food

Pizza Hut Japan asks customers: 'Don’t you hungry?'

58 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

Spend enough time abroad, and eventually you’ll have the strange experience of running into a familiar brand from back home doing something you’d never expect, since the overseas arm is locally managed. Many times, the results are awesome, such as frozen green tea dessert drinks at KFC, cocktails at Burger King, or chocolate-covered fries at McDonald’s branches in Japan.

Still, sometimes the fact that no one from the home-country headquarters is keeping too close an eye on things can lead to a bit of embarrassment. For example, it looks like no one bothered to proofread the English text in this recent pamphlet for Pizza Hut in Japan.

As shared by Japanese Twitter user Kazuto Suzuki, Pizza Hut has apparently been handing out dual-language pamphlets that ask the garbled question “Don’t you hungry?” and follow up with the puzzling choice of “at that time,PizzaHut!”

When weird English like this rears its head, there’s often an explanation for it (as we’ve looked at before), so let’s figure out which exact muscles Pizza Hut had to flex incorrectly to get so tongue-tied.

If you look up “hungry” in an English/Japanese dictionary, it’ll tell you that “onaka ga suku” is the Japanese equivalent, and that’s completely correct, as far as the meaning goes. The pitfall, though, is that “onaka ga suku” literally means “(my/your) stomach is empty,” and making things trickier is that “suku” isn’t just the adjective “empty,” but a complete-package verb that means “be empty.”

So if you were a Japanese copywriter with only a limited command of the English language, but you know that you’re supposed to use “do” for questions with verbs, you might end up with “Do you hungry?” instead of “Are you hungry?”

Moving to the backside of the pamphlet, “at that time,PizzaHut!” is a pretty good translation of its accompanying Japanese text, “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut!”

At least as far as vocabulary and grammar goes. Not sure why “at” isn’t capitalized, there’s no space after the comma, or what the reason is for rendering “PizzaHut” all as one word like it’s RocketNews24 or something.

The problem here is that Japanese is a much more contextual language than English. With the question on the front of the pamphlet already establishing the topic of the conversation as the reader’s level of hunger, in Japanese there’s no need to say “If you are, then you should call Pizza Hut and order a pizza.” As a matter of fact, saying anything more than “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut” would, in Japanese, end up sounding wordy and lose a lot of the snappiness the ad is going for.

Still, it’s surprising that Pizza Hut, being as large a company as it is, didn’t assign someone to check the quality of the English text and propose a much more natural-sounding English version, like “Hungry? Then it’s time for Pizza Hut!” Then again, considering that Pizza Hut is part of the Yum! Brands conglomerate, which also owns Taco Bell (which rolled into Japan last year touting its delicious “Supreme Court Beef” tacos), maybe we should have expected linguistics to be pretty low on the list of priorities.

Source: Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Pizza Hut’s ita-campaign has people lining up around the block -- Pizza evolution! We try mochi-dough “stick pizza” from Roppongi’s EU Shokudou -- Baked fresh to your specs in just one minute: 800 Degrees Pizza opens first store in Japan

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58 Comments
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The problem here is that Japanese is a much more contextual language than English.

No, the problem is that Pizza Hut didn't bother to get a native English speaker to write, or at least proofread, their pamphlet. It's just sloppy for an international company.

23 ( +26 / -4 )

I think there is a case for "Japanese English" if it is intended for a Japanese audience. We hear this all the time. JR refers to its first class cars as "Green Cars", for instance. In its literature Toyota refers to a steering wheel as the "handoru" (handle). Many coffee shops offer a "morning set". Of course, none of this would get very far in Manhattan.

-9 ( +5 / -13 )

I think there is a case for "Japanese English"

I would agree if they were using phrases within Japanese text. But this was supposedly a bilingual pamphlet.

10 ( +12 / -3 )

@ Strangerland - You know I hate to agree with you, but that first comment was spot on!

The problem here is that Japanese is a much more contextual language than English

So please explain the context of "Feel the oriental woody" I read on a box of laundry detergent in Japan.

9 ( +10 / -2 )

They've also stepped up their internet advertising over the last couple of weeks. Take a look at their homepage menu in English, lots of errors.

It's very hard for me to pick up that phone and order one of these cheap corporate pizzas. Toppings are scant, low quality cheese, and always under cooked. The millionaire who patented the conveyer belt pizza oven should be in prison. The local corporate pizza place with a popular US city name hasn't even figured out after 10+ years in the business, to pop the bubbles while its baking.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Pretty sloppy - the fact that it wasn't caught is indicative of poor management IMO.

What kind of people work in HQ of a foreign corporation but can't speak English?

How many managers and subordinates did this slip through?

If this kind of thing can fall through the cracks one wonders what else is falling through the cracks. Publishing full color glossy pamphlets is expensive stuff.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What kind of people work in HQ of a foreign corporation but can't speak English?

Pretty standard worldwide actually, and not just in Japan. Go into the HQ of Japanese companies in the US - how many people there speak Japanese?

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

'Don’t you hungry?'

For Pizza Hut? No, I don't.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Love it!

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, this is as funny as incorrect Japanese used by some foreigners here. It goes both ways.

StrangerlandMAY. 09, 2016 - 08:13AM JST

No, the problem is that Pizza Hut didn't bother to get a native English speaker to write, or at least proofread, their pamphlet.

I agree, They should have done so before throwing away their money and reputation.

MizuameMAY. 09, 2016 - 08:32AM JST

I think there is a case for "Japanese English" if it is intended for a Japanese audience. We hear this all the time. JR refers to its first class cars as "Green Cars", for instance.

"Green Car" is a brand name and there is nothing wrong with it.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I like McDonald's "Full of beans" coffee campaign. Actually quite clever when you take into account the British English meaning and coffee beans, vitality, and all that, but in popular English (by that I mean even the British English idiom is not in common usage so much these days, and American English is the preferred English studied here at the moment) it means they are a bunch of liars.

As for Pizza Hut, Strangerland is bang on with this one.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Perhaps it's a deliberate error as part of an advertising strategy.

Like Mac's "I'm lovin'it"

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@Strangerland How many of said Japanese companies are making materials specifically aimed at Non English Speaking Japanese in America? Id willing to bet the percentage is a tenth of a percent of the Japanese company's trying to get the non-Japanese speaking foreign cash in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Apart from the funny part and the embarrassment (that I'm not sure they are actually aware of) it is more deep I think.

It means those materials are made very cheap by probably part timer designers payed very low. They didn't asign budget for another part-timer with better language skills. They have to produce lots of PR ideas and stuff for short time, are overworked and bosses are dumb and just want to roll things quickly without actually giving anything to their inexperienced subordinates.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I be hungry for Pizza all da time, but with Domino's buy 1 get 1 free take-out, it be Domino's fer me! ( their Mega-Veggie is mega good! )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yeah, this is as funny as incorrect Japanese used by some foreigners here. It goes both ways.

It's not an equivalent. We are posting on a Japanese news site. They are an international company advertising to English speakers.

@Strangerland How many of said Japanese companies are making materials specifically aimed at Non English Speaking Japanese in America?

What does that have to do with the point I was making?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

“at that time,PizzaHut!” is a pretty good translation of its accompanying Japanese text, “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut!”

No it is not.

Anyone who thinks this is a good translation does not know anything at all about translation.

In English, no-one would ever say “at that time, PizzaHut!”. This alone is enough to tell you it is a bad translation.

A decent (or at least half-decent) translation of “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut!” is "That's when you need Pizza Hut!"

I've been a professional translator for more than a decade. If I submitted a translation like the one above (which I would not really do professionally as copywriting is a whole different field and not my forte) and someone would return it asking where is the 'need' in the Japanese. They may or may not suggest some nonsense like "at that time" as an 'improvement'. It can be endlessly frustrating. Fortunately there are also good clients who take what they paid for without alteration and come back for more.

To go in at the deep end, it is also indicative of general neglect/ disregard/contempt for the opinions of non-Japanese people held by certain specific sections of Japanese society, but that's another whole topic.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Pretty sloppy - the fact that it wasn't caught is indicative of poor management IMO. What kind of people work in HQ of a foreign corporation but can't speak English? How many managers and subordinates did this slip through? If this kind of thing can fall through the cracks one wonders what else is falling through the cracks. Publishing full color glossy pamphlets is expensive stuff.

Just because the name is foreign does not mean the company is. I have not found a full breakdown for Pizza Hut Japan but typically with "foreign operations" of this type, one or more Japanese companies has majority ownership.

Just because the slogan is unnatural Japanese does not mean it will not be effective. The British clothier SuperDry has built a major business on a gibberish Japanese slogan and PRC style Chinese printed on its goods.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SuperGroup

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Haha nice one! Not sure they are targetting foreigners 'only' though (is the whole leaflet in english?). Imo they just want to sound cool or different. They assume their J customers know the word 'hungry', the rest doesn't really matter.

As an aside anglos misspelling italian, french or spanish words (and vice versa) in/on their ads, tags, products etc is also pretty common. Bonne voyage! Bon chance! How many times have we seen that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not sure they are targetting foreigners 'only' though (is the whole leaflet in english?).

That's a good point. From this comment in the article:

Pizza Hut has apparently been handing out dual-language pamphlets

I had been assuming that they were handing out pamphlets in each language. But actually, looking at the given picture, it looks like it may be a pamphlet targeting Japanese people, using (faux-) English text.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I R Hungry! I'm putting Pizza Hut on my list of places to go while I'm there next week.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I gotta get into the translation business, the scope for corporate mischief & sabotage is immense! "Let's Starving!"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No, the problem is that Pizza Hut didn't bother to get a native English speaker to write, or at least proofread, their pamphlet. It's just sloppy for an international company.

Totally agree.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No, the problem is that Pizza Hut didn't bother to get a native English speaker to write, or at least proofread, their pamphlet. It's just sloppy for an international company.

Totally agree. But, and I mean this as an observation, not judgement, as you know most Japanese will say 'We are good at reading and writing English, not speaking' and truly believe the grammar training received in school has equipped them with writing skills. So, most average people think they can do these sentences without any help. (I'm not talking about people who continue to study English, just the average University grad.)

It also reminded me of a brochure of a student's wedding service company 'Do you marry?" ....Why, yes, but only on Saturdays :) It was written by her manager who did not study English, and couldn't speak one word of it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

To go in at the deep end, it is also indicative of general neglect/ disregard/contempt for the opinions of non-Japanese people held by certain specific sections of Japanese society, but that's another whole topic.

I've felt your pain too often, @jpn_guy. The decision-maker (or his chief groveller), lacks the plums to trust himself, never mind the bright young/foreign/subordinate thing deluded that they've been entrusted with a creative work. It happens a lot among Japanese, too, FYI.

As for the slogan, pizza cravers might just be tempted towards a competitor that got the BOGOF copy right, but only to find when taking away (with a nod to threads passim on misrepresentation) that a single pizza is significantly cheaper than single pizza + (claimed) free one.

Do we surprised? No, we don't.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Ever see a Toyota dealership and notice how its called "Toyopet"? Sounds kinda cute, with a bit of ring to it, but it's not the original name.

Actually, this was the result of British distributors flagging the first iteration of the name back in the 70s. Originally, Toyota wanted to combine the name "Toyota" and "outlet", but fortunately for them they took heed in altering their initial result of "Toyolet".

Reminds me of how Fukushima Industries a couple years ago made a new character combining their name and "happy"... "Fukuppy"

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Companies that can't use proper English in their advertising, or that treat foreign language as kazarimono, should be boycotted.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Actually, this (Toyopet) was the result of British distributors flagging the first iteration of the name back in the 70s. Originally, Toyota wanted to combine the name "Toyota" and "outlet", but fortunately for them they took heed in altering their initial result of "Toilet".

Urban myth? The Toyopet brand has been around since the 50s.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Urban myth? The Toyopet brand has been around since the 50s.

Not sure if I got the decade right, but I remember hearing this once on BBC's Top Gear.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Urban myth? The Toyopet brand has been around since the 50s.>

Please let this myth be true, it's great pubtalk

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As has been said before on there pages - if one company design, produce, and distribute cars all over the world (including the Spanish speaking one) with the name 'Pajero' - then anything is possible.

I worked for a foreign company a while back, where copy, printed items sign boards many times were created on the loose by Japanese people who couldn't speak English if their lives depended on it. When pointing out mistakes, I'd often get: "Nah, no one understands this anyway", hinting at that the shimagunikonjo is strong with these people. They don't know, and they don't care.

Just because the name is foreign does not mean the company is. I have not found a full breakdown for Pizza Hut Japan but typically with "foreign operations" of this type, one or more Japanese companies has majority ownership.

This is correct. Many (if not most) foreign companies here are 'operated' by a local company, typically owning the right to use a few brands. I think the mentality (again) of local companies is to focus 100% of their attention to Japanese customers, not those foreigners, and many of them are staffed with unskilled yes-men. However, Pizza Hut is a brand name, and I find it strange that whoever owns the brand cares so little about it that they let incompetent people do so. "Fool me once...", perhaps?

Most customers wouldn't understand this Pizza Hut copy. They'd see 'English' and feel all happy and international.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Not sure if I got the decade right, but I remember hearing this once on BBC's Top Gear.

Professor Clarkson? Enough said. While we want it to be true, let's downgrade it to:

great pub talk

On that bombshell, have a super afternoon!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

JT wrote about it and we are now talking about it, aren't we? Might just be a brilliant marketing strategy.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unfortunately, correct English is infinitely more conspicuous than lazy 'Nihonglish'.

A local driving school here recently took delivery of a fancy new fleet of vehicles with the cheerful phrase 'Let's try and drive safely' on the side. Probably explains why so few people bother to stop at a red traffic signal.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It's pure Laziness and another case of being cheapskates. OMG, there is no excuse for this. This is elementary English in Japan, and taught again when they get to jhs and used over and over again. No matter the age of this person... This is pathetic.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Just how much would it entail to ask the marketing department of Pizza Hut to ask a native English speaker or even a returnee Japanese 帰国子女 in the company to do a quick check on this? Really sloppy and slapdash.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

OH! dear how sloppy! all it would have taken is to ask an English person to just proof read this, and correct any spelling or grammatical errors. here is a web site where a lot of nondiscript translations that have gone wong, sorry wrong, have fun reading! http://www.engrish.com/

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I wonder how they will take this being pointed out to them.

I guess it will be somewhere on an axis that goes from "so what?" type indifference to "we were only doing our best" type passive-aggressive indignation.

I doubt it will be, "That's embarrassing. We'll have all our English double checked from now on. Oh, and are there any pizzas you miss from Pizza Hut overseas and would like to see in Japan?" Which is the kind of mindset a service industry should have.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Another pizza company named Big Willy's had a "come on pizza" campaign. I thought that was brilliant and probably deliberate.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I think that is good enough English. I understand the message.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

So if you were a Japanese copywriter with only a limited command of the English language, but you know that you’re supposed to use “do” for questions with verbs, you might end up with “Do you hungry?” instead of “Are you hungry?”

Yes, and if you were a competent Japanese copywriter you make sure this short English sentence was accurate BEFORE sending it to the printers.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

SupeyII "Actually, this was the result of British distributors flagging the first iteration of the name back in the 70s. Originally, Toyota wanted to combine the name "Toyota" and "outlet", but fortunately for them they took heed in altering their initial result of "Toyolet".

No, it was the branch dedicated to small vehicles, not the overall brand-

"The word "Toyopet" was a nickname given to the Toyota SA due to its small size, as the result of a naming contest the Toyota Company organized in 1947. However, when Toyota eventually entered the American market in 1957 with the Crown, the name was not well received due to connotations of toys and pets"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hungry am I - Yoda.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

No, it was the branch dedicated to small vehicles, not the overall brand- "The word "Toyopet" was a nickname given to the Toyota SA due to its small size....

Arrrgh! Sounded so fitting. Damn you Top Gear!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

if you want to see when non-english speakers don't use native proofreaders for their advertisement then just go to that great site engrish.com

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Please please just stop using English

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After going on a Ketogenic diet, pizza from ANYWHERE "don't me hungry". Way too many carbs in them-thar' pizza slices.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, this was the result of British distributors flagging the first iteration of the name back in the 70s. Originally, Toyota wanted to combine the name "Toyota" and "outlet", but fortunately for them they took heed in altering their initial result of "Toyolet".

I doubt that. Toyota cars were marketed under the name Toyopet from 1947 through the mid 60s. As a child I saw lots of those cars in Japan. And the late model Toyopet Crown was not that small.

About the Pizza Hut foul up. Really strange. A junior high school student could have noticed the error as the grammar is really so basic in those phrases.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm reminded of an old joke.

The Nissan motor company was about to market their cars and pickup trucks in the U.S. and asked their German counterparts for a brand name suggestion, but it had to be rendered by the next day. The Germans responded, "Datsun?"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Really strange. A junior high school student could have noticed the error as the grammar is really so basic in those phrases.

Come to think of it. US is trying make Japan an English speaking country in the name of globalization. This may have something to do with it.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

Strangerland - You know I hate to agree with you, but that first comment was spot on

Definitely can't argue that point, I have to agree as well. A complete avoidable mistake.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This disgusting, yet hilarious blunder, I think, is just symptomatic of the Japanese psyche towards anything not Japanese. Japanese always have to "douse everything in shoyu" before it can be digested. It's the exact opposite, but parallel, of arrogant Americanism. It makes no sense in arguing with the Japanese about this. They'll never change. To them, only Japanese and nihinjinron are the only things legitimate in life. Japanese will take English, drown it in shoyu, and not give a squat about the outcome. To them, English itself is an aberration and is only good once it's been japonized. Why do you think there are English signs ubiquitous in Japan bearing nonsensical English. The Japanese speak their brand of English for themselves. They totally abstract the native speaker from the language. It's just an algebra really. For example, You can see signs on any major road offering drink and dinner specials in English; but those same places are not foreigner friendly. They'll even deny any foreigner entrance. The English, to them, is "cool", a gimmick, and who cares if it's correct or not. It's not meant for native speakers anyway. Plus, this is just a way for Japanese to reaffirm their "Japaneseness" to themselves. Any "true" japanese shouldn't be doing correct English anyway. That would just mean they're a strange japanese. And since everyone and everything not Japanese is strange and aberrant, WTF! It's better just to sit back and enjoy the comedy and roll with the punches. Japanese want the English but not the native speaker just like they want the tourist dollars but not the tourists.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

This disgusting, yet hilarious blunder, I think, is just symptomatic of the Japanese psyche towards anything not Japanese.

And, this disgusting, yet hilarious posting is, I think, symptomatic of the psyche of many JT commentators toward the Japanese.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The positive outcome for the pizza company is that they have got shed loads of FREE advertising because its got every one talking about them!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Brian,

I don't think 30 commenters on Japan Today is gonna make any difference. Bet nobody talks about this mistake at all, because nobody understands it's a mistake.

Mr. Noidall,

You're on to something...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hit it on the head Mr. Noidall. There's no point getting all hot under the collar about correct English in Japan, because most Japanese people don't care anyway, except the ones who have a specific reason for studying it. The problem is when students of we English teachers come to class with this incorrect English they see everywhere in their heads, believing it to be correct English. Then when we tell them it's wrong they are suprised, shocked, incredulous or even don't believe it! Oh by the way, thanks a lot to that American bloke on TV who has got all my elementary kids thinking "Why Japanese people!" is correct English. As if we don't have enough problems with bad English as it is, a bloody native speaker has to make it worse just to get a few laughs!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The problem is when students of we English teachers come to class with this incorrect English

Oh dear.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry. Been in Japan too long!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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