipe using 芋 calls for the use of sweet potatoes, not normal ones.
@JenK This might be a case for the allow list unless it already includes these meaning differences.
Original post and start of discussion