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May 19, 2011

How to improve your English: Steer clear of Japanese English

Filed under: Teaching English — RICKY @ 8:20 pm
My "How to improve your English" column has been on summer vacation, but it is back with a vengeance! Read on for more. Over the past decades, Japan has been flooded with American culture, and while this is fun for Japanese people who aim to broaden their horizons, and convenient for foreigners like me who live here, the Japanese language has suffered significantly due to an overuse and especially misuse of Japanized English which is also called "Japanese English". I don't know why and it seems awkward but Japanese English is often inaccurate and confusing. Here are some examples: 1- "Mansion": In American English, a mansion is defined as a large, gorgeous house of over 8,000 square feet (740 m 2). So when I first arrived in Japan and almost everybody was telling me they lived in a mansion, I was like "Wow, everybody is wealthy here!" Truth is, "mansion" in Japanese English simply means "apartment"! 2- "High tension": Another term that has foreigners perplexed. In English it straightforwardly refers to high electrical voltage, such as in high-tension wires used to carry electrical power over long distances. In Japanese English it does not refer to wires, but to people. If someone tells you "you have high tension" they mean to tell you "you're energetic"! 3- "Rinse": In English you rinse your hair with water after washing it. In Japanese English you would rinse your hair with a conditioner. When I first got to Japan I had a really hard time buying conditioner. No matter how often I repeated "I'm looking for conditioner", all I would get was bewildered looks! 4- "Talent": Don't be fooled by the Japanized word "talent", or "talento" as it is pronounced. It refers to the many TV personalities that appear on quiz shows and the popular "variety shows". Unfortunately, quite a few of them are not very talented, so the term is a bit misleading. In English "talent" means special natural ability or a great potential for achieving success. 5- "Pine": In the summer dessert menus are abundant with pine ice cream, pine pudding and pine mousse. The Japanese simply left the "apple" out and renamed this tropical fruit "pine". In English, however, pine refers to an evergreen tree common in the Northern hemisphere. 私は英語とスペイン語の先生です。
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