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Japanese government says internet slang too hard to understand; issues guidelines for netspeak

12 Comments
By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

With the sheer amount of emoji and acronyms that we use in our daily internet lives, it’s fair to say that some people might have trouble understanding what is being said on the internet. And with the instant nature of the internet and the sudden flash-fire way in which things go viral, sometimes it’s hard to keep up. For example, I still don’t understand what “Bye Felicia” was all about. But at almost 30, I’m getting on in years, so I suppose that’s par for the course.

The Japanese have their own internet slang, of course, and some of the most popular slang are, though unique, quite logical and very creative. Unfortunately, it seems like Japanese netspeak is not intuitive for everyone, since the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs released a report that essentially says, “Please stop confusing us.”

A main point of the report appears to affirm the presence of internet slang. They give it the name 打ち言葉 uchi kotoba, a combination of the words 打つ (utsu, to type) and 言葉 (kotoba, words), and say that it is composed of short words, which are strangely similar to real life words, that are used by the younger generation to communicate online. Cue a lot of netizens thinking, “…and?”

Uchi kotoba, they say, is made up of pictures of faces and other picture designs, as well as confusing phrases like おk (which is apparently how the Japanese government thinks its people type “OK”– spoiler alert: they just spell it “OK”). According to the committee, a straight-forward illustration of the writer’s emotions is not clear enough, and therefore they have recommended that netizens be aware and conscious of the fact that “These special expressions are not easy for everyone [using the internet] to understand.”

They were even so thorough as to issue some guidelines to help netizens make their messages easier to understand, including four things to keep in mind when communicating online:

Accuracy: Don’t mislead on the main details, and don’t over or under exaggerate your statement.

Clarity: Make sure your expressions can be easily understood.

Suitability: Consider the purpose, setting, and audience of your posts, especially your audience’s feelings.

Respect and familiarity: Keep a comfortable distance from your audience when stating your point.

(Number four may be confusing for some who are not familiar with Japanese culture, but essentially it means “watch your level of familiarity”, as in don’t be too casual with your superiors when e-mailing them.)

Though we should all be grateful to the Japanese government for teaching us how to internet, Japanese netizens found their report more laughable than helpful:

“Is this a headline from 10 years ago?”

“On March 3, 2018 lol”

“Does anyone even write “おk” (OK) like that right now?”

“What year is it??”

“Haven’t we been using these things for like 15 years?”

“Hahahahahahahaha! ‘おk’! hahahahaha”

All joking aside, though, there’s likely a reason that this sub-committee of a committee of an agency is releasing a statement on such an obvious topic, and it’s not just that old fuddy-duddies are confounded by young people. March is a time for graduation and growing up in Japan, and in April, fresh college graduates will be starting their first full-time jobs. These young people are part of a generation who has grown up texting and tweeting, and have gotten comfortable “speaking” casually all the time.

But society doesn’t change that quickly, and in Japan it is still necessary to maintain a certain level of politeness when speaking to superiors, even in e-mails and messages. Knowing when and with whom it is appropriate to use slang in a digital world may be challenging for the smartphone generation, and perhaps that is what the government had in mind when it released the report.

Given that in recent years new hires have been aggravating their superiors with improper behavior, their concerns may not be unfounded. It might actually be necessary to teach younger generations that no, their bosses and managers may not understand what “roflcopters” means, and no, it’s not appropriate to use a word like that in a work e-mail. You may think it’s obvious, but a generational gap is like a cultural gap, and sometimes it’s necessary to build a bridge, however simple, to connect both sides together.

Source: Yomiuri Online via Golden Times

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Five ways to piss off your older Japanese coworkers at a new job

-- Kanji fail — Japanese parents shocked to learn their baby girl’s name has inappropriate meaning

-- What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up a chair…

© SoraNews24

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

12 Comments
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Unfortunately, it seems like Japanese netspeak is not intuitive for everyone, since the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs released a report that essentially says, “Please stop confusing us.”

Poor oyajis....still finding it hard to move on from their faxes and paper files.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I am still amazed at some of the government priorities !

There's a nuclear plant still leaking, single parents living in poverty, old people leaving alone and lacking the care they need, but good on them for telling us how to write things on the internet !

7 ( +7 / -0 )

“Bye Felicia”? The writer didn't Google that?

This subject sounds as though it should be dealt with at each company's orientation of new recruits. They, not a government memo, ought to define what is or is no appropriate in their workplace.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Have a look at 2ch forums and its pretty easy to pick it up. 乙 "otsu" short for お疲れ様, or 嫁 "yome" used to say 読め (read, imperative), ワロタ for lol etc. Pretty easy if you know kanji readings and can think outside the box.

But, probably more importantly, slang like this is confusing for machine reading tools, which might be monitoring such sites for hate speech etc. i.e. the Govt wants you to write better so it can monitor you better...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hahah now I'll admit, this is a very j-gov oyaji response.

Too bad for them that internet speech is an incredibly rapidly changing and evolving dialect, and even has many subdialects based on platform (be it Reddit or Twitch or w/e).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

don't stand still, evolution protects people and creates societies

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Language, as a form of communication, must be easy to understand or children would never learn to talk. I was perplexed by - あのー took two weeks to find and grasp its meaning because the movie lacked subtitles for that sound. Language as used by those on the internet is difficult for others because a resolve is lacking in learning new things. Being older presents a challenge but not an insurmountable one.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Doesn't language evolve?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Besides the fact that the government has no business telling people what to say or not say in their emails, what does the Agency for Cultural Affairs not understand about culture? Language is culture. Language changes. Culture changes. You may not like it. You might try to fight it. You'll lose. Young people are going to use the linguistic/cultural references that are relevant to them, just like they always have. Step aside or get run over.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am shocked.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Doesn't language evolve?

Yes but not Japanese politicians

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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