Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Easy to Flub up Words

EASY TO FLUB UP WORDS
間違いやすい単語

I had intended to write on a quite different topic, however my parents and sister came to visit Japan and changed all that.  My mother reminded me how difficult it is to get just the right meaning across.  Today we will look at a few ways of communicating and miscommunicating in Japanese & English. 

-= CONTENTS =-

1. Words easy for the henna gaikokujin to flub up
2. Words easy for the henna nihonjin to flub up
3. Words in English and Japanese with same sound but entirely different meaning


** WORDS EASY FOR THE HENNA GAIKOKUJIN TO FLUB UP **

A THOUGHT:

Japanese pronunciation requires careful practice to get it right...  
  • おいしい oishii (delicious) --> うし ushi (cow)  

** I remember eating at a Mister Donuts coffee shop the first month I came to Japan.  A friend and I were enjoying our donuts when a Japanese waitress came by.  My friend while pointing to her donut immediately blurted out, "KORE WA USHI DESU! UUUUSHI!" (This is a cow! A COW, I tell you!)  The bewildered waitress smiled and went away. 

  • もしもし moshi moshi (hello (on the phone)) --> むしむし mushi mushi (bug bug)  

** Both my mother and a good friend have call waiting in Florida. When they see a call from me, an invariable むしむし comes out. Of course they mean to say もしもし but they always say むしむし. I've mentioned that to both of them several times, but I still get bugged.

A THOUGHT:

A's and O's can be very important...  
  • かわいい kawaii (cute) --> こわい kowai (scary, frightening)

** A friend of mine related his experience with these words.  His teacher showed him pictures of her children.  He looked at them with a smile and said, 'KOWAI!'

His teacher angrily responded, "IT'S 'KAWAI'!"  Apparently there is a difference.

  • ください kudasai (please) --> 臭い kusai (stinky, foul smell)  

** My mother trying her best to sound natural in Japanese ( which meant to speak fast ) said this to my wife's mother: "OCHA KUSAI." (The tea is stinky.) My wife's mother thought she was commenting on her tea until she realized my mum's intended meaning was, "OCHA KUDASAI." (Please give me tea.)    

** WORDS EASY FOR THE HENNA NIHONJIN TO FLUB UP **

  • RICE ( 御飯 gohan )  --> LICE ( shirami )

** Japanese have a hard time distinguishing the R's and the L's. This makes for some interesting sentences.  I had a Japanese friend who was asked, "What food do you like?"  She replied, "I eat LICE everyday."  I don't think the other person had a high regard for Japanese cuisine after that.  

  • BATH ( お風呂 ofuro )  --> BUS ( バース ba-su )  

** Another difficult English sound is the 'TH.'  Some Japanese people after stating their intentions of taking a bath are confused when they get asked, "Where are you going?"

  • MOUTH ( kuchi ) --> MOUSE ( ネズミ nezumi )  

** Along the same line as above ' mouth ' often becomes ' mouse .'  Several years ago, I was teaching body parts to a class of Japanese elementary students.  When I got to the mouth, I heard the assisting teacher explain to the students that the pronunciation was the same as in 'Mickey MOUSE!' Ah... the perils of teaching English in Japan!    

** WORDS IN ENGLISH AND JAPANESE WITH SAME SOUND **

  • PSYCHO (crazy) === 最高 saikou (the best, the greatest)  

** I have a Canadian friend who was constantly being picked on by a Japanese man.  Finally fed up, she turned to him and said, 'You are PSYCHO!'  He just looked at her admiringly and said, 'Thank you!'  

  • RAMBO (first blood) === 乱暴 ranbou (violent, rough)

** This is a very interesting coincidence.  Perhaps someone should inform Mr. Stalone.  

AND LASTLY FOR NOW,  

  • TACO (Mexican oishi food) === たこ tako (Octopus)

** From time to time new-to-Japan foreigners get asked the TAKO question.  "Do you like TAKO?"  Almost invariably the image of tortillas and chili sauce makes the foreigner answer, "YES!"  -- Be warned, a Japanese TAKO is very different from a Mexican TACO.  

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Entertaining and excellent warning

I found this to be educating for both the Japanese speaker and the English speaker, as well as those learning either langugae. With the rather humorous stories behind each homophone (word that's spoken with a similar sound to another but spelled differently), it makes sense why it's important to keep the foreign accent in mind when speaking.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Support those who Support TJP!

Click here to learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com
<