Wondering, wandering, and making sense of the world.


Japanese is interesting

This was originally part of the last post but then I realized it should be on its own.

Japanese is almost the same way with Finnish where there are no similarities with English, so I usually don’t  hear Japanese people use English words in the wrong way. However, there are a lot of foreign words that have entered the Japanese language, and they don’t always have the same meaning from their original language. Furthermore, many Japanese people don’t know where the words came from and usually assume English, so you can find them trying to use words like “Castella” (Portuguese) or “Arbeit” (German) as if they were English words.

Foreign words that enter the Japanese language are also changed to fit Japanese pronunciation. I once pronounced “Satan” as sa-ta-nn (think Santa with the n sound moved to the end) instead of the proper say-ten and was promptly made fun of by my high school classmates. Usually, however,  most native English speakers won’t understand Japanese pronunciation of English words in the Japanese language unless they have some basic understanding of Japanese sounds.

Wikipedia has a great list of gairaigo, Japanese words with foreign origins, and wasei-eigo, literally “English made in Japan,” Japanese words that are formed from English and other foreign words like “Free Dial” (furree dia-yall) which translates to “toll free call.” Other examples include “Cosplay” (ko-su-pu-lay) which is the combination of costume and play. My favorite is “Karaoke” which is actually a combination of the Japanese word kara, meaning empty, and the abbreviation of the English word Orchestra.


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