Here are five awkward, bittersweet moments that’ll make you realise you’ve finally become a seasoned expat…
Nationwide, Japan Starbucks locations appear to be telling foreign customers to learn Japanese or risk anaphylactic shock.
If you live in Asia, you’re probably used to seeing Engrish phrases everywhere. When you’ve grown up reading and writing in kanji, hiragana, etc., the “foreign-ness” of English writing and phrases adds an air of mystery and style. But it’s exactly the same in the west too—people will buy all kinds of products with kanji characters written on them whether or not they know what they mean.
Here are some examples of decked-out cars with random, nonsensical Japanese phrases on them that have Japanese netizens laughing their socks off over.
While Japan’s highest mountain itself is the primary attraction, it’s not the only thing to see in the Mt. Fuji area. There’s also the Fuji Five Lakes, which would be beautiful enough to warrant a visit even if they didn’t have the famed peak serving as a dramatic backdrop.
But while travelers are happy to see the mountain and lakes alike, one thing none of them look forward to is a puddle of piss on the men’s room floor of a local visitor’s center. That’s why one facility has signs asking visitors to mind their aim when using the urinals, but while the Japanese text is a politely worded reminder, the English version seems to be implying that the reader’s penis really isn’t so impressive.
Traveling in a country where you aren’t super confident with the lingo can be extremely daunting, and simple acts like ordering food become a bit of a nightmare. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t know what foods are on the menu or how they are prepared. Dictionaries, both paper and electronic, are definitely helpful tools when deciphering a menu and many restaurants also try to provide at least some English—one of the most used languages in the world—on their menus.
But sometimes, for all their good intentions, restaurants fail. While this may make ordering lunch a little bit trickier, it is at times like these that we are blessed with some wonderfully bad translated food names.
Today’s special dishes come compliments of restaurants in Taiwan and China that just couldn’t quite find the right words to describe their respective delicacies. Look forward to dishes including mermaids, fried Wikipedia and confused pizzas after the jump.
Every country has its own set of rules and customs that visitors may not initially be aware of. To meet the demands of the growing tourism industry, many governments have opted to implement multi-lingual signs and websites. Sometimes, however, the translations cause much more confusion than they prevent, like with this list of jobs foreigners aren’t allowed to do in Thailand.
Recently a similar goof occurred in India, this time due to some curiously mistranslated signage posted inside the Chennai International Airport, leaving visitors both amused and confused.
Once a year, Japan’s Fuji TV broadcasts a marathon program called FNS 27-Hour TV. A huge team of A-list comedians, musicians, and media personalities make appearances during the show, and since its beginning in 1997 it’s been a ratings hit for the network.
But as the younger generation increasingly looks to the Internet for entertainment content, this year Fuji TV wanted to remind viewers that TV is still relevant and worth watching. Oh, and also apparently that they should sleep with white people, if you take the program’s T-shirts at face value.
It’s already a well-known fact that terrible, nonsensical English (or Engrish, as the phenomenon is known) is found everywhere in Japan. For the most part, Engrish happens because many people just like the look that English print gives to their outfit and accessories, and really don’t give a second thought as to what it means.
But those from western countries are really not much better, choosing clothes or tattoos with kanji characters simply because they look cool, without really giving thought to what the characters themselves might mean. This unfortunately ends with poor souls who forever have the word “kitchen” inked on their arm, or a t-shirt that proudly proclaims the wearer is a beautiful fish.
Now, another western brand is stepping up to add to garbled Japanese to their threads with a fall line apparently dedicated to “bad squirrels”…
The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) is a test of Japanese as a second language knowledge and is held twice a year in Japan and many other countries around the world. Since the test is entirely in Japanese, it can be taken by anyone regardless of English ability.
Even so, the organization decided to put up English translations on bathroom signs at a test location in Japan, and some irritated English-speaking members of the Grammar Police decided to do a little editing work whilst sitting on the potty.
It’s time once again for an episode of Why Does Engrish Happen in Japan? If you missed the first installment (which we really should have given a clever name like Why Does Engrish Happen in Japan? ~Unexpected Opening to the Truth~) you can check it out here.
Today, we’re taking a look at a hotel in Japan that seems to be clamping down on solo peeing, with a sign posted in its lobby that requests visitors “Please refrain from using the bathroom alone.”
It’s no secret that these days, everyone’s ripping everyone else off when it comes to products. But yummy Japanese snack foods seem to be a particular target, with Korean-based company Lotte famously copying Japan’s popular “Pocky” sticks right down to their svelte packaging. And now it seems that China has got in on the act, with this knockoff version of Japan’s beloved “Koala no March” animal biscuits.
Unfortunately, these shysters didn’t even bother trying to make it look like an original product, opting instead for nonsensical Japanese writing on the packaging and grimaces of pain on the face of every cookie koala…
I’m sure most of you are aware that Japan is full of awesomely terrible Engrish. Some of it may be cringe-worthy, but the child in us can’t help but snicker as we tell our friends we just had a cup of Calpis, that we bought our new outfit at titty&Co., or spent the evening at Pink Pussy.
However, the humor of such unfortunately-named products, brands and spectacularly named bars is not completely lost upon the Japanese themselves. Take, for example, these two professional announcers, who had a hilarious back-and-forth on Twitter over some Homo Sausage.
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?
We’ve talked before about Engrish, the often humorously garbled form of English that peppers products and signage in Japan. The phenomenon isn’t unique to Japan, though, as the expat community in China also often comes across similar blunders, which the local community sometimes refers to as Chinglish.
But are these botched translations a sign of callous disrespect, or the end result of earnest effort coupled with sub-par linguistic skills? That was the question put to users of China Daily’s Internet forum, and here’s what a few had to say.
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.
Over the years, Japan has earned a reputation for its awkward command of English, with results ranging from the perplexing to downright hilarious. The country’s translation screw-ups are so common that they’ve even earned their own collective name, “Engrish.”
But for all the sites that poke fun at Engrish, it’s almost impossible to find one that talks about why it happens. So today we’re offering a bit of explanation along with the laughs, as we look at a sign in Japan that informs English-reading passersby that “Today is under construction.”
Japanese TV personality Yuko Ito has been working in the entertainment industry for almost 20 years now. Having been at turns a swimsuit model, actress, and pitchwoman for Sapporo Beer, Nissan, and telecommunications provider NTT, we imagine she’s run into more than a few disingenuous showbiz types while paying her dues and building a career for herself.
Now, it looks like she’s done putting up with their two-faced double-talk, assuming she can actually understand the English on the T-shirt she wore during a recent TV appearance, which implored those watching, “Protect me from all your bullshit.”
Osamu Mukai is a well-known drama and commercial actor in Japan, best known for playing heart-throb types on prime time TV. He also apparently does not speak English or pay much attention to his fashion choices, as a recent appearance on what seems to be a typical Japanese evening talk show proves.
While the majority of the Japanese audience probably had no idea what the English on the actor’s drab green T-shirt meant, one eagle-eyed Twitter user seems to have noticed, and thus immortalized, Mukai’s unfortunate fashion choice for the world to see.
If you’re located outside of Japan, think of some Japanese restaurants around you and chances are their names contain easily recognizable, if uninspired, nouns like “sakura,” “Tokyo,” or “Fuji.” For instance, near me are eateries like Umi, Kaze, Samurai Boston, and countless Teriyaki House’s. One even contains my name, requiring me once in a while to explain that no, I’m not related.
Now, imagine the surprise of one Japanese Twitterer who stumbled upon an okonomiyaki restaurant in Berlin, Germany called “Hanage (はな毛)”, or nasal hair. Mmm, scrumptious!
At first glance, you’d think that this is simply another case of unfortunate word choices by a non-native speaker, like some kanji tattoos or English directions on Asian food packages. Almost as surprising as the bodily reference, however, is the fact that this restaurant was opened by a Japanese woman! To quote one Twitter commenter, “Why? Why? Why?”
Everyone loves Engrish, and everyone enjoys lampooning the machines that create it and the silly humans who wear it.
But is it as funny when the tables are turned? What happens when non-Japanese deck themselves out in clothing with unintelligible characters on it, only to have the true meaning outed on the web for all to see?