Japanese English, English Japanese

Have you noticed that sometimes language can be adapted in weird ways to other cultures? In Japan, we use some weird English. We call it “Wasei Eigo,” which means Japanese-English. For example, we say “open car” for a convertible vehicle. Another great example is the word “note paso-con.” Paso-con is an abbreviation of “personal computer,” and “note paso-con” means a laptop. I guess because it is portable like a notebook, and because some computer companies called their  laptops “notebooks.” We also say “free-size” rather than “one size fits all,” and “plus (or minus) driver” for a philips-head (or flat-head) screwdriver. These translations may seem odd, but I think some of them make sense, in a way.

On the other hand, I also see weird Japanese usage in America. The word “futon” is Japanese, but it means a Japanese comforter, and often includes a mattress too. But here people use “futon” for a sofa bed. Moreover, many people here mispronounce Japanese words. For example, we pronounce the word “karaoke” as “ka-leh-o-keh,” but here people pronounce it like “keh-ree-o-kee.” So Japanese people here can be a little confused when you ask to go karaoke because it sounds like something totally different.

Language is a very interesting; it is a living part of society. When words are adapted into a new culture, they can become their own language and have new meanings.  Languages are always changing and evolving, and it is interesting to see what words are adapted from one culture to another.

One thought on “Japanese English, English Japanese

  1. Ashour Abdulaziz says:

    This is a very intersting article, thanks Mami. The issue of language and culture is a big theme in second language acquisition, but adapting the language to one’s culture- that is more interesting. I would love to hear more about the status of English in Japan. Keep it up.

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