Despite every student in Japan being required to take English language courses, it may be difficult to find everyday people who enjoy and feel comfortable speaking the language. Sure, there are some former compulsory school students who are completely fluent in English, but overall, finding a native-level speaker or even someone confident enough to speak with can be difficult. That’s why we were surprised and pleased to watch this video of an Australian expat and his English language encounter at the McDonald’s drive-thru in Japan.
I’ve marked my fair share of English exam papers here in Japan, and there have been a few gems of hilarity in amongst the spelling mistakes and butchered grammar, but nothing that measures up to this beauty. One student’s answer to a simple question was so deep and existential, it read like poetry.
- Philip Kendall
Jun 26, 2014
Hearing native Japanese people casually using English slang is a special kind of awesome. All too often, Japanese are taught straight-laced, borderline archaic phrases that, while grammatically sound, remove all trace of the speaker’s personality to the point that they end up sounding like stuffy university professors rather than they people they actually are. So when we spotted this video, which shows one English teacher’s students working their way through the recently released book F*ck no Tadashii Tsukaikata, or “How to Use ‘F**k’“, it brought huge smiles to our faces.
So, if you’d like to hear perfectly nice and respectable Japanese people saying things like “I’m trusting you with the drugs; don’t f**k me over” and “He’s going to sh*t a brick”, make sure there are no impressionable youngsters in the room and join us after the jump.
Everyone knows that there are certain nuances in every language that you just can’t learn from school. Humor, for instance, but also cursing. Sure, you might know the definitions of a few key words, but stringing them together is a task unlikely to be perfected except by those who have spent some time with folks who are native speakers.
A recent book written by MADSAKI and published by Transworld Japan is giving Japanese speakers the fine opportunity to learn how to creatively curse in American-English. Titled, How to use F*** Correctly: 99 Phrases Using F***, S***, D***, and H*** that Schools Won’t Teach You, Handle with Care, it promises 176 pages of illustrated cursing, with examples.
Recently we brought you a selection of Japanese words we’d love to import into English. Well, it seems we’re not the only ones that feel that way. Digital artist Anjana Iyer, a designer based in Auckland, New Zealand, is undertaking a project to illustrate 100 words that can’t be translated into English. The words she’s chosen come from languages ranging from Latvian to Inuit, and even better, we here at RocketNews24 were excited to discover that there are already seven Japanese words on the list!
Below is our pick of Anjana’s ongoing project, which is entitled “Found in Translation”.
Funny things, names. In Japan, I am lucky enough to share mine with a delicious kind of stick-chocolate treat, which not only means that I can introduce myself as such: “Fran – you know, like Pocky, but not as cheap”, but also means that I often get given chocolates with my name on the packet, which I can confirm is something of a win-win situation.
My family name, however, is a terrifying mix of Rs, Ls, Ys and Ws that tends to provoke confusion and mild panic here in Japan. I have a good stock line for accurately communicating its spelling and pronunciation in the UK (“Wrigley, like the chewing gum”), and another one for Americans and/or baseball fans (“like Wrigley Field”). I’ve never come up with a good line to use on Japanese people, though, except to awkwardly mutter “um… yeah, sorry, it’s kind of a difficult name. Don’t worry, people in England can’t pronounce it either.”
But what if your name means something embarrassing or just downright odd in another language? Today, we bring you five kinds of Japanese names that make English speakers do a double-take, or a little snort into their coffee.
- Cara Clegg
May 10, 2014
Japanese people seem to love telling me that British food is terrible, and the only good thing we have going for us is fish and chips. No one can believe that I actually get a bit tired of Japanese food and pine for my favourite dishes from home! Perhaps to try and change this perception, the British Embassy has been undertaking a campaign called ‘Food is GREAT!’ (for Great Britain, geddit?), and our Japanese writer decided to put some of their recipes to the test.
Like so many foreigners living in Japan, I first entered the country as an eigo shidou joshu, more commonly known as an Assistant Language Teacher, or ALT for short. Although terms like “grass-roots internationalisation” and “globalisation” are uttered during ALT training seminars and by boards of education across the country with such frequency that you’d swear they’re being sponsored to use them, in reality an ALT’s role at a Japanese junior high school (where the majority in Japan are employed) is to go along to class with a non-native Japanese teacher of English (or JTE) and, as their job title implies, assist in teaching. The idea is that students, particularly those from rural areas, will benefit from the presence of and instruction from a native English speaker.
But are native speakers entirely vital to English language education in Japan? And should native English speakers, rather than Japanese teachers of English, be the ones taking the lead role in the classroom?
Not a day goes by without Japanese school children hearing the terms globalization (グロバール化) or internationalization (国際化), and why it’s so important for their future careers. In fact, the whole country seems to be swept up in a fervor of these two words. But do Japanese people really understand the meanings of them, or are the terms just being used as catchphrases?
Enter Austin, an international student who has been living in Japan since 2012. Last week he posted a thought-provoking piece called “Some Thoughts – And Doubts – About Japan’s Internationalization” on Tofugu, a Japanese language and culture blog. The piece has circulated around the Internet, and was even picked up and summarized in Japanese by popular Japanese blogger Madame Riri. In it, Austin addresses how while Japan may be making efforts to globalize on the surface, it still lacks something on a deeper level that is preventing it from becoming truly internationalized. Join the debate after we take look at some of his thoughts below.
Students across Japan have recently been taking their entrance exams which, if successful, will help them get into the higher level school they desire. Naturally, the more prestigious the school, the more difficult the entrance exam is.
Take these practice questions published in the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s newspaper, the Titech Press for example. In these questions, the student must rearrange the words to form a sentence with the same meaning as the Japanese one above. Even without understanding the Japanese, a native English speaker should be able to unscramble those words, right?
Why don’t you grab a pen and paper and give it a try before you read any further and see the answers? I got all of them except number three.
While Japan’s bank of English loan words has grown to the point where “context” and even “paradigm” can be understood by most people, there seems to be only a handful of Japanese words that have been sprinkled into the modern English vocabulary. Of course, there’s things like “manga”, “sushi,” and “karate,” which English speakers can instantly recognize as comics, a Japanese food, and a way to kick ass (in that respective order), but there are also some sleeper agent Japanese words traipsing about our English conversations. Let’s take a look at Japanese words, like “honcho” (as in “head honcho”) and “tycoon” (as in “oil tycoon”), that we use in English.
- Preston Phro
Dec 23, 2013
For Japanese people, studying English is almost a given. Even folks who may have no interest in actually leaving their home country may feel compelled to study the language for business or simply because they’re supposed to. But it’s hard to enjoy learning a language that you don’t have any interest in–and having fun is one of the best ways to facilitate learning.
This has opened up something of a cottage industry for people trying to make the learning part fun. There are nonsensical textbooks and sexy teachers, but then there are the college textbooks that seem like their authors weren’t even trying.
Well, for any Japanese English-learners who are on the verge of giving up – and perhaps for those of you struggling with learning Japanese – there may be one ray of hope still shining: Majime na Eibunpou, a surprisingly funny English grammar smartphone app!
- Blaine Harvey
Dec 11, 2013
What happens when you take a prefecture’s name written in kanji and change it into English based on the literal meaning of the Chinese characters? Sounds like you’d get a pretty cool name, right? Well, you may be disappointed to find out that Tokyo (東京), the capital of the nation of Japan, in fact simply means “Eastern Capital,” and Kyoto (京都), the former capital, doesn’t fare much better, coming out as, um, “Capital Capital.”
But with 45 other prefectures to choose from, there’s no reason we can’t find some good ones! Join us after the jump for some fun with kanji.
Although it’s been debated on this site before, life in a Japanese company can be tough. For some it can be downright war. And with more and more companies beginning to adopt English into their daily routines, it can be hard for an average salaryman (the term given to average full-time company employees) to get ahead or even survive.
Nissin’s Cup Noodle tries to sum it up how the feeling of a typical worker in their advert titled Globalization. Let’s take a look.
- Michelle Lynn Dinh
Nov 1, 2013
Although Japan is technically a linguistically and culturally homogeneous nation, there is a significant population of foreign residents who add a sprinkle of languages other than Japanese to the mix. When two different worlds collide, the results can be interesting and thanks to the popularity of Twitter in Japan, we all have access to a never-ending supply of cross-cultural anecdotes. The following is just a small handful of posts by Japanese Twitter users about their encounters with foreigners in Japan.
Thanks to Japan’s ever-increasing attempts at globalization and English education, the most recent generations growing up in Japan have all been exposed to foreign language classes. Some even started as young as preschool! However, because the island nation remains so homogenized, most Japanese citizens don’t come across many opportunities to practice and properly hone their skills. I’d say that with the exception of those who use English for work or have experienced living abroad, by the time they reach adult-hood, the majority of Japanese people only know enough English to not make any sense when attempting to speak it! They simply toss a few English words into a Japanese sentence structure and expect it to make sense.
This poses a problem for the foreign tourists who visit Japan without learning the native language and rely on English signs and helpful English speakers in order to get around. Luckily for both the lost tourists who don’t speak Japanese and for Japanese locals who can’t remember their English, there is a third language which can overcome all great language barriers and promote mutual understanding: body language and interpretive gestures. Although, sometimes these wordless conversations can seem a bit surreal in hindsight, which is why the Japanese site, Naver Matome, put together an interesting collection of Japanese people’s experiences flailing at foreigners.
English is a difficult language to master. Not only do you have to learn all of the basic grammar and seemingly nonsensical spelling rules, the language is constantly evolving, with more and more slang terms being thrown out into the world, tripping up unsuspecting English learners. Sometimes, you have to be careful. Very careful. Things like “meat market” or “hit that” can pose quite a problem if taken literally. Another phrase, “sausage party,” had one Twitter user confused at first, inspiring him to take to the internet to tell the Japanese speaking world about his newly learned English. This in turn caused the phrase to be retweeted over 3,000 times in 11 hours, sparked a lot of interesting comments from Japanese netizens, and inspired the creation of a new term for a party with a lot of girls.
- Master Blaster
Mar 6, 2013
Set to be published on 10 April is My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute and Brush Up on Middle School English by Chukei Publishing.
As the name suggests, this book lets students bone up on the required English curriculum set to the backdrop of the My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute popular series of erotic game (eroge) otaku themed light novels. Yes, someone actually made this.
- Philip Kendall
Jan 27, 2013
Who doesn’t love a nice dose of messed up Engrish? Sure, it’s infantile to chuckle at spelling mistakes and rude words inappropriately used by well-meaning Japanese, but when all is said and done, it’s still funny. And after a long week of work, cold weather, spam in your inbox and having much less money in your bank account than you thought, it’s nice to take a few minutes to sit back and be a little bit silly.
Late last week, Canadian YouTuber Oz (ozzy78) published a great collection of photos taken all around Japan featuring bad English on everything from shop signs to kids’ clothes. We enjoyed the video so much that we just had to share it with you here today. It will make you laugh; it will make you cringe; it will make you wonder why on earth no one thought to consult a native speaker before going to print. Enjoy.
- Philip Kendall
Nov 16, 2012
Japanese people often get a hard time for their lack of English language skills. But with so few Japanese ever setting foot outside their own country, it’s little wonder that one of the most frequently heard reasons given for struggling with the language is the lack of opportunity to use it.
Just last night, in fact, I was completely caught off guard when a teenage girl in my local convenience store seized the opportunity to break out her English and asked me whether I needed a plastic bag. Unfortunately, I was completely unprepared for the question and it was only after she had repeated herself three times that I realised that a) she was speaking English and b) I’d probably just ensured that she never dare to do so ever again.
But perhaps the prospect of a free cup of coffee would rekindle her enthusiasm for language?
As part of a promotional campaign for the launch of its new ReFLEX language learning software, Rosetta Stone is opening a special limited-time-only cafe in a Shinjuku book store, giving customers the chance to use their English, and doling out free cups of coffee to those who can.
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- Creative pet “haircuts”: Funky or funny? You decide.4
- Man kidnaps, imprisons 11-year-old to raise her to be his “ideal girl”5
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- “Retweet if you thought I was a girl”: This beautiful young man, in his own words【Photos】6
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- These anime mascots are just what the World Cup has been missing!10
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- Samurai in Brazil shows off incredible freestyle football skills ahead of World Cup3
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- Internet falls in love with Chinese cosplaying beauty, disappointed to hear she’s a guy 【Updated】6
- Not your average Bulbasaur: Mayan-style Pokemon7
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- What if Sailor Moon characters were lingerie models? They’d look stunning like this 【Photos】9
- The official Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist trailer just made our day【Video】10
- Japanese Twitter users report an increase in ninja cat sightings as summer settles in【Photos】
- Pikachu’s dramatic decline in popularity captured in photos
- Summer in China means crazy-crowded pools, which somehow mean fun for some easy-going swimmers
- Dreamed of living in a “Phil Collins” mansion? Come to Japan and you can!
- Five amazing Japanese Starbucks locations that let you keep sightseeing as you take a break
- Cats transform into bears, bats, and more, impress and enchant Japanese Internet users
- No peripheral vision – Japan’s gamers sound off on hardware add-on nightmares
- How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker
- Middle-aged Chinese man’s “stomach pains” turn out to be his first period as a woman
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