With the 26 letters of the alphabet, we can make pretty much any sound present in the majority of languages. But Japanese just doesn’t contain certain sounds present in English, like “th” or “v”, and their “r” is somewhere right between our “r” and “l”, making them sound almost exactly the same to Japanese ears.
Since most Japanese people grow up only speaking Japanese, it means that when they start learning English at school, they either have to learn entirely new sounds (difficult) or else try to render English in Japanese sounds (which isn’t accurate). As a result, many Japanese English learners feel a lot of anxiety over the accuracy of their pronunciation. But should that really be holding them back?
“You can also call me a future police officer. I’m more than proud to introduce my university to all of you.”
Meet Jin Pin Xuan (金品軒), a 21-year-old junior (third year student) currently enrolled at the top-ranking Chinese People’s Public Security University (中国人民公安大学) in Beijing, which is under the direct tutelage of China’s Ministry of Public Security.
In late December, Jin starred in a promotional video for her school, in which she spoke about her daily life as an officer-in-training, her reasons for choosing this career path, how dedicated she is to studying English, and some of the other exciting opportunities available to her in this program. Speaking of English, did we mention that she gives the entire presentation in almost flawless, close-to-native English?
Call us cynical, but we find that our standards over what constitutes funny Engrish have been changing. Unless it’s something really hilarious, perhaps involving naughty words or references to embarrassing body parts, we just can’t muster up the same kind of enthusiasm we once had. When it comes to English that’s just a little bit off in certain ways, it’s sometimes just not that funny, especially when you understand the number of reasons why Engrish happens in the first place. However, visitors to Japan will always remember that first taste of Engrish fondly, even if the same example might fail to raise an eyebrow after a few years of acclimatizing. The last piece of Engrish I felt was worthy of documenting can be seen above – it’s a T-shirt from a store in Osaka and several years later it still blows my mind. However, there’s also plenty of pretty mediocre Engrish to be found, as we’ll demonstrate after the jump.
At RocketNews24, we’ve covered how English education in Japan is currently faring, with many people agreeing that much can be done to improve it. Of the many problems, one improvement could certainly be the textbook, which many people believe is bland, uses English improperly and teaches English that feels very outdated. What’s needed is something that surpasses all those inadequacies and features English students would encounter in real life.
Well, how about a textbook that includes dialogues where people use bribes, exploit other people’s weaknesses and make giant broad stereotypes about countries as a whole? Yes, let’s try something like that!
When you speak to foreign English educators in Japan, one thing becomes crystal clear: English education in Japan isn’t working. It’s just awful. While English classes are mandatory in Japanese schools, the percentage of students who emerge with actual English abilities are surprisingly low. Students in China, Korea and Japan are in an arms race to see who can produce students with the best English, and Japan seems to be trailing far behind in third place.
With the Olympic Games coming up in 2020, the Japanese government has proposed changes to increase the level of English ability in their students. Changes like starting introductory English classes in 3rd grade elementary school and making the subject compulsory from the 5th grade. Are these changes really going to help? We’ve gathered opinions from both foreign teachers and Japanese citizens about issues with the system and what might improve it.
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will host the North American premiere Isao Takahata‘s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and director Mami Sunada’s The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness documentary about Studio Ghibli next month. Princess Kaguya will premiere with English subtitles on September 5 with Takahata present for the screening. The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness will premiere on Monday, September 8.
We recently came across this article on English pick up lines for Japanese guys wanting to get ‘close’ to women while they’re on holiday abroad. Some of the tips are a little out there, though. What do you make of the advice offered?
Kunugigaoka Junior High School, and particularly CLASS 3-E’s amazing artificial lifeform teacher Koro-sensei is known for his innovative and unique tactics of teaching his students. From making songs about math based off of anime opening themes, to moving at Mach 20 just to create “after image tutor copies,” Koro-sensei will stop at nothing to make sure that his students learn their lesson.
Now it seems that he’s turned his immense smile in another direction to bring the same one on one quality teaching to the hands of students everywhere, with the official Assassination Classroom English Textbook!
Here at RocketNews24, we spend a lot of time talking about language–particularly Japanese and English in Japan. It’s no secret that English is a difficult language to learn, and not just for folks from Japan. Part of the reason for the difficulty arises from the numerous variations English has–from American to Australian to Singaporean. But one country in particular that stands out is the Philippines, which the BBC recently called “the world’s budget English teacher.” While it’s not exactly the most complimentary title, it certainly is true that the country takes English as one of its official languages (along with Filipino, which is basically a standardized form of Tagalog). Of course, in a country with around 170 living languages, it should be expected that Philippine English is quite a bit different from English in the US or the UK.
But just how different is it?
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.
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.
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.