Japanese

Be careful how you talk about “spaghetti” in Japanese — you may sound unhip

Be careful how you talk about “spaghetti” in Japanese — you may sound unhip

Although Italian in origin, the words pasta and spaghetti are now everyday words in English. Thanks to the foods’ proliferation around the world these words can also be found in Japanese, pronounced pasuta and supagettī respectively.

But in recent years, it seems as if the word “spaghetti” has been falling out of favor in Japan, being replaced by the word “pasta.” Although in English the distinction between “spaghetti” and “pasta” is pretty clear (pasta being the foodstuff, spaghetti one of its many varieties), it seems there is a whole other world of nuances when the words cross over into Japanese.

Read More

Cuss like a pro with this handy guide for Japanese speakers

Cuss like a pro with this handy guide for Japanese speakers

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.

Read More

Things Japanese girls do that make foreign guys run for the hills

Things Japanese girls do that make foreign guys run for the hills

Are you a Japanese girl? Are you terrified that your implausibly popular foreign boyfriend might run off after one of those other girls that are constantly throwing themselves at him? Japanese website Madame Riri has come up with a whistle-stop guide to things Japanese girls do that make foreign guys back off. Avoid these pitfalls, and you too can have a fairytale ending with your Price Charming… Apparently. Let’s see what they came up with!
Read More

Learning Japanese? All you really need is this one word…

Learning Japanese? All you really need is this one word…

Japanese is not an easy language to learn. Though, we have to say, we’re not sure that any language is easy to learn when you’re a beginner! But for English speakers, Japanese is certainly one of the most difficult languages to pick up. Anyone who’s taken a class will surely remember the first time they opened their textbook and saw two massive charts full of squiggly lines and realized that they now had to learn two more alphabets! And then start on kanji…

However, it looks like one Japanese-speaking UK native has found the key to Japanese using just one word!

Read More

Everyday Japanese names that make English speakers chuckle

Everyday Japanese names that make English speakers chuckle

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.

Read More

Put away your textbooks, kids – the key to learning Japanese is Minecraft

Put away your textbooks, kids – the key to learning Japanese is Minecraft

We’ve talked countless times about how to learn Japanese. Heck, we’ve even brought you lists of essential applications and resources to help you in your quest to master the language. But we’ve always maintained that the best way to learn Japanese, or any language for that matter, is to make practical use of it and make it relevant to your own life.

And what better way to use your newly acquired Japanese than making friends all over the world while avoiding being crushed to death by spiked ceilings or knocked into a bottomless pit?

Read More

Nine celebrities who speak Japanese… or some variation of it

Nine celebrities who speak Japanese… or some variation of it

It’s no surprise that in the field of entertainment many talented individuals have found work in Japan and many more have expressed an interest in Japanese culture. But beyond those who stop by Japan and utter a simple “oishi” in a beer commercial or create a music video wearing a cupcake skirt, are a select few who have learnt or are well on their way to learning the Japanese language. Here are a few of them representing the fields of film, sports, and music.

Read More

“But we’re speaking Japanese!”: Humorous video confronts lingering stereotypes in Japan

“But we’re speaking Japanese!”: Humorous video confronts lingering stereotypes in Japan

One of the most frustrating parts about living in Japan was when I would go out to dinner with my husband. No, it wasn’t because I wasn’t able to read the menu or because I don’t like Japanese food – it was because more often than not, the server wouldn’t speak to me.

Since my Vietnamese-American husband cannot speak or read Japanese, I would always do the ordering. What the servers saw was a woman with a caucasian face speaking Japanese and what appeared to be a Japanese man not ordering for himself. After placing my order in Japanese, the server would turn to my husband (who couldn’t understand anything she was saying) and ask follow up questions about our drink order or any add ons. I would in turn, translate for my husband in English, and then answer our server in Japanese, but any remaining questions would be directed once again to my husband. This language triangle would continue until all the ordering was completed.

Of course, this didn’t happen every time, but enough for both my husband and I to take notice. When relating the story to my friends, many would confirm that they have encountered a similar situation. Some would posit that the server thought my husband was letting me practice my Japanese and was looking to him to confirm that’s actually what I wanted. But no matter the reason, I was always left a little frustrated.

A recent video on YouTube titled, “But we’re speaking Japanese!” confronts this exact situation, bringing light to a lingering stereotype in Japan.

Read More

Let’s talk about cleavage: A mini Japanese lesson for the weekend【Photos】

Let’s talk about cleavage: A mini Japanese lesson for the weekend【Photos】

Have you been neglecting your Japanese studies recently? Maybe you’ve been struck down with a case of the May blues? We have just the ticket to get you right back on track!

We’ve scoured the dark depths of the Japanese internet to bring you this brand new mini-lesson: how to talk about boobs in Japanese on internet forums. Don’t worry, reader – just like last time, there are pictures too. Just to double-check your understanding, of course.

Read More

Aizuchi: The Japanese art of grunting your way through conversations

Aizuchi: The Japanese art of grunting your way through conversations

Chances are, if you’ve ever had a conversation in Japanese – or even any other language – with a native Japanese person, you might have been slightly disconcerted by their constant interjections.

That’s because nodding along, saying things like “I see” (naruhodo), “Oh really?” (sou desu ka?) and just plain grunting is considered a polite way to indicate to a speaker that you’re following along in a conversation.

This technique is called “aizuchi” in Japanese and, sure, it seems common sense in any culture to occasionally give a nod of the head or look up from your riveting game of Candy Crush Saga to indicate you have at least a passing interest in what’s being said, but the Japanese really turn it into an art form.

Read More

Let’s learn Japanese through terrible “American jokes”

Let’s learn Japanese through terrible “American jokes”

If you’re an English-speaking foreigner living in Japan and are prone to cracking jokes, it won’t be long before someone responds to something you’ve said with a shrug of the shoulders and the phrase “American joke”. This used to confuse me immensely (“but, but, I’m not American!”) before I realised that an Amerikan Jōku doesn’t have to be told by an American, or be related to the United States in any way. It’s just what you say in Japan when you have the feeling the person you’re talking to is making a joke, but you don’t really understand what’s funny – and want to avoid the potential awkwardness of explicitly saying so.

Today we bring you 10 “American jokes” posted to Japanese website 2channel. Impress and appall your Japanese friends in equal measure by trying out one of these painful puns on them. Who says humour doesn’t translate?

Read More

Better know a train nerd: 36 different classifications for Japan’s “densha otaku”

Better know a train nerd: 36 different classifications for Japan’s “densha otaku”

You may already be aware that there is a subculture of train fanatics in Japan known as densha otaku, or train nerds. But did you know that there are loads of sub-subcultures within the densha otakus? From those obsessed with train noises to experts in train lunch boxes, we’ve got them all covered for you.

Read More

10 Japanese expressions that sound delightfully strange and funny when translated

10 Japanese expressions that sound delightfully strange and funny when translated

A little while ago, we introduced you to the Japanese expression “hana yori dango” (dumplings over flowers), using a picture of one of our capybara friends at the Ueno Zoo as a living example of the phrase. Well, that article got us thinking about Japanese idioms/expressions that may sound strange or funny in a different language when translated literally, and we thought it might be interesting to share a few of them with you. Here are some common phrases that we use in the Japanese language as a matter of course, but could make you laugh if you visualize their literal meaning in your mind. And yes, some of them involve cats!

Read More

Best instruction manual ever? What to do when your washer goes “kiiin”, “shaaa”, or “pokopoko”

Best instruction manual ever? What to do when your washer goes “kiiin”, “shaaa”, or “pokopoko”

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Japan will tell you that onomatopoeia is not just common, but an integral part of the Japanese language. While English speakers might find sentences peppered with additional ‘sound effects’ somewhat inelegant, in Japanese onomatopoeic words are not only considered perfectly normal, but there are mimicking sounds for every possible occasion – including states of being where there is no sound to mimic – and most people know exactly how to write them.

We’d wager than few native Japanese have ever come across an instruction manual that uses mimicking words to explain potential problems with a washing machine, though…

Read More

Test your (crude) Japanese slang skills: Why is this sign getting so many laughs online?

Test your (crude) Japanese slang skills: Why is this sign getting so many laughs online?

There are some Japanese words that, no matter how many textbooks you read, you’ll simply never encounter. As we’ve seen, the Japanese love a good pun, and cheesy wordplay on TV and the media in general is far more commonplace than it is in English. So it’s surprising that the owners of this Tokyo-based computer school didn’t choose the name of their establishment – and the wording on their sign, for that matter – a little more carefully.

If you can already see why so many Japanese netizens are chuckling, then congratulations – you’re clearly a Japanese slang master. The rest of you? We’ll see you after the jump.

Read More

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

Six (and a half) essential resources for learning Japanese

As we’ve said before, Japanese isn’t actually as hard to learn as it’s often made out to be. Unlike English, for example, Japanese follows its own grammatical rules far more rigidly, pronunciation is easy because there is only one variant of each vowel sound to choose from (none of this tomayto/tomahto business), and it’s possible to create entire, perfectly meaningful and valid sentences without uttering a single pronoun or bothering to conjugate a verb.

Nevertheless, the language will not magically seep into you through a desire to speak it alone — you still need to encounter and study it as often as possible. With that in mind, we’d like to present to you the six and a half resources that no dedicated student of the Japanese language should ever be without. Oh, and the good news is some of them are completely free.

Read More

Good grief! It’s a Snoopy-themed Japanese tea house!

Good grief! It’s a Snoopy-themed Japanese tea house!

Japan’s favourite cartoon dog continues his quest for country-wide domination this month with a brand new Snoopy-themed cafe scheduled to open in Oita Prefecture on April 19th. The cafe’s theme fuses Snoopy cartoons and traditional Japanese style, or wa (和). The new venture comes hot on the tails of Snoopy x Japanesque, a collaboration last year that saw the cute line-drawn character from Charles M. Schulz’s comics combined with traditional Japanese artisan works.

Read More

What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

What does “Konnichiwa” really mean? Understanding Japanese greetings

Well, good afternoon/evening/morning/day everyone! Today we’re going to talk about Japanese greetings and what they really mean.

Just as in English, “Konnichiwa” or “Good day” is a greeting that is technically an idiom with a complex and near-forgotten past. Just as English language greetings tend to stem from bastardizations of foreign loan words and/or full sentences that have been gradually shortened over the years, “konnichiwa” is actually a shortened version of a full and meaningful greeting, because, if anything, human beings are a lazy sort with a bad habit of cutting corners whenever possible.

Read More

International Court of Justice orders halt to Japanese whaling

International Court of Justice orders halt to Japanese whaling

It’s no secret that you can buy whale meat in Japan. It’s served in schools to young children and even offered up 16 different ways at this shop in Tokyo. In fact, the Japanese have had a history of whaling that dates back to the 12th century. In recent history, however, Japan’s whaling program has been condemned by the international community and its practice of consuming whale meat proven unhealthy. But both whaling and the eating of whale meat, whether you agree with it or not, may be a thing of the past as a result of a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice.

Read More

Getting a haircut in Japan: A survival guide

Getting a haircut in Japan: A survival guide

Getting a haircut in another country – in a foreign language – can be a daunting experience. We’ve all heard stories about that one unfortunate soul who, just wanting a trim, indicated a few centimetres between thumb and forefinger, only for the hairdresser to think that was how much they wanted to remain on their head and start lopping off hair left, right and centre.

Japan being Japan, of course there are a few surprising and funny things they do at salons that are different from back home too! But with some simple words and phrases under your belt, you can visit a Japanese hair salon with confidence.  Join us after the jump for a guide to surviving – and hopefully enjoying – a haircut in Japan!

Read More

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4