language

North Korean officials, Gaddafi and more get the heavy metal treatment from talented guitarist

A while back, Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura captured the world’s attention after a surreal outburst at a press conference regarding his alleged misuse of taxpayers’ money. No doubt seeing fertile ground for comedy, one creative musician then made Nonomura the stuff of Internet legend by setting the man’s sobs to a guitar track.

Guitarist Felix Martin and his talented collaborators operate under a similar concept, setting guitar, drums, and bass to speeches from North Korean officials, Hugo Chavez, and others. This project isn’t for laughs, though. With an ear for the rhythm and pitch of the spoken word, not to mention masterful heavy metal stylings, Martin and company elevate the aptly named Human Transcription project to the realm of art. Politics and propaganda have never sounded so good.

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Expats give their opinions on Chinglish, China’s garbled English translations 【Photos】

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.

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Russian beauty talks about troubles foreigners face when first moving to Japan 【Video】

Japan attracts foreigners of all kinds and people decide to come here for all sorts of different reasons. But, as with any culture different from one’s own, there can be some aspects of Japanese culture that are hard for foreigners to wrap their heads around or get used to, such as deciding if you should help a crying girl.

Ashiya, a beautiful Russian expat, recently shared some of her difficulties upon coming to Japan on her YouTube channel*. We have a feeling that these will strike a chord with many other expats and internationalists interested in Japan as well, Russian or not.

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Struggling with Japanese? Let Tako lend you a hand…or five

Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.

Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.

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A brief history of shorthand in Japan

The video pictured above was posted on YouTube about five years ago and resulted in several comments wondering what the woman was scribbling onto papers at a furious rate. Some suspected it might have been Arabic or really sloppy Japanese when actually it was a demonstration of Waseda shorthand.

Even with English’s relatively simple letters, shorthand was in big demand before the digital era in order to take down information quickly. It shouldn’t be a big leap to assume Japanese with multiple character sets and kanji would welcome a faster writing system. Thus several styles of Japanese shorthand were developed over the 20th century. Let’s take a look at a few.

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Nihon-no: Is an entirely English-speaking village coming to Tokyo?

What is the best way to learn a language? Many foreign people in Japan will tell you living here and being immersed in Japanese is a pretty good way to pick up the lingo. When you realize you have to be able to speak and understand the language in order to live your daily life, it certainly becomes a huge motivation to make the Japanese language your own.

Do you know what isn’t a particularly good method of learning a language? Four classes a week of language learning taught in your native language with little to no chances to utilize what you’ve learned.

As the whole world knows, the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo in 2020, and Tokyo wants to be as prepared as possible. The city is trying to do everything it can to improve its citizens’ grasp of English, and there is now talk of plans to create an “English Village” where everything will be conducted in the language so many Japanese wish they were fluent in.

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Test your Japanese onomatopoeia skills against YouTuber Sharla in Japan

Have you ever wondered why Pikachu says, “Pika-pika”? It’s just a random noise that sounds like his name, right? Wrong! Pika-pika is actually an onomatopoeia for something sparkling, like lightning– how fitting for a Pokemon whose ability is static electricity! But wait a minute, flashing light doesn’t make a sound! How can it be an onomatopoeia?

Japanese can be, more times than not, a tricky language. Onomatopoeia not only have three distinct categories that far surpass the narrow range of those in English, but can also be used mid-sentence and as various parts of speech. Even seasoned veterans of Japanese can’t always figure out the meanings.

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Flipping the kanji for “husband” upside-down reveals slightly worrying double meaning

The common stereotype about women among sexually frustrated, mostly parents’ basement-dwelling, men is that girls only go for attractive, rich guys, and never the nice, tender guys with warm hearts and chic fedoras.

Well, when it comes to one of those observations, anyway, there appears to be at least one cultural precedent of a diabolical hidden message that seemingly proves the stereotype right in one of the very words that defines men and women’s relationship in Japan…

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Smartphone game turns mushrooms into cute anime girls, still gives foreigners wacky accents

There aren’t many foods I hate more than mushrooms. I’ve got issues with both their taste and texture, and, to my eyes, they just look kind of gross, no matter which variety we’re talking about.

But while I don’t think I’ll ever completely come around on the idea of eating fungi, it’s nice to at least have a different visual image for them, thanks to a new smartphone game that’s turned a half-dozen types of mushrooms into cute anime girls.

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We desperately want to hire these adorable Indian freelance “idols”

We’ve already seen a lot of “boyfriend for hire” stuff around Asia, which seems to be really into the idea of paying for romantic encounters, but until now we’ve never seen someone offering their boyish good looks and charming company for free.

Meet Dev and San, two kindhearted Indian models working as freelance “idols” – a popular term in Asia for models you can hire for a variety of situations – for the low, low price of absolutely nothing.

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Famous Japanese television personality mimics what foreign languages sound like to non-speakers

Kazuyoshi Morita – better known as Tamori-san, the pet name that a loving Japanese public has addressed him by for decades – is one of the longest-running comedians to appear on Japanese TV. He’s been around so long, we assume he got his start doing stand-up before TVs were even invented.

In addition to being the longest-running host of a live television program, having hosted the widely beloved morning variety show Waratteii Tomou, Tamori-san is also famous for his talent in mono mane (doing impressions). While this is common knowledge in Japan, it apparently took a decade-or-so-old clip of a (still very old-looking) younger Tamori-chan doing spot-on impressions of what foreign languages sound like to non-speakers to wake the rest of the world up to his unique skill set.

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Japanese dictionary removes heteronormative definitions of love and sex

One of Japan’s leading dictionaries has made a significant (and arguably long overdue) step towards acknowledging and normalizing homosexuality by revising the entries for words relating to love and sex. They have removed restrictive references to these feelings existing only between a man and a woman, opening up the definition of love to everyone — gay, straight, or otherwise.

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Cat got your tongue? 10 unusual Japanese phrases that use the word ‘cat’

Cats. Where to begin? They’re cute, cunning, easily offended, happy with or without us and we could never imagine our lives without them. They are rich in mystery and surprise and it’s no wonder the Internet is flooded with pictures and videos of them.

Japan also has a long history of interactions with cats, from believing they can foresee natural disasters to being creatures of vengeance, out to kill humans. Because of this, there are some great Japanese words that use “neko” (猫), the word for “cat,” in combination with another character. Learn some Japanese, and fall even more in love with cats through our list of 10 “catty” Japanese words.

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Lonely diners discover an easy way to get handwritten confessions of love from Yoshinoya staff

Anyone who has watched even a handful of episodes of Japanese anime will have heard the words “suki” or “daisuki” at some point. Literally meaning “like” and “like very much” (daisuki is, after all, written with the characters 大 “big” and 好き “like”), these two words are used not just when describing one’s preference for a particular pokémon or pizza topping, but when declaring deep, “more-than-friends” feelings for someone.

It would seem, however, that staff at Japanese fast food chain Yoshinoya have recently been unwittingly handing declarations of love to especially peckish patrons following the arrival of a popular seasonal dish, with these handwritten love letters becoming the subject of great amusement online.

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18 Japanese words understood around the world

If you’re an enthusiastic linguaphile like myself, you probably spend a good part of each day A) Thinking up ways to make your friends groan yet again with all your linguistic knowledge (e.g. dressing up as a “dead language” for Halloween), and B) Getting super excited whenever you discover the etymology of a new word (also, C) Debating which flavor of ice cream to buy based solely on how witty its name is).

One of my favorite linguistically related topics to contemplate is the constant borrowing of words and shifts in meaning that takes place among the world’s languages. Students of Japanese are often surprised to discover the huge inventory of ‘loan words’ in Japanese that were borrowed from English which have often either changed drastically from their original pronunciations or are combined in different ways to create new, Japanese-made English terms.

But how about the flip side of that–Japanese words that have been imported into other languages? Join us after the jump for a look at some of them!

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New app helps you translate Japanese and Chinese offline using smartphone camera

With their complex writing systems, getting around in Japan or China can be stressful for even the most seasoned of tourists. Sure, you could carry a travel dictionary in your pocket while you go sightseeing, but how are you supposed to look up all those funny looking sticks and squiggles when you don’t even know how to pronounce them? Often the locals try to be helpful by providing an English translation, but there are reasons why that doesn’t always work out. If only there was a way to just wave your magic smartphone over some unintelligible text and have it provide a reliable translation on the spot. Well, as we discovered over at Shanghai Listthere’s an app for that.

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At least a few of these packaging “fails” from around the world had to be intentional

It turns out that when you put a bunch of mostly teens and 20-somethings in a largely unsupervised warehouse setting, then pay them minimum wage or so to engage in mindless physical labor like stuffing things into boxes and cans, you’re going to get the odd bit of mischief. And it turns out this may be a global phenomenon!

Case in point, these packaging “fails” found around the world. Sure, at first glance, some of them seem like bad translations or factory mix-ups, but you can tell at least a few are obviously the result of bored factory workers or store stockers:

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Nose songs, bug teeth and dirt sticks: 10 Japanese words translated way too literally

As anyone who has studied Japanese for any length of time will tell you, leaning lists of vocabulary can be tough. On some occasions, the very first time you’ll meet a word will be on paper; some abstract or complex term that’s almost impossible to remember as it’s so rarely used in the real world. Other times, you’ll have heard–or perhaps even used a word yourself–in conversation, but when encountering it on paper for the first time it may appear completely alien due to the characters with which it’s written.

Thankfully, though, since kanji characters are based on meaning rather than speech sounds, it can be easy to decipher a written word even if you’re still not sure how to pronounce it. But sometimes, translating a word too literally can land you in all kinds of trouble, or at the very least leave you chuckling to yourself while native Japanese speakers are left wondering what’s so funny…

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English fail or win? Japanese actress loves gardening, hates bullshit (according to her T-shirt)

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.”

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Japanese actor’s unfortunate choice of t-shirt has net users amused, doubting his English ability

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.

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