Japanese language

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Eight Japanese words we’d love to import into English

Recently, we talked about how Japanese, while a tough language to learn, isn’t quite as difficult as some horror stories make it out to be. Still, if English is your native language, certain Japanese grammar rules, like saying “wa” and “o” to mark the subject and object of your sentences, can seem like a major hassle.

With practice, though, these things start to become automatic. Even better, the Japanese language is filled with incredibly handy phrases that we’d love to import into English.

Read More

Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

Four ways Japanese isn’t the hardest language to learn

It seems whenever a list of the most difficult languages to learn is released, Japanese sits near or at the top. We can see why, as the language does have quirks and peculiarities that can occasionally make you wonder how anyone, even native speakers, manage to communicate with each other in Japanese.

If we’re being completely honest, we’d love to use one hand to pat ourselves on the back for our Japanese/English bilingual capabilities, while using the other to pat ourselves for surviving in what some are calling the most dangerous country on earth. But that would tie up both hands and we’d be unable to write this article. So instead, today we’re going to explain four ways learning Japanese isn’t nearly as bad as some other languages.

Read More

Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan now has so many 30-year-old virgins its language needs a new slang term for them

Japan’s birth rate has been dropping for decades now, and while it’s possible the demographic shift is a result of couples just getting that much better at using contraceptives, you have to allow for the possibility that fewer babies is due to fewer couples doing the deed.

Lending further credibility to this explanation is the fact that the proportion of Japanese men in their 30s who still have their virginity has gotten so high that society has coined a new slang term to describe them: yaramiso.

Read More

Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

Japan’s top 20 flowery names for baby girls: love, hearts, and dreams

In many English-speaking countries, it’s common to name children after a parent or relative. My dad, oldest brother, and nephew all share the same first name, for example, which provides a link through the generations, plus makes it easy for my mom to simultaneously call them for dinner.

This isn’t really done in Japan, though, and not being tethered to the past means that baby name trends can gather or lose momentum quickly. Recently, Japan is seeing more and more kirakira names. Kirakira literally means “sparkly,” and usually either the combination of kanji characters used to write the name, or the pronunciation itself, is flowery and unique.

But as a list of the top 20 for girls shows, kirakira names aren’t always just flashy, sometimes they’re downright sweet.

Read More

Senpai Club, Swedish-made, anime-inspired, Japanese-speaking animation, is back! 【Video】

Senpai Club, Swedish-made, anime-inspired, Japanese-speaking animation, is back! 【Video】

Last month we laughed along with the Swedish animators Olivia Bergstrom and Eric Bradford as we watched the first scenes of their anime-inspired creation Senpai Club. Now the pair, collectively known as makebabi.es, is back for another round of parody featuring dangerously pointy anime chins, ostensibly handsome upperclassmen, and just maybe even more stealthy bilingual gags with Senpai Club Episode 1 Part 2.

Read More

Changing attitudes about remarriage help create a new Japanese word: maru ni

Changing attitudes about remarriage help create a new Japanese word: maru ni

Wedding planning is a big deal in Japan, where it often involves a ceremony, formal reception with coworkers (including your boss, who’s expected to make a speech), an informal after-party after the reception winds down, and in many cases a second after-party that may stretch on until the next morning when the trains start running. Putting the whole thing together can be costly and require a lot of work, but it’s all worth it when everything goes smoothly. And besides, getting married is a once-in-a-lifetime event, right?

Well, actually, that’s not always the case. As in many modern, economically prosperous societies, the divorce rate has been rising in Japan, and along with it the potential number of remarriage candidates. In an attempt to keep up with these changing cultural norms and values, one of Japan’s largest wedding planners has gone so far as to coin a new term for those who remarry: maru ni.

Read More

Super-explicit Evangelion fan translation leaves Japanese fan scratching his head

Super-explicit Evangelion fan translation leaves Japanese fan scratching his head

Part of what makes the anime Evangelion such an enduring hit is the series’ subtleness. The classic is riddled with lines of dialogue that have multiple meanings and possible interpretations. Sometimes the speaker’s true intent becomes clearer after revelations that occur in subsequent installments of the franchise, whereas other times repeat viewings only serve to muddy the waters even further.

But while this ambiguousness delights fans who have taken pleasure in discussing and dissecting Eva for close to 20 years now, the same lack of concrete answers can be unfathomably frustrating to some viewers. Can’t the characters just say what they mean, in a way that anyone can understand?

They can in at least one amateur translation, in which major character Misato makes no bones about her desire to bone.

Read More

Learn Japanese with us and this website of nothing but swimsuit model selfies

Learn Japanese with us and this website of nothing but swimsuit model selfies

So today, we’d like to talk about a website called Jigadoribu. We won’t beat around the bush, it’s a site full of pictures of swimsuit models. And to all those of you who haven’t immediately skipped to the photos after reading that last sentence, thank you. Your display of self-restraint is an inspiration to us all, especially if you’re in the office, as this isn’t the sort of thing you want to be reading at work.

Sadly, our bosses won’t pay us for features that consist entirely of the phrase “And check this girl out!” repeated a dozen times. Likewise, we imagine you’d have some explaining to do should someone peek over your shoulder and see you perusing this article. So, as we did before, we’re going to mix appreciation of the female form with a little Japanese language lesson.

Let’s start with vocabulary word number one: jigadori, or selfie.

Read More

How do you define romance? Wonderfully poetic Japanese dictionary takes 91 words

How do you define romance? Wonderfully poetic Japanese dictionary takes 91 words

What exactly is romance? It’s a seemingly simple term, and one undeniably connected to a set of strong feelings, but does one have to act on them, or can romance exist entirely in the heart of an individual, without any sort of necessary manifestation in words or deeds? Is the word applicable only exclusively to happy relationships, or does that sort of stability preclude the sudden rush of emotion needed for something to be called romantic?

People have been struggling with these questions for years, and today we take a look at three less than poetic attempts at defining the word romance in publisher Sanseido’s Japanese dictionary.

Read More

Boys’ love manga company now raising funds to make a Japanese textbook

Boys’ love manga company now raising funds to make a Japanese textbook

Anyone who has ever studied Japanese as a second language can tell you that it’s a difficult language to learn, and the textbooks currently available on the market don’t make it any easier. Japanese textbooks are largely outdated, not to mention sleep inducing. Not even the most dedicated language students find joy in flipping open the dry and uninteresting pages of their workbooks or assaulting their ears with the drone of their practice CDs.

Luckily, that could all change, thanks to the ingenious writing of Yumiko Akeba and the online manga distributer, Otome’s Way. This start-up company specializes in “boys’ love” manga and is hoping to bring the appeal of Asian pretty boys to the learning field by creating a series of Japanese textbooks that use everyone’s favorite manga tropes as effective teaching tools. They call it A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese.

Read More

15 quotes from manga characters to pick you up when you’re feeling down

15 quotes from manga characters to pick you up when you’re feeling down

We all know the power of listening to music when it comes to lifting our mood and helping us get over a bad day, but in Japan many people turn to their favourite comic book characters for inspiration. Showing courage, perseverance and optimism, these characters often share insights and wise words that can be a tremendous source of support for us all. Here are some words of wisdom from 15 famous manga characters. Pick a favourite and use it as your mantra to get you through the day.

Read More

Lost in translation: When all else fails, throw in some gestures

Lost in translation: When all else fails, throw in some gestures

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.

Read More

10 common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

10 common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

Learning a second language is never easy, especially when there are so many things like context, nuance, and cultural connotations standing in the way. The key to conquering these hurdles, though, usually lies outside the pages of a textbook, and the Japanese Government addresses this issue by employing thousands of foreigners to assist English teachers in its education system every year.

So where would a foreigner start when correcting a student on the finer points of English as a second language? One of the easiest ways would be to take a look at this collection of commonly misused phrases and their simple fixes, put together by David Thayne, the head of AtoZ English.

Read More

From Sarah Brightman to Queen: Watch nine western artists sing in Japanese

From Sarah Brightman to Queen: Watch nine western artists sing in Japanese

If you’ve been in Japan long enough, you’ve probably seen western actors and celebrities visit the country, showing enthusiasm for the language by throwing out an “arigatou” here and a “konnichi wa” there, leaving fans and interviewers gasping in astonishment. But did you know that big-name western musicians have been showing their Japanese prowess through song for decades? We have the video proof, with all nine artists above singing phrases, and sometimes even entire songs, in Japanese. The performances are surprisingly impressive.

Read More

The top 10 words to describe Japanese people (according to foreigners)

The top 10 words to describe Japanese people (according to foreigners)

There isn’t a country in the world immune from stereotypes. All people form opinions about places and their inhabitants based on whatever they can glean from the food, tourism, and art of the culture. But not all sweeping generalizations have to be mean and unfounded. The results on a thread asking for the “perfect words to describe Japanese people” were surprisingly positive!

Here are the most common adjectives that Westerners chose when characterizing the people of Japan.
Read More

Lingerie manufacturer reveals size of Japan’s breasts, we reveal how to talk about them

Lingerie manufacturer reveals size of Japan’s breasts, we reveal how to talk about them

So let’s talk about breasts. From a statistical and linguistic standpoint, of course.

Read More

New wave of “creative” Japanese names read more like riddles

New wave of “creative” Japanese names read more like riddles

As much as politicians try to prevent them and doctors disapprove of them, kirakira Japanese names, the kinds that hold double meanings or are just plain hard to read, are apparently still on the rise. A recent survey of kids in their teens and early twenties showed that now more than 40 percent of students know someone at their school with an obscure reading for their name.

Reading name kanji is already a difficult task. A single symbol can have up to a dozen different readings, and while some are more common than others, there’s always a bit of guesswork that goes into deciphering the pronunciation of someone’s name. It’s bad enough when two people have names with the same symbols and entirely different readings. Imagine the frustration that teachers must face when a new student’s name is pronounced in a way that doesn’t even sound Japanese!

There’s a difference between naming your kid something “international” and making your kid’s name a nuisance. See if you can understand the reason behind the reading of some of these kirakira names.

Read More

Clever naming has New York diners raving about Japanese-style cod roe and pigs’ feet

Clever naming has New York diners raving about Japanese-style cod roe and pigs’ feet

Among the many colorful expressions in Japanese you’ll find kuwazu girai, which is used to describe a knee-jerk dislike to something unfamiliar before you’ve given it a fair shot. Kuwazu girai literally translates to “hating it without having eaten it,” and it was exactly the problem restaurateur Himi Okajima was having at his eatery, called Hakata Tonton, in New York’s Manhattan.

Okajima is a native of Fukuoka in southern Japan, and orders weren’t exactly pouring in from American customers for two of his hometown’s favorite dishes that were on the menu: pigs’ feet and cod roe.

Read More

Birds know how to read Japanese, put language learners to shame

Birds know how to read Japanese, put language learners to shame

Can you read kanji? It certainly looks like these birds can!

Wait, do these birds know more kanji than some foreigners who’ve lived in Japan for years and never learned to read??

Well, after all the birds were born in Japan and grew up seeing it all around them. It’s only natural for them to pick it up, so perhaps they have an unfair advantage. Anyway, no bird has passed any level of the tough Kanji Kentei tests. Yet…

Read More

Say what? Animal figures live in your fridge, speak in adorable Japanese regional dialects

Say what? Animal figures live in your fridge, speak in adorable Japanese regional dialects

Regional dialects can be a powerful thing. Call out “partner” or “boyo” and I might not even realize you’re talking to me, but just say the word “dude” and you’ve got my complete attention.

Despite its small land mass, Japan’s language is filled with dialects, largely the result of mountains, not to mention centuries of civil war and travel restrictions, making it hard for people different from different areas to mix for much of the country’s history. Occasionally these unique speech patterns pop up in unexpected places, like when a coworker from Osaka stubs his toe in the office, or a drinking buddy from Akita’s accent starts showing after the fifth round of beers.

And now, you can hear Japanese dialects in your refrigerator.

Read More

  1. 1
  2. 2