Japanglish

Local hair salon

Local hair salon

Learning Japanese and living in it’s country of origin makes it practically impossible to avoid using Japanglish in your everyday speech. There are just some words in Japanese that don’t have an English translation. Probably the best known word is genki- meaning lively, healthy, spirited, etc. That’s as close of an explanation we’ve come up with. For anyone living in Japan, this word is definitely part of daily speech as it holds it’s own meaning and is among the most common of Japanese words. “How are you?” is “Genki desu ka.” 

Another good example is mendokusai meaning “I can’t be bothered.” Granted, mendokusai can be conjugated and used in a variety of ways. But, it’s just mendokusai to say it in English. 

Granted, there is the reverse, as Japanese uses many English words. Of course, they are always said with the Japanese pronunciation and used in slightly different ways. A good example is donmain or “don’t mind.” It’s actual meaning is “don’t worry about it.” It’s always said to another person. Of course, in English, you really shouldn’t go around telling people to “don’t mind.”

How I feel when I hear odd English

How I feel when I hear odd English

One of my other favorite examples is rirakusu shite or “please relax.” The best part is, most use these words knowing that they are another language but not realizing it’s English. Often I am pleasantly surprised when I want to know a word in Japanese, and magically, it’s just the English word.

When I say English is used in Japanese, I mean it. It’s everywhere! Always in interesting ways. Of course, there is the odd German or French word thrown in, which always confuses my students. “No, pan is Portugese, it’s bread in English.” “Eeeeeeh?”

Japanese students are always using Japanglish in the most creative ways. One of their favorites is cureiji- “crazy.” I.e. “He is crazy boy!”  “Oh, really?” “Hai sensei, really”

Then, of course, there is the odd one out. The ones that sound like English, but aren’t. Best example- KY. As in “Oh, he’s a KY kind of person.” KY in Japanese means someone who can’t read social situations. KY in American English? If you don’t already know, you’re going to have to ask your mother to re-explain the birds and the bees. Or at least, their by-products.

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3 thoughts on “Japanglish

  1. I have a Chinese friend learning Japanese who has trouble with the English words brought over….. of course… anyone who can speak Chinese has all the kanji pre-memorized. That’s gotta be a huge help.

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