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English in Japanese

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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Infidel » Wed 10.12.2005 12:14 pm

The reason Japanese mispronounce English so badly and think they are pronouncing it correctly is because their pronounciation keys are in katakana.

Katakana English is the problem. If they stopped distributing katakana dictionaries and used a proper pronounciation key, thinks would be better. Blame the ministry of education.

Edit, bleh, posted before I got to Kero's post.
Last edited by Infidel on Wed 10.12.2005 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Spaztick » Wed 10.12.2005 2:06 pm

Yea, you really do need to use the native alphabet to learn the language. One thing I don't like about Romaji is that we use R's to represent the らりるれる sounds, when really it's somewhere in between an "R" and "L," although I think other than that we can duplicate Japanese sounds in the English alphabet fairly well.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby InsanityRanch » Wed 10.12.2005 5:55 pm

Wow! A really wandering thread, but an interesting one...

As for borrowed words, I have no idea which language (English or Japanese) has more. Depends on what you mean by borrowed. The large percentage of English words that are French are not really "borrowed", I think -- they were imposed by the French speaking conquerers from the 11th century on and became part of the language. The resultant hybrid of Anglo-Saxon and French *is* English, so how can you talk of borrowing?

Japan has been "borrowing" words for even longer -- since the end of the fourth century. A HUGE percentage of Japanese words have Chinese roots -- think of all those on-reading jukugo we struggle to learn. In Japan's case, however, this was the result of an urge to be cosmopolitan and modern, to adopt such modern inventions (for the time) as Buddhism, formal poetry, astronomy (which was largely astrology), etc.

Japan has gone through several cycles of madly adopting foreign cultural imports, followed by a period of shutting off the pipeline to assimilate the new information, then again opening up to exciting "modern" thought. Many of the things we think of as Japanese derive from the inward-turned times. For instance, a period of isolation from Chinese culture came just before the great surge of Heian literature (like the Genji Monogatari and Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book) in (iirc) the 11th century. The samurai tradition, zen, geisha and many other quintessentially Japanese traditions were refined during the isolationist period of the Shogunate. I really wonder whether at some point soon we will see another withdrawal into Japaneseness -- maybe not as complete, since modern communication makes it tough to shut oneself off entirely.

As for katakana English... sigh. It is a curse, and my Japanese friends who've struggled to be understood universally hate it.

The basic problem is that Japanese has fewer phonemes than English. Therefore, (as people have noted) a number of English consonants simply have no corresponding katakana representation. To make matters worse R and L, or for that matter H and F, S and SH, Z and J etc. seem like essentially the same sound in katakana, so Japanese have a hard time telling those apart.

But vowels are the worst, I think. English has a LOT of vowels, and a lot of small words that differ only in the vowel sound. I have had a Japanese friend come to me nearly in tears because she tried to ask for bags for her purchases and the sales lady brought a box and then glared when she explained she wanted bags. There was the incident related somewhere on the web of a Japanese man who asked for chapstick and was told the store had no chopsticks. Incidents like this really shake a person's confidence!

I suspect that English teachers in Japan mostly have the same problems their students do, as far as pronunciation goes, and the temptation to write vocabulary in katakana (which is easier and more natural than, say, IPA) doesn't help a bit.

I feel very bad for my Japanese friends on this account. I know they work very hard to improve their accents, but it is harder than you might think.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby skrhgh3b » Wed 10.12.2005 7:00 pm

I really wonder whether at some point soon we will see another withdrawal into Japaneseness -- maybe not as complete, since modern communication makes it tough to shut oneself off entirely.


such a scenario seems extremely unlikely in today's global economy where japan still enjoys being a distant second to america.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby WacKostRacKo » Wed 10.12.2005 7:13 pm

accents take years to lose, or lots of effort to fake. I think that alot of it is confidence, if you sound confident with what you are saying, then its easier to understand. The pressure is on the listener to process what you are saying, as opposed to sounding like you dont know the words, and then the pressure is on you. Ive got into the habit of using my hands to describe what i want when im talking japanese, especially if you are requesting something.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 10.12.2005 10:07 pm

[quote]ishnar wrote:
Katakana English is the problem. If they stopped distributing katakana dictionaries and used a proper pronounciation key, thinks would be better. Blame the ministry of education.
[quote]

Actually, this has been changing in the last 3-5 years. Textbooks no longer have katakana pronunciation guides, and use the standard English phonetic system (which I can't read to save my life). Dictionaries are the same.

The Education system with regards to English has taken a massive overhaul in the last few years. Although there are still many teachers using the old method, there are many more teachers teaching correct pronunciation and phonics. (Thank holy lord for phonics. They are my saviour)
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby lomagu » Thu 10.13.2005 5:10 am

A little off track, but while we're talking about katakana pronounciation, I have a question (cause I teach English in Japan).

Not being a native Japanese speaker I don't understand why it's so difficult to not put a "u" or "o" sound at the end of English words when there shouldn't be one. For example, today, I was trying to help one of my lower level students say "is". She kept saying "izu" though.

Are there any Japanese people out there with 'good' pronounciation & tips/hints I can tell my students?
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Infidel » Thu 10.13.2005 10:02 am

have you tried breaking it down and working on the 's' sound, which is a 'z' sound, but still. Try to get her te buzz like a bee, then attach the i inthe front. so Izzzzz, and get it shorter and shorter
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby mcanangel » Thu 10.13.2005 11:21 am

Wow, what a wondering thread.....ok here's my 2 cents.

As for pronunciation Any foriener to any language is going to have an accent and make mistakes. live and let live. If a english speaking person bothers you than that is more of a personal issue, rather than one to blame on the foriener so you should take a step back and look at your issues. English speakers won't say japanese words perfect either. Yes some Americans have a bad attitude and view on somethings, but Im sure that it is that way in every country. I hate when other americans say such things because it gives the rest of us a bad rep. =P no one is perfect, if you can remember that then I think we'll be ok.....as for the english words in Japan, I agree that it is a more recent thing. A lot of companies use it for marketing and for design...its to look cool and modern...but this is just what I've picked up. ^__^
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby nprz » Thu 10.13.2005 2:20 pm

I don't blame individual Japanese about bad English, but rather about what Ishnar said about them teaching English through Katakana. It is impossible to have a proper pronunciation when using katakana.
The fact that they can write grammatically perfect sentences and yet pronounced it like they had katakana subtitles on it. It isn't the person's fault, but the method of instruction.
Also there is no focus on spoken language because it is too difficult to have standard tests on it. Listening comprehension also doesn't actively prevent bad pronunciation.

Overall I think it is getting better and maybe in a generation or two it won't be a big issue.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby AJBryant » Thu 10.13.2005 7:23 pm

I just have to add a couple of things.

English is no great respecter of original meaning or pronunciation in its acquisition of loanwords. Think of the word "pariah." If you pronounce it "right" (by Am. Eng. standards) you'll say /puh RYE uh/ -- but the actual pronunciation in Hindi was /PAR ee ah/.

Another thing. Think of place names. We all use the "English" version of the place name. WHile the Japanese may pronounce them badly, at least they make an attempt to use place names in the languge of the place. We say /MYU nik/, and the Japanese say /muun hen/ for a city the locals call Mûnchen (and we call Munich). We say /prag/ and they say /praha/ for Prague. We say /MOSS koe/ and they say /mos(u)kuwa/ for Moscow (in Russian: Moskva).

It's been said that while some languages borrow loan words, English follows other languages down dark alleys, hits them over the head, and rifles their pockes for random vocabulary and loose grammar.


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RE: English in Japanese

Postby skrhgh3b » Thu 10.13.2005 8:04 pm

seriously, i took a semester of italian and i could not role my r's to save my life, so i'll cut the japanese a generous amount of slack with their english pronunciation, but i think the japaense want to add unnecessary vowels to consonants in english because that's how their native language works, ん being the only lone consonant. but i also got very good at making fun of japanese english: "rettsu supiiku ingurisshu" lol
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Schattenjedi » Thu 10.13.2005 8:13 pm

AJBryant wrote:We say /MYU nik/, and the Japanese say /muun hen/ for a city the locals call Mûnchen (and we call Munich).


It's München.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Rezeyu » Thu 10.13.2005 8:40 pm

I dont see the rpoblem really.. the fact that a ssaid person took the time (or was forced.. depends) to learn another language. I'd be happy there even trying to pronounce it ocrrectly, regardless of how perfect it is. Someone form one nation simply cannot read another language in a aperfect accent. It happens. as long as i can understand it its fine, and if i cant you simply try. You can onyl hope someone in their country would be so patient with you.
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RE: English in Japanese

Postby Infidel » Thu 10.13.2005 9:50 pm

There is a difference between having an accent and being flat out wrong. It was my impression that we were not discussing accents but fundamentaly wrong English/Japanese.

Edit - for tone
Last edited by Infidel on Thu 10.13.2005 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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