Archive for the ‘Japanese English’ Category

Japanese English – Lesson 4

Tuesday, August 9th, 2005

This is a weekly one point lesson about Japanese English, i.e. English expressions used in Japanese. As loanwords, or borrowings, it is perfectly ok to use them in Japanese, since they are meaningful and became part of the Japanese vocabulary. The problem is when Japanese use those expressions in an unnatural manner when they speak English. This topic is mainly for Japanese learners of English, but oppositely, it might be interesting for (would be) learners of Japanese to learn about such expressions.

My car
In Japanese, “my car” litteraly means “one’s own car”, i.e. you can use the expression without switching to the appropriate possessive case. I’ve been asked many times, “Mai kaa desu ka?” (Is this my car?), meaning “Is this your car?”. You can use it in the first, second and third person without any problem, e.g. “Kare wa mai kaa mottemasu.”, i.e. “He has a my car”, meaning “He has his own car”. The use of the first person personal pronoun in this way also extends to expressions like “my home” and “my wife”. You can imagine I was quite surprised during my first year in Japan, when upon introducing my wife to someone, I was asked “Mai waifu desu ka?”, i.e. “Is this my wife?”. I guess the poor guy was even more surprised when I replied, a bit annoyed, “No, it’s MY wife”…

Japanese English – Lesson 3

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

This is a weekly one point lesson about Japanese English, i.e. English expressions used in Japanese. As loanwords, or borrowings, it is perfectly ok to use them in Japanese, since they are meaningful and became part of the Japanese vocabulary. The problem is when Japanese use those expressions in an unnatural manner when they speak English. This topic is mainly for Japanese learners of English, but oppositely, it might be interesting for (would be) learners of Japanese to learn about such expressions.

Sharp pencil
This is another example of fabricated English. In Japanese, it means “mechanical pencil”. Mechanical pencils being always sharp, it is easy to imagine how such an expression came into use. So if you need a mechanical pencil when shopping in Japan, it would be better to ask for a “sharp pencil”, or the shorter version, i.e. a “sharp pen”, without pronouncing a double “p” (say: shaa-pen).

Edit: A guy living in Yokohama and nicknamed (well, I HOPE it’s a nickname) deadhippo left this comment, and it was so interesting I thought I’d make it part of the post itself. Thanx dude! Deadhippo has a website providing information in order to make life easier for foreigners living in Yokohama. Check it out @ http://www.deadhippo.com.

“This is one of the more interesting pieces of vocabulary you could have chosen. What I heard first about the origin of the “sharp” pencil I now believe to be a myth. I heard that the name came about because they were first manufactured or at least made famous by Sharp Corporation.

The reality seems to be a little different. The mechanical pencil was invented by Sharp company but at the time the company was called Hayakawa Sougyousha and the pencil was given the rather long title of Hayakawa-shiki Kuridashi Enpitsu (早川式繰り出し鉛筆) which roughly translates as Hayakawa-style push out pencil.

The pencil became popular throughout the world and in order to get patents in other countries it was renamed “sharp” pencil, indeed because it was sharp. And I suspect that because of the popularity of and the financial success generated by the sharp pencil the company was renamed – Sharp.

(Disclaimer: research done on internet so I can’t guarantee the validity of these statements)”

Japanese English – Lesson 2

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

This is a weekly one point lesson about Japanese English, i.e. English expressions used in Japanese. As loanwords, or borrowings, it is perfectly ok to use them in Japanese, since they are meaningful and became part of the Japanese vocabulary. The problem is when Japanese use those expressions in an unnatural manner when they speak English. This topic is mainly for Japanese learners of English, but oppositely, it might be interesting for (would be) learners of Japanese to learn about such expressions.

Level up
This is an example of fabricated English. In Japanese, it is usually used to say “improve”. I’ve heard 「I want my English to “level up”」 many times before, and although in English it is not appropriate, it is perfectly ok to use it in Japanese, as in “Watashi no eigo o “reberu appu” shitai”.

Japanese English – Lesson 1

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Starting today, I will feature a weekly one point lesson about Japanese English, i.e. English expressions used in Japanese. As loanwords, or borrowings, it is perfectly ok to use them in Japanese, since they are meaningful and part of the Japanese vocabulary. The problem is when Japanese use those expressions in an unnatural manner when they speak English. This topic is mainly for Japanese learners of English, but oppositely, it might be interesting for (would be) learners of Japanese to learn about such expressions.

Case by case
Japanese use this expression not as in: “I work on a case-by-case basis”, but in a way meaning “It depends”. For example, if I were asked “What’s your favorite teaching technique?” in Japanese, I could reply using the expression “Case by case”, meaning “It depends on the student”.