Japanese English, Engrish, Japlish or just plain rubbish??

Giggling aloud to a Japanzine article on Engrish Japanese band names without a single feeling of middle class guilt that I might be insensitive in some way to some person made me finally face my demons and post my offending post- the one that has 23 year-old female sociology graduates from my school chasing me down to scalp me. Enjoy, and then join the lynch mob…

“Japanese English”, “Engrish”, “Japlish” or just plain rubbish??
You might never have heard all of the expressions “Nihon-sei English”, “Japanese English”, “Engrish” or “Japlish”, but you have certainly come across the results- printed in bold and nonsensical words across T-shirts, causing confusion and/ or amusement on menus and street signs, and causing incomprehension when we least expect it in English and Japanese language classrooms. And with thousands of English words in the Japanese language and thousands more not yet absorbed but floating around being used and misused day to day in the classroom and in the workplace, the Japanese use of English is not going to be getting any less Japanese!  Although many of the examples below come from the (non-teaching) site Enrish.com and most are provided purely for your entertainment, there are a few that have come up in my classroom and might be worth a mention in yours. As you read through, please choose at least 5 you could use as examples in class: (NB: ones with speech marks are supposed to be things people could say, the others are all written examples on things such as T-shirts and notebooks)

  • “I usually eat a pan for breakfast”
  • “What’s your job?” “I am a bite”
  •  Dank- high quality fresh bread and confectionary
  • “I want to give my grandfather a high vision”
  •  “I always feel embarrassed sitting on a silver seat on the train”
  • I live in a one room mansion”
  • “I want to buy my car”
  • “My sister wants to change to man to man”
  •  “All the men who have barcodes look terrible”
  • “When I was young I often went on a girl hunt, but now I just go fishing”
  • “In my first apartment there was no room for living”
  • “Working at the front is very enjoyable”
  • “He is standing on form number 3”
  • “I eat jam sand every day for breakfast”
  • “I took my children to the shops to buy some new hard”
  • “Sorry I was late. I got stuck in the neck”
  • “I had a very heavy suitcase, so I gave it to the boy”
  • “I bought some shade for my new apartment”
  • Used sweat
  • “I spent two hours with my girlfriend practicising strokes”
  • (On a bed side clock) Alarming instructions
  • Azabu Psycho Clinic
  • Leave your behind and welcome to here
  • “I’ve never seen a real father, only on TV”
  • “We stood on a mountain listening to the rock”
  • “I still don’t know how to crawl”
  • “There were so many people standing by the cherry tree and flashing”
  • “Let’s not walk by that river, I don’t like the smell of plants”
  • This mint gives you strong mouth and refreshing wind
  • “Will Paul Sac please expose himself to a stewardess immediately?”
  • For rest rooms, go back towards your behind
  • You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid
  • Ladies have fits upstairs
  • Thank you for coming in Hokkaido
  • “I have a good table manner
  • We accept orders to take away your curry
  • We serve people like you as good food
  • Beware of being eaten by children due to small parts
  • Warning, keep out of children
  • Please leave a pet outside
  • Please call me your telephone
  • “My favourite anime is Toy Story”
  • “Are salarymen different in your country?”
  • “I had a complete overhaul”
  • “Hilary Clinton used to be fast lady”
  • “I couldn’t eat all my ranch”
  • “This software is the latest virgin”
  • “In America, you always have to give the waiter a chip”
  • “Our teacher told us to cut our wrists into 10 pieces”
  • “He took off his clothes and got in the bus”
  • “I rub my mother very much”
  • “OK, let’s have a branch together”
  • “I couldn’t pat the ball into the last hole”
  • “Before the guests came I put a new rag on the living room floor”
  • “I went to the doctor because I had a lamp under my skin”
  • “Ichiro broke his butt 8 times last season”
  • “This dessert is berry good”
  •  “Come and see my new cheek desk”
  • “I love shitty life”
  • Pocari Sweat
  • Black Man Pants
  • Restaurant and Café White Lover
  • Lip gross
  • Stuff entrance
  • Eye rashes perm
  •  If you want to do a vowel movement, don’t stop
  • After you vomit, rinse your mouse
  • Bone free to follow your heart
  • We pray for General MacArthur’s erection
  • For your bland new days
  • Remember to flash the toilet
  • I never thought I’d be frying over a jungle
  • “We drove along the skyline”
  • “This is not my mind”
  • “I ate too much Viking”
  • “I’m in the mood for a medium-sized jockey”
  •  “My teacher wrote it on the whiteboard using magic”
  • “I am going to stop eating bread to become more smart”
  • Hyper Nonsense World Tabasco Shower
  • Do not cover, do not enter, do not question, do not destroy, take my head
  • Primitive cool- collective heterosexual scenario and turn the women red
  • It is great and I want you who are the bag which is easy to use to surely use
  • This cute mild curry uses 100% Japanese apple and cheerful hamster
  • J.Quick&Hard.co., Jaguar
  • I’ve always been impressed by natural low
  • After a clam comes a storm
  • Let’s enjoy your life
  • Use your brain to read English
  • Man can’t live without air and water and this bag. We trust to divine providence
  • I’m a foot soldier. No human! Go ape!
  • Light Drink and Salad- Nice Eat You?
  • Not to be used for the other use
  • This coat is warmer than my family
  • Venice, Italy: City of canals for woman cyclist
  • Casual yet rich in substance. That’s how you are, and so is Blendy coffee
  • Happy the birth of Jesus Christ the girl
  • You! Invaders! Get you the hot bullets of shotgun to die!

Which ones you chose probably depends on what kind of mistake it is and why the mistake was made. In fact, “mistake” is probably not the right word at all for language that is provided for purely decorative reasons on bags, T-shirts, pencil cases, gift bags etc. and that even Japanese with a high level of English seem to be able to completely screen out (e.g. “Primitive cool- collective heterosexual scenario and turn the women red”). Others are probably meant to be read, or at least noticed, but only to provide a particular atmosphere rather than a specific meaning (e.g. the English language version of a manga title- “Hyper Nonsense World Tabasco Shower”).

Have another look through the list above (trying not to giggle so much this time) and find at least one example of each of the following reasons:

The person who said or wrote this:

1. Didn’t know they were using a word that is taken into Japanese from another language (e.g. German) and so is not English
2. Didn’t know they were using a expression “made in Japan” from English words that is not understandable outside Japan
3. Didn’t know that the short form of an English word they were using is only used in Japan
4. Didn’t know that the English word or expression has other meanings that it doesn’t have in Japanese
5. Didn’t know that a word has more limited meanings in English
6. Made a grammatical mistake with a form that doesn’t exist in Japanese
7. Used a Japanese English word or expression that has a more limited meaning in English than it originally had in Japanese
8. Used an English word or expression that has more meanings in Japanese than in English
9. Made a pronunciation mistake with a sound that doesn’t exist in Japanese
10. Didn’t understand the racist, sexist or other negative connotations a word has in English
11. Made a spelling mistake
12. Used a word or expression that has different meanings in Japanese and English
13. Used the words purely to create an atmosphere or effect and wasn’t worried about the meaning
14. Was just having a bad day!
15. No idea what they were trying to say or why they were trying to say it!!

No room here for all the answers, but to give you a clue the examples  are arranged in the same order as the categories above. If you want to know more and the reasons behind them please keep reading in the coming newsletters, where we will have a look at the categories one at a time.

Click on the Janglish category below for much much more, including a whole dictionary.

This entry was posted in Error correction, Janglish, Teaching English in Japan. Bookmark the permalink.

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