Why do the Japanese pronounce English like katakana?

As well as the obvious reasons (the many consonant sounds which can exist without vowels after them in English but only with vowels in Japanese, use of katakana in teaching English in Japanese schools and language learning materials), it’s recently occurred to me that some of my students are adding the katakana vowel sounds to give themselves thinking time.

I first noticed that some were using a long and intrusive sound even when there is usually a short and almost imperceptible sound in Japanese in situations like final k and final sh. A couple of weeks later I worked out that it was exactly those students who needed time to think of what they were going to say, translate in their heads etc who were adding the most intrusive extra vowel sounds to their English.

Why do the Japanese say “presentator”?

I’d always assumed what this Japanese site says, that this Japanese version of “presenter” was a made-in-Japan word made to sound like other words like “commentator”. I therefore told a Belgian student of mine to start worrying about picking up Janglish when the word came out of his mouth. However, it turns out he was right when he told me it is used there too. As there are few if any recent borrowings from Dutch into Japanese (though many in much earlier history), it still seems likely that this is just coincidence and it was actually created in Japan.

For much more on Janglish/ Japanglish/ Japanese English/ Japlish, there’s loads more on JapanExplained, or have just updated my full list and made a collection of my favourites on my English teaching blog:

TEFLtastic Janglish dictionary

Janglish which we should all start using

Why does cos-play have a (semi-) English name?

It could be because the idea also came from an English speaking country, if this story from a recent edition of the BBC Radio programme Boston Calling is be be believed:

“Some early Japanese fans went to Star Trek conventions, saw them dressing up in the US and brought that back to Japan”

Cos-play is short for “costume play” and in Japanese means any kind of dressing up, unlike its English language use only for anime-related dressing up since it was borrowed (back?) from Japanese.

Why mother con not mother com?

Mazaa kon is short for “mother complex” and is the Janglish expression for mama’s boy/ Oedipus complex. As in English, Japanese words spelt with n change to an m sound before p. Unlike English, there is no chance of actually replacing it with an m sound in the spelling as n is the only consonant Japanese syllables can end with and the final consonant in borrowed words that end in m is always followed by a vowel (e.g. chiimu for team). This therefore leaves a rather strange “orphan n” when mazaa kompurekkusu (which would be spelt mazaa konpurekkusu) is shortened to mazaa con with an n sound, as the only other option would be to change the n (pronounced m) in the original to mu.

Different in Japlish and Konglish

Just posted a pretty big list on my TEFL blog here.

The same in Japlish and Konglish

Have made a list over on my TEFL blog. More than you might think, given the tricky history between the two countries!

English made in Japan/ Korea and used in both

Why do the Japanese say “scrap” for newspaper clippings?

…  therefore completely losing the meaning of something you should throw away.

According to the book on Japlish I’m reading at the moment, it comes from “scrapbook”, which makes sense.

Why do the Japanese say “doctor stop”?

According to English in Japanese by Akira Miura it originally came from a doctor stopping a boxing match and was only later applied to doctors stopping you drinking etc.

Why do the Japanese pronounce dozen “dasu”?

Losing a final n is very uncommon when English words are borrowed into Japanese, and this doesn’t seem to be a borrowing from another language, so it’s always been a puzzle to me.

According to English in Japanese by Akira Miura, the pronunciation might have been taken from the written abbreviation “doz”.

A whole article of mine on Japlish pronunciation here:

Pronunciation changes in Japanese English

How did fantastic become fantajikku in Japanese?

It doesn’t follow regular pronunciation changes, which would make it “fantasutikku” or “fantasuchikku”.

According to English in Japanese by Akira Miura it might have been derived from the title of the Disney film Fantasia rather than just being a pronunciation change from fantastic.

I’ve written a whole article on Japanese English pronunciation changes here.

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