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Why does 'Engrish' happen in Japan?

138 Comments
By Casey Baseel

Over the years, Japan has earned a reputation for its awkward command of English, with results ranging from the perplexing to downright hilarious. The country’s translation screw-ups are so common that they’ve even earned their own collective name, “Engrish.”

But for all the sites that poke fun at Engrish, it’s almost impossible to find one that talks about why it happens. So today we’re offering a bit of explanation along with the laughs, as we look at a sign in Japan that informs English-reading passersby that “Today is under construction.”

The photo of the sign has actually been floating around online for some time now, but it’s recently caught the attention of Japanese Internet users who are linguistically savvy enough to appreciate the humor. The snapshot was originally taken by a foreign visitor to Kyoto’s Nijo Castle, one of the most popular tourist destinations in a city packed with sightseeing wonders.

As one of the few castles built in a rare period of peace during Japan’s feudal era, Nijo Castle is surrounded by extensive gardens, and in one you’ll find a waterfall.

The castle receives thousands of visitors every year, and rather than deny travelers a chance to see the historic site by regularly shutting it down, maintenance and gardening often take place even as guests mill about. So when workmen had to temporarily stop the garden waterfall, they put up a sign, the Japanese on which means: “Please understand that, due to maintenance, the waterfall in the outer garden is not flowing today.”

For the sake of international travelers, there was also an English explanation. It was kind of the castle’s curators to consider those who don’t speak Japanese, but sadly the English translation didn’t come out quite right.

So how exactly did things end up like this? Well, most sightseeing spots in Japan don’t keep an in-house translator on the payroll, and if you’ve ever read an English tourism pamphlet that sounded natural, it was probably the work of a contracted freelance translator.

While translation isn’t on the same lucrative level as fields such as finance, law, and medicine, trying to find a qualified translator willing to accept an offer for a one-sentence project is pretty hard to do. So in the case of these super-short translations, they’re usually done by whichever Japanese staff member has the best command of English and also has time to spare, which in routinely overworked, understandably sleepy Japan really cuts down the candidate pool.

Okay, so we see how the translation probably got passed off to someone who was less than an ideal match for the job, but how did it get so off course? The person who decided on “Today is under construction” has got to be a real moron, right?

Not really. For example, imagine if I asked you to translate the sentence, “Due to maintenance, the waterfall in the outer garden is not flowing today” into a foreign language that’s not really your forte. Being eloquent becomes a secondary goal, and the main purpose is just to get the point across. So maybe you cut “Due to maintenance, the waterfall in the outer garden is not flowing today” down to “Today, the waterfall is under maintenance.”

That’s probably what whomever wrote the sign’s English version was going for. The problem is, Japanese and English grammar sometimes work very differently from one another. In Japanese, you can often cut the subject out of a sentence completely and it still make perfect sense. For example, when my wife comes home tonight and I tell her, “I’ve been drinking bourbon since noon,” I can omit ore/I from the sentence, and just tell her “Hiru kara baabon wo nondeiru.” As long as I haven’t mentioned anyone else who I could possibly be talking about in the conversation, the “I” is implied by context.

Knowing that, it’s not too difficult to see how “Today, the waterfall is under maintenance” got chopped down once again (losing its comma in the process) and became “Today is under maintenance.”

But it’s not just grammar where English and Japanese are different, but sometimes in how vocabulary works, too.

In English, we usually use “maintenance” for fixing something that already exists, and “construction” for building something new. Sometimes in Japanese, though, the word "koji," which is used on the top half of the sign from Nijo Castle, can mean either “construction” or “maintenance,” particularly if you’re talking about something like a building or its fixtures, for which a manmade garden waterfall applies.

Again, bearing in mind that the intended message of the sign’s English version has been simplified from the Japanese original, we’re not dealing with someone who’s truly bilingual here. Crack open a Japanese-to-English dictionary, and 99 times out of 100 the first definition for kouji that jumps out is going to be “construction.”

So if we track the translation process from start to finish, it ends up like this:

Due to maintenance, the waterfall in the outer garden is not flowing today. ↓ Today, the waterfall is under maintenance. ↓ Today is under maintenance. ↓ Today is under construction.

And hey, let’s not overlook that whoever wrote the English version knew that the literal translation of the Japanese phrase "Dozo go-ryosho kudasai" (“Please consent") sounded too heavy-handed in English and instead rendered it as the much more hospitable “Thank you for understanding.”

So the next time you come across some Engrish, go ahead and chuckle, because a lot of it is legitimately funny. But at the same time, take a second to remember that the cause might be someone pulling double duty outside their comfort zone.

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138 Comments
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I always enjoy getting "The Internet has stopped" on my Android every time the browser stalls.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Perhaps some people use the auto translate feature on most computers programmes. It gives hilarious results translating Kanji to English.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

To prove they are not abandoning their Japaneseness....

4 ( +7 / -4 )

Who cares? If Japanese were the International language of business and tourism then I'm sure Japanese would be butchered everywhere too.

8 ( +13 / -6 )

Who cares? If Japanese were the International language of business and tourism then I'm sure Japanese would be butchered everywhere too.

I take it you have never been around a Japanese language school. Pretty much all languages get butchered at one point or another but it certainly seems that English gets hammered here in Japan a heck of a lot more.

Not to mention the FACT that MEXT is pushing for English fluency in Japan (another failure in action). It takes paying attention to detail for people to eventually get it right.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

The best Engrish that I ever came across was back in the mid '90s. A box of used videos was marked as 'USED VD.'

7 ( +8 / -1 )

danalawton1@yahoo.comOCT. 28, 2014 - 08:05AM JST Who cares? If Japanese were the International language of business and tourism then I'm sure Japanese would be butchered everywhere too

Perhaps that's true. Engrish.com features lots of photos now from China and elsewhere in Asia. However, there is a difference.

Look at how many Africans in former French colonies still use French. The national language of India is English. The Japanese have no excuse to still be %*&%ing up English like they do. Japan was occupied by the U.S for roughly 15 years after the war, nearly 30 for Ryukyus. They've been teaching the language in secondary schools since the Meiji era. Collectively, the nation has spent billions of hours in eikawa over the last forty years. There are tens of thousands of native English speakers working in some capacity throughout the country with most major corporations having at least a few of them. It's just pathetic.

0 ( +11 / -12 )

My favorite Engrish was two days after I got to Japan. I went to Nagoya Castle, where on the rampart next to the entrance path was posted the following sign: "Because you are dangerous, you must not enter."

24 ( +24 / -1 )

Used to work for an Eikaiwa that was part of a juku chain. The Japanese staff regularly sent stuff to us that needed to be put in correct English. It was funny, but the final result was never what we suggested. Sorry. No sympathy here.

19 ( +21 / -3 )

Public toilets at Omote Sando station: "These toilets flush when you lean". I think they were going for "leave" but couldnt help but chuckle at the thought of the hapless tourists desperately bending at awkward angles to get the contents of the bowl to disappear.

Whats not quite so funny though is little girls running around in t shirts reading "I love sex" or "hot pussy". I am giving the benefit of the doubt here and assuming (hoping) that is parental ignorance.

13 ( +12 / -0 )

How funny that two people commenting here used the word "Eikaiwa" in their comments. I don't understand why they must use that rather than "English school" or "English conversation school". I would never use "Eikaiwa" in an English sentence.

-12 ( +11 / -21 )

Many years ago, film makers in Hong Kong who made films for export to the West, learned that English speakers loved it when subtitles became hilariously mangled. It then became a trend to do this on purpose for films which would be seen in America and other English speaking countries. This amusement factor is also why sites like Engrish.com exist at all. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's one of the reason so many Westerners love Japan, really.

Me, when I knew I was going to live and work in Japan, I made it my business to learn to speak the language. Matter of respect innit. And a funny thing happened. People became far more friendly and hospitable. I was shown far more respect at work and bars and clubs that had previous been 'No Gaijin' were happy to open the doors for me and welcome me. What a wonderful surprise. But, like most Westerners, I am often amused by 'engrish'.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Why does 'Engrish' happen in Japan?

I think a lot of times, it is a bit of laziness that is the culprit. For public places, such as Nijo Castle, it should be a simple task to walk over to the prefectural office and seek one of the non-Japanese, who are paid with tax money, and have them check the English. Failing that, do a net search of the phrase you are thinking of using and see how many hits you get and see if alternatives exist.

14 ( +14 / -1 )

I think most posters on here use the term "Eikeiwa" because of a few areas that a lot of long term residents of Japan understand.

First, Eikeiwas are not truly English language schools. They are semi education semi entertainment places of business, where the implied intent is learning English, but with the lesson structure, materials, and the focus on "fun" being more important than actual learning, little if any learning English actually gets done.

Second, Eikeiwas as structured in Japan are a rather unique creature, in that often times the native teacher's voice is ignored or contradicted by "expert materials" often put together by those who are neither expert nor native. As such, Eikeiwas don't really exist in other countries.

Finally, the term is easy to use and a single word term that is easier to use and type than the multiple word alternatives. It would be similar to saying "juku" as opposed to "cram school" or "after school study school" or any of the other "full English" alternatives.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

I can forgive Engrish on mistaken grammar points, what annoys me is poor spelling. My town printed up hundreds of flags saying 'Well come' on them for an international event. They fixed the problem by painting out an 'l'. So they then said 'Wel come'. This was for a major international event. FFS, use a dictionary!!

15 ( +16 / -2 )

Lol, nothing like good engrish to make bone go funny.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think slumdog is spot on, laziness and I really doubt they care if it is written correctly. As long as the message is understood.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I enjoy the stores that have signs that say "Open" and "Close"

But I go nuts when I hear, "Thank you for riding Odakyu Line"

Anyway, I cannot spell in English at all, so am not bothered by mispellings. Spell check cannot find my intended words.

So, just enjoy the bad Engrish, smile at it, take a picture and send it home to family and friends.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

One could go into other length explanations of the differences between English and Japanese, but bearing in mind that the vast majority of Engrish is on clothing https://www.flickr.com/search?sort=relevance&user_id=64015205%40N00&text=engrish another explanation springs to mind. Another reason why there is so much Engrish in Japan is because the Japanese do not like to put Japanese on their clothing or T-shirts. They identify strongly with their visual self presentation (which is why they are so thin and smart) and to put Japanese words on T-Shirts would be to them, the equivalent of saying those words to everyone they meet. But at the same time, like people the world over, they like the look of language on their T-shirts, so they use Engrish - English gobbledegook - instead. It is just for the look.

-2 ( +7 / -9 )

Why does 'Engrish' happen in Japan?

Because they get native Japanese people who think they can speak English to translate.

15 ( +15 / -1 )

"Today is" means "Kyou wa" in Japanese. It's difficult for Japanese to tell that "Today is under construction" is strange. I think it is a cruel thing to laugh at them because I know they worked hard to make those English signs.

-23 ( +4 / -25 )

Is it my imagination or have the truly awkward and sometimes inappropriate Engrish declined markedly over the last 5-10 years? Most I see these days are mildly amusing but understandable mistakes, while in the past they were picture worthy.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Perhaps it is the level of the teachers, maybe if they actually employed qualified teachers instead of any mug who just holds a degree in anything.

And drop the teaching English in Katakana, why add a vowel to the end of every word for crying out loud.

A bad carpenter will always blame his tools and not his skills same in this case I suspect.

And who thinks perfect correct English is and absolute must anyway, so long as the person or the message is understood, how many of you try to speak Japanese and I can bet you it is far form perfect or correct but the Japanese can understand what you are trying to say.

Too much emphasis placed on absolute correctness.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

I've seen worse translations than that waterfall message. My personal favourite was a sign at the cash register of Valor supermarket. "The receipt of our shop can be used as a receipt. I will not exchange it with the cash registe."

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I butcher Japanese on a daily basis, so I have an appreciation for the difficulty of the homemade English translations around Japan. The sayings on t-shirts, bags, etc. are my favorite though. I was at the grocery store the other day, wearing a "Washington D.C." tourist shirt and the clerk pointed to my shirt and said "Eigo wa suteki" which I took as "Nice English!" The English words, not the meaning, seems to be the fashion.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I agree with you, OneHapa. I think people are getting more savvy as they gain easy access to translation websites and apps. A lot of businesses are learning to check first, and they will still make mistakes, but it seems they are much less egregious ones.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Today is" means "Kyou wa" in Japanese.

No it doesn't. And until we get that established, there are always going to be similar mistakes.

My favourite is "The train now stopping at platform 11 is...." It's "standing", not "stopping". Why not ask a native???

3 ( +5 / -2 )

That's probably what whomever wrote the sign's English version was going for. The problem is, Japanese and English grammar sometimes work very differently from one another.

Speaking of English grammar, that should read: That's probably what whoever [subject] wrote [verb] the sign's English version was going for. Just sayin'.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why does 'Engrish' happen in Japan? "Today is under construction."

Japanese has "double subject sentences" whereas English does not have "double subject sentences". Double subject sentences are not limited to Japanese but can be found in many languages. http://linguistics.berkeley.edu/bls/past_meetings/bls33/abstracts_web/Salmon.pdf

Anyone who has learned Japanese may be familiar with such double subject sentences like 今日は天気が良い (Today, the weather is good.) or 象は鼻が長い (Elephants, nose is long.) Japanese has particles は and が to make double subject sentences. Like the author says, the original Japanese sentence may have been a double subject sentence, "Today , the waterfall is under maintenance." If the person who translated the sentence took the wrong subject for the subject of the English sentence, the outcome is something like that in the photo.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I have found what works best is Janglish. Janglish is spoken and understood all over Japan even in rural areas.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

My all-time favourite, from a Family Mart sandwich wrapper, was spot-on in terms of the sentence construction:

We want you to try to eat this sandwich.

Pity the original meaning got a bit lost somewhere.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

On being refused entry to an (admittedly) dubious establishment in Shimbashi on account of not being from around these parts, I was referred to a sign that said, "No Alien Entries".

10 ( +12 / -2 )

We can correction together.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I like the cafe in Roppongi called "SPUNKY GOLD"

I'm not a qualified metallurgist, but I don't think that's what you are supposed to do with it.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Favourites I've seen,

At one end of Nippori station, Keisei line platform, "Lear carriage of a 4 car train". Although perhaps one end was the women only car and other end was the Lear car. Could have been correct.

Sign outside a Philipine hostess club, "Foreigners not allowed inside a Philipina unless accompanied by a Japanese". Would be a bit of a tight squeeze.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

My favourite is "The train now stopping at platform 11 is...." It's "standing", not "stopping".

If you are going to split hairs stative verbs, which are different in Indian English, and irregular even in English as you point out, then how about this AmerEngrish that I heard in Chicago Amtrak Station,

"The train to Pittsburgh will be stopping momentarily at platform 11"

I sprinted to the platform, only to find the train was not stopping only for a moment at all.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The one that always baffles me is the prevalence of the expression "No Smorking".

I've seen it from Hokkaido to Okinawa, and I can't understand how so many organisations could have opted not to take a moment to check before printing it up.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Speaking of English grammar, that should read: That's probably what whoever [subject] wrote [verb] the sign's English version was going for. Just sayin'.

FOr that matter, it should probably read:

"That's probably what whoever [subject] wrote [verb] the English version of the sign was going for."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the 1980s, sure.

In this day and age there is no excuse for the bad English within a large company or government except laziness. Every major company has at least one foreigner working there, OR a staff member with a friend who is foreign. I'm not talking translation, I'm talking proofreading and spell checking.

Additionally, with the internet, there is an overabundance of resources to check translations on a basic level. Again I'm talking proofreading and, at the very least, spell checking.

Anyway, it just boggles my mind that a huge corporation like Toyota would pay someone to make a sign, pay the money to produce the sign (be it metal lettering or a huge billboard) and NOT double check the English.

...The biggest offenders here are usually Pachinko places...but I don't honestly believe they care, unlike Toyota who should.

Note I am talking big companies here... small mom'n'pop shops I can totally understand the lack of funds/time/tech

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Of course it is hard to translate grammar, but like others said I do not think there is any excuse for spelling errors in signs or flyers produced for professional purposes, when using a dictionary will give you the correct information within 30-seconds.

and this all gets me:

Used to work for an Eikaiwa that was part of a juku chain. The Japanese staff regularly sent stuff to us that needed to be put in correct English. It was funny, but the final result was never what we suggested.

My favorite grammar mistake: Do you wedding? (on a wedding coordination brochure)

As for spelling, a school I work for wrote 'English Crab' (club) on the new Year's card. The katakana is the same, but FFS it is an English school. And the local station sign says 'Station Polics' (police) which isn't even a word at all

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Why does 'Engrish' happen in Japan?

It doesn't Casey (Author)

A better question is "Why do people think it does?"

Answer: They don't bother to check their facts and/or they're gullible.

Give the world the internet and the dumb people will still be dumb.

-14 ( +3 / -17 )

One of the biggest reasons is people use a dictionary and use the first word they see. Direct translation often leads to massive misunderstandings. My favorite example, a sign in a furniture shop in Kinshicho : "Don't get nervous on the bed." Took me a while to figure it out, but the problem steps from the Japanese word "agaru"

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The fact is this: If they wanted it done right they would do it right.

The Japanese teachers at my school despise English. We are even encouraged not to use English here at work!! We are English teachers.

"Please use Japanese when speaking to the teachers and students"

One time, my colleague was speaking with a student in English. Another teacher came up and complained "Don't use English here" "This is Japan!"

That's why you have these signs.

18 ( +21 / -4 )

And yet another article out there to perpetuate the myth that every single person in Japan is a super-hard worker with no time to do anything. It's a nonsensical notion and still wouldn't be much of an excuse for the kind of errors that can commonly be seen. If they have time to make a sign like that, they have time to check it. It's one sentence.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Whats not quite so funny though is little girls running around in t shirts reading "I love sex" or "hot pussy". I am giving the benefit of the doubt here and assuming (hoping) that is parental ignorance.

Or an honest invitation. Reminds us of this old classic English school advertisement, hahaha

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDMVam03pX8

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Gomenasai, no speak Engrish.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"Engrish" happens, because most Japanese people don't care about getting it right. It's as if they're afraid of becoming too "gaijin" or something. That is the only explanation that makes sense: they just don't CARE about getting English right...

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Tina Watanabe: I think it is a cruel thing to laugh at them because I know they worked hard to make those English signs.

And yet all that hard work came as nought because they still masterfully failed. Why not ask a person actually fluent in the language to make the sign. And their hard work amounted to going to Yahoo Japan and clicking on translate. All over we see signs meant to communicate and it fails because they communicate nothing.

For example in Kakuozan Station in Nagoya: Cautions are needed because pain happening by erebeta doa. This communicates absolutely nothing except someone has no command of English and saw fit to humiliate themselves with this sign that all native English speakers laugh at.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

It's not just Japan. You can find the same types of 'translations' all over the world such as China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Greece, probably everywhere.

It's also fun when foreigners try to translate their languages into Japanese, no doubt some Japanese could put together a book of that.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

And sometimes these mistranslations can be accidentally insightful and thought-provoking. Today is indeed under construction. It's the only day we have to work with. Tomorrow is still on the drawing board, and yesterday has left the building.

And even Japanese suffers this kind of butchery. I once saw a restaurant in New Zealand with a prominent sign in contorted hiragana Japanese proclaiming "We have food that can eat Japanese."

6 ( +8 / -2 )

trying to find a qualified translator willing to accept an offer for a one-sentence project is pretty hard to do

It isn't that hard to do. I thought it was the main reason translation sites like Gengo existed in the first place. I don't know how 'qualified' their translators are - I presume there's some kind of ability test.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I know they worked hard to make those English signs.

Bull...you wish you could have a job as easy as some of these so called sign makers here. The computer spits out the design and all they do is spray some paint. If that's called hard work then I am in the wrong business.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

it is a bit of laziness that is the culprit.

It's not laziness. They don't even know that English is a difficult language and they need native-check.

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

http://www.engrish.com/ has some good laughs on it

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They don't even know that English is a difficult language and they need native-check.

I just hope that it isn't some of the natives that haunt this place. There are plenty of natives that can't spell or use proper grammar to save their own lives let alone print a sign properly. Just being native doesnt qualify as being right.

Oh and what "native-check" are you referring too? Are you going to spell it centre or center? Colour or color? Elevator or lift? WC/toilet/restroom/lavatory or loo?

So if we "natives" can't get on the same page, how does one expect the Japanese to follow suit?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I suppose the Japanese laugh at these wannabe martial artists who float around with a kanji tattoo that they think means one thing but says another... like 'soup'.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

most Japanese people don't care about getting it right.

They do. They spend huge amonut of time, money and energy to improve even a little bit of their English skills. English is very important for company employees for promotion, or students for entrance examinations. It affects their lives. Still they can not get it right, but that's not because they don't care about it or are lazy.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

English is very important for company employees for promotion, or students for entrance examinations. It affects their lives. Still they can not get it right, but that's not because they don't care about it or are lazy.

Important yes, accurate no.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I agree Tina... my Japanese friends WANT to improve their English, but it's not the easiest language in the world... and not helped by the fact that British English is slightly different from American English, in terms of spelling, strange words (what does 'oftentimes' even mean?) and different uses for the same word.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

You can't possibly explain the errors as anything other they don't care about getting it right- There is a shop in Haneda where is a translation that include crame rather than crane. So many errors are so bad that they could even produced it from a translation program. I complained about waches written Tokyu Hands for watches. They never replied. They finally fixed it and then my wife complained and they belated apologized. You have to compare the within-Japan businesses and the export/foreign presence companies. The within are staffed by seishin who couldn't care less. The export companies can't afford to be slack.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Oh and what "native-check" are you referring too? Are you going to spell it centre or center? Colour or color? Elevator or lift? WC/toilet/restroom/lavatory or loo?

So if we "natives" can't get on the same page, how does one expect the Japanese to follow suit?"

All of the alternatives you listed are correct English in each country, not made-up weirdness, so either American or British usage would be fine, wouldn't it?

6 ( +7 / -2 )

A private student of mine tried to write an English business letter to a supplier related to her business outside of Japan. Her manager looked over her letter before she clicked on "send" and told her it was such bad English that he would re-write it for her. Well, she showed me her original and his re-write. I gave her a little confidence by telling her that the manager's re-write was almost as bad, if not worse, than her original. But there's still a lot of work to do to improve English in Japan. Katakana Engrish is destroying the Engrish language and abused and misused Engrish terms on mainstream TV is making our work even more difficult.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Yubaru

I'm not a native English speaker. Many posters above say that the Japanese are lazy not asking native speakers. So I said "many Japanese don't even realize that they need native-check" when their English skills are elementary.

For "Today is under construction", I think they literally translated from "Kyou wa kouji chu"

0 ( +5 / -5 )

I love Engrish and hope it never stops.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I can appreciate everything the writer suggests as reasons for mistranslations of English by Japanese businesses, but here's the thing that has always mystified me;

If you don't know the correct translation why don't you ASK A PASSING NATIVE SPEAKER!?!

That's the very FIRST thing that would come to my mind if I were asked to translate an English sign for Japanese tourists.

2 ( +6 / -5 )

There's way too much reliance on computer translation.

On a train I use regularly, there's a notice in the toilet which in English would be

"push button to flush", saying

"lavation occurs when I press the button."

Lovely.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Sign in a store in Tokyo : "No dangerous subjects" - better be careful what you say...;-) On a T-shirt worn by a rather "plump" lady jogger : "Undo your fly..."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm not a native English speaker. Many posters above say that the Japanese are lazy not asking native speakers. So I said "many Japanese don't even realize that they need native-check" when their English skills are elementary.

Fair enough and thank you for sharing this. One piece of advice, ignore the folks here who make blanket statements about Japanese people doing this or that.....those comments come mostly from ignorance and do not need any response.

However, I will say that until "gyousei" types get their acts together and stop accepting incorrect English NOTHING is going to change. The attitude comes across as "So what" "Accuracy doesnt matter", it's a perception thing and also a problem with having to learn to accept that mistakes are made, and that it's NOT the end of the world to have them corrected.

All of the alternatives you listed are correct English in each country, not made-up weirdness, so either American or British usage would be fine, wouldn't it?

In a perfect world yes, but try getting a JTE who INSISTS on teaching American English to accept the B.E. spelling as being correct and then having a word document show centre (here too by the way, a goofy red-line shows up underneath that spelling even though it's accurate) and them go "AhHA...YOU are WRONG!"

Then me go bang my head up against a wall!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

They don't even know that English is a difficult language and they need native-check.

tina,

You know very well that one of the most used phrases in Japan regarding English is 'English is so difficult.'. Japanese people say this very often. They certainly know English is difficult because they learn at least 6 years of it.

They spend huge amonut of time, money and energy to improve even a little bit of their English skills.

tina,

You just got through saying Japanese don't know that English is a difficult language and that they need a native speaker to check their English. Now, you admit that Japanese do know it is difficult and even spend a huge amount of time, money and energy to improve even a little bit. Perhaps you should make up your mind what your argument is because you are starting to seem to be arguing with yourself.

Sign in Narita Airport Halloween 2011:

Connecting Fright to Osaka

http://www.engrish.com/2011/10/happy-halloween/

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@cloa513

Haneda where is a translation that include crame rather than crane.

I you sure it wasn't "claim" that they meant ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am pretty much immune to Engrish in Japan, I prefer other-country versions (and c'mon, they all do it!).

My personal favourite is a sign I saw outside a restaurant in Fiji, testifying to the speediness of the service.

"YOU ORDER TODAY, WE SERVE YOU TODAY!"

Now that's service!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

To be fair, that might have been a clever pun.

I don't think so. Except for the mistake, the content pretty well matches the Japanese above it and there is no mention of Halloween or the like in the Japanese.

I've also seen other signs inside Narita Airport near the departure gates with the words 'Enjoy your fright' on them and it was nowhere near Halloween.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If I could list all the "translation" errors just going from American to English.....happens everywhere. Chinese to English instruction sheets are hilarious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I actually made an account right now because I felt I had to point out something:

The last sentence of this article... "But at the same time, take a second to remember that the cause might be someone pulling double duty outside their comfort zone"

What the hell??? That completely contradicts the main (and important) message of the article which is that in Japanese grammar the pronoun or subject can be left out and merely implied and grammar issues like that go a long way to explaining the way these Engrish messages turn out.

In short, it's a freaking grammar issue. Period.

But then the stupid author goes back to some trite message about pulling double duty because such a lame, cutsy explanation has some sort of moral and emotional message, more than the message that this is simply an issue of the very different grammar of Japanese being the root cause.

This article is very illustrative of how people are full of crap and need to read and believe lies, because the truth is too often too prosaic and boring, and even when the truth is acknowledged, it still must be bordered and contextualized with crap. Thoughts?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have a few friends here in Tokushima who try to attract foreign clientele by adding English pages to their websites or their business' Facebook pages. I see the errors and they make me cringe. I used to offer them FREE help in proofing things, but they get offended, so I just stopped offering.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Yes, there are more than enough Japanese who work hard and learn English well enough to translate. But there seems to be a misunderstanding and lack of caring (by those who don't know English) that think computers are capable of 'translating' and do not hire professionals (around the world, any visitor to engrish.com knows the unfortunate double meaning of the kanji '干' in Chinese).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I believe that "Engrish" happens everywhere, we just enjoy it.

There is a whole bunch of commercials for learning English online that they play that same card, making the one that has misspellings or bad pronunciation, feel bad about that and want to improve. The commercials are for Spanish- speakers though. I will not deny that English can be difficult for some people, to me it was quite easy, but I will stand for my theory that if you want to learn another language you must first learn well your own language, otherwise you will always have trouble getting the meaning right. Each language has its own spelling, grammar, pronunciation and intonation, Do you truly dominate that in your language? how can you expect to learn all that in another language?. I think Engrish is fueled by these "mistakes", I've seen it before with colleagues at work trying to learn or Improve their English, it is not laziness at English, it is laziness at your language, for example, if you learn a little of etymology, you can have a better understanding of composite words, and you'd avoid mispronunciation (Try the word "Cocktail", I have many friends that pronounce it "cop-teil")
0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Tinawatanabe: Your comment, ("many Japanese don't even realize that they need native-check" when their English skills are elementary.) is mostly what I think the problem stems from. No one in their right mind, with elementary skills, should have this idea in their mind that they can just "wing it" on a professional stage. At home, writing a letter to grandma? Sure. Writing business documents or engraved metal signs? Absolutely yes. As with anything in business or science, if you don't know for sure about your facts and figures, you check.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I'll never forget my first experience in Japan with Engrish. On my first day of arrival in 1983 a person I just met asked me to join him at a bar and handed me a ticket that read "FREE FOOD, FREE DRINK, FREE SEX." Well, unfortunately that last part turned out to mean both sexes were welcome.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

slumdog

The Japanese study English a lot, and they say it is "difficult", but many of them don't know how difficult it is, how careful you have to be when translate from Japanese, and need native-check. English is not just "difficult", English is VERY difficult, maybe THE most difficult language in the world. That's what I mean.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

English is not just "difficult", English is VERY difficult, maybe THE most difficult language in the world.

No, it's not. It's so easy that it has become the third most widely spoken language in the world (after Chinese and Spanish).

1 ( +6 / -5 )

@Tessa

English is the third most spoken language by native speakers.

That has nothing to do with how easy or difficult it is, but reflects the number of babies being born in English-speaking countries.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

A big problem is beginning learners of any language often assume there is a literal equivalent for everything in their native language, even though the second language may require more or less detail, different vocabulary, or a different sentence structure to sound appropriate. I know because I was there once with Japanese. Now I realize sentences that translate neatly and literally are the exception rather than the rule. Non-professional translators seem to think each Japanese word must have its English equivalent in the translated sentence. It's usually not so simple.

Also there are many "set phrases" used in English signage/warnings like "slippery when wet", "no entry" etc. but the Japanese learned in school every English sentence needs a subject so they over-correct and write "when it is wet it is slippery" "you cannot enter here" which are not bad sentences but will get a chuckle out of a native, because it's not typical usage.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

While translation isn’t on the same lucrative level as fields such as finance, law, and medicine, trying to find a qualified translator willing to accept an offer for a one-sentence project is pretty hard to do.

Nonsense. There are any number of translation agencies that will knock out a quick sentence for a fee, just Google for them. You have to pay for it, and maybe that's the problem for these establishments. They don't take their images seriously.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Even in America, the Japanese (and most other Asian 1st generation immigrants) use Engrish, but I don't mind. At least, it's a little better than over in Asia for obvious reasons.

On a Japanese travel agency flyer for example: "When you contact to us, please tell us 'I joined NJ Food Fest 2014.'" It's understandable where the "to us" came from.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Engrish" happens because the Japanese and English languages are so divergent. It is much better to go ahead and communicate imperfectly using a second language than to clam up worrying about a mistake. Shared laughter is a good way of dealing with mistakes, because it identifies the mistake, but does not result in unnecessary shame or humiliation. Be sure to laugh with, not at.

Anybody who has spent time speaking "Nibonzo" during their learning period in Japan knows how hard it is.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What's the point to learning all the esoteric grammar....nothing! Learning to speak the language...that is something different, and with the amount of vocabulary the Japanese have in their heads they SHOULD be able to carry on a conversation without a problem, but they can't because of the way they are taught.

Learning a new word(language) should be a fun process not torture. Life isn't about taking tests, it's about being practical.

Engrish comes about not because of being lazy but due to a process of teaching that is screwed up from the beginning.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I wonder how much of Engrish comes about from translation services like Google Translate as well? I know that when I've used it to translate Japanese into English, I've come up with some strange results (I once tried to translate the song title "Kimi to Taiyou ga Shinda hi" and received the translation "Day the sun and you are dead. Not particularly coherent, is it?). I can also see how dumping the translation duty onto someone not normally comfortable with it or qualified for it could also lead to mistakes. If I was fluent in Japanese, I'd happily volunteer some of my spare time to translating signs/pamphlets etc into English, but alas, I'm not even at the conversational level. Yet. Well, I'm pursuing a career in teaching English in Japan, so maybe ten years from now I'll be translating voluntarily. We'll see.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If the Japanese had an efficient way of learning English then most of the posters here,resident in Japan would be out of a job!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I agree some of these are hilarious and enjoyed reading the article. Just wish the added h at the end of (eg.) Sato to indicate a long vowel (very often seen on the back of professional baseball players uniforms) or the added u with a persons name such as(eg.) Komei is pronounced Koumei (cow mei) by foreigners. Too bad it is not easy to a bar above the o to indicate a long vowel. Thankfully railroad stations have not joined in this pattern.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yubaru: I couldn't agree more about the education system being really..really..mind numbingly awful.

Additionally, I really believe the usage of Katakana / Romaji English to be a HUGE problem. I understand why it was useful originally, but now in today's world with English text easily available they really should just cut the Katakana system entirely out and encourage students to read directly.

Because students learn this ridiculous system, English teachers have to UN-teach them (which they're being told at school is correct) causing confusion and/or distrust in one teacher or the other.

(For example, the word "Triceratops": ce is pronounced as an S, not a K...but Japanese will every time say the word "Turi-kera-topusu")

5 ( +5 / -0 )

No it's more like trying to cater to the foreigners while absolutely not giving a rip about actually learning English. It's nothing to do with Japanese being different than English, because that's obvious, but it is in fact more about their attitude to learning English and shows how important it is to them.

I'm not saying Japan should be an English speaking nation, but wth are we teachers wasting our time teaching them English every day when they fail to make even basic English sentences by the time they graduate school.

Their English is a total joke. I can and do see the humor in their mistakes, but at the same time it is like an itch you can't scratch.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Old men who don't really speak English or have any real international experience or appreciation are running this country, and that includes the Ministry of Education Etc.

They got these ideas in their heads, untested by anyone on the planet or long debunked. They got these ideas you get sitting around imagining what it takes to learn a language. They got these ideas that do not work. These ideas that any fool could see do not work after less than a year trying them in a class room. But they keep pressing those ideas.

Back in the Meiji era they sent observers to foreign countries to learn how to make war. They sent observers to the countries that had a great reputation for specific aspects of warfare. And they did a bang up job really. If only they would do the same for English education and send some observers to northern continental Europe and just copied their methods.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

who says japaneses people are not allowed to use those engrish words? Only western people who think that their spelling of words is the correct one cos they been drilled in school.... because someone a few 100 years ago came up with a spelling it doesnt mean its the norm for everyone else!!!

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

I texted a Japanese person in English: "Should I call you when I'm done?"

He texted back in English: "It is the street."

Can you guess what Japanese phrase he punched into his electronic translator?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

who says japaneses people are not allowed to use those engrish words?

I do, and I think the rest of the world agrees. Its difficult enough with British English, American English, and all the other national Englishes and their regional Englishes, but they are all native speakers, like it or not. Japanese have no right to tinker with English any more than English speakers have a right to tinker with Japanese. And yes, I am well aware of Japanese misuse, such as using the word "futon" in America to mean a folding couch. If it were up to me legislation would forbid companies from such misuse of language, and the government as well.

Such as it is, there is no legislation. But still decency and respect are social requirements. Don't annoy us by murdering our language on such a grand scale. Use it correctly, at least to the level of the even the worst native speaker, or please, just leave it alone.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Can you guess what Japanese phrase he punched into his electronic translator?

Something on the lines of その通りにして? (sono tori ni shite) :-)

If it were up to me legislation would forbid companies from such misuse of language, and the government as well

I'm glad it's not up to you, then. No one has any monopoly on any language regardless of whether they're a native speaker or borrowing, and language is far too dynamic to attempt to put a straitjacket on it. Down that alley lies Newspeak.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Western people want to teach japanese the socalled "correct english"..... go to the USA, go to the UK go to Australia and listen to the street english they speak...

you show me one person who speaks a correct english in any of the english speaking countries besides english teachers, laywers or doctors?

Stop forcing your stuff on other people. If japanese people are happy with it than let them do it! And who cares if they spell some stuff wrong as long the meaning comes across?

only foreigners who have plenty of fear otherwise you all wouldnt care.

This is also one reason Japan having closed doors for foreigners and i hope and wish they continue this for a long time.

let them live in their culture with their own rules and dont tell them whats right or wrong. Start in your countries first cos the way they speak english their is shocking too.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Stop forcing your stuff on other people. If japanese people are happy with it than let them do it! And who cares if they spell some stuff wrong as long the meaning comes across?

The same could be said to Japanese: Stop trying to reinvent our language! You're pushing Japlish as a new form of Engrish and that isn't right.

Not to long ago I went to a seminar on foreign ESL textbooks. One gentlemen mentioned that there was an ongoing effort to divorce culture from the English language here in Japan. However most ESL teachers feel compelled to explain why we say some of the things we do.

Christianity is also part of the language. For example, you teach the days of the week as just sounds they should remember. However most people know why it's called "Sunday". God said "Let there be light". Sunday!!!! Hello!!

Intelligent linguists know this. For those who are against Christianity they wish for textbooks to divorce culture and religion. What you have left is a hollowed shell for a language.

Why don't you try that with Japanese. Then wait and see how much friction you get.

I have no intention to belittle the Japanese language but it's a dog's breakfast of borrowed words. Thus indicating that is incomplete. English is simply not so. It would be best if Japanese stick to the original formula and not be lazy trying to learn the English language.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

@Cleo No need to take it to such extremes. I was not envisioning torture and gulags for non-compliance, just some fines that keep rising as companies fail to use proper English. No need for Gestapo type police to check either, just some guys who check and write tickets. Any concerned company could do what they should have been doing in the first place. Just hire a native speaker, either full time or per job, and get it right.

And language dynamics? Yes, I am sure some putz will get into the department and try to curb slang and whatnot. But should we have no cops cause some are ijits? I think not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

no intention to belittle the Japanese language but it's a dog's breakfast of borrowed words.

JWithers, English consists of lots of borrowed words from Latin, French, Greek, etc.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

yakimoOCT 29, 2014 - 12:14PM JST who says japaneses people are not allowed to use those engrish words? Only western people who think that their spelling of words is the correct one cos they been drilled in school.... because someone a few 100 years ago came up with a spelling it doesnt mean its the norm for everyone else!!!

You have summed up the whole entire reason Japanese will never learn English--or any other foreign language-- with the most laughable argument to date. Why do the Japanese think they can speak English the way they want to when it's not their language? Why don't we just drop all foreign language education across the globe then and speak other people's language however which way we feel. Japanese are allowed to speak whatever gibberish they like; but they aren't speaking English. And no, western people are not drilled in school on how to speak English. We're almost fluent in English before our first day of school. And western English is the correct English for the same reasons Japanese Japanese is the correct Japanese. You're explanation and diatribe is nothing but an excuse for the miserable failure on the part of Japanese to acquire English after years of flirtation with it.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@ JWithers

No language is ever complete, that is why we do not presently speak the English of Chaucer or Shakespeare. And as tinawatanabe explains, English is full of borrowed words. That's why spelling texts that teach the classical roots of English words work so well. Such programs look deeply into words and explain why English has so many strange spellings.So your point about cultural origins is a good one.

However, you are probably not going to like the real story behind the origin of the word Sunday, which is derived from Latin dies solis meaning day of the sun. As you may know the Romans named the days of the week after the gods and Sol was an agricultural god of the Etruscans, with whom the Romans were closely aligned. In fact, Christmas is celebrated on the same day as Sol's feast, Sol Invictus.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

the miserable failure on the part of Japanese to acquire English after years of flirtation with it.

Mr. Noidoll, it's not "after years of flirtation" with English, it is "after decades of painfully hard work"

You shouldn't take Japanese inablility of English as an insult to English speakers.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@FightingViking.. Sign in a store in Tokyo : "No dangerous subjects" - better be careful what you say...;-)

One up for the Japanese. 'Subjects' can be used to refer to people. A subject is an individual who is subjected to the rule of an elite.

@ Yakimo...I understand your point, but if the sign is intended for people who speak English it is only fair that it be written in English and not Engrish. If danger is involved it may take some time for the person who is reading to understand, resulting in injury/fatality.

Nonetheless, I think that sentence is very poetic.

Today is under construction. So be careful what you put in it. As tomorrow you will have to live with it.

On a more serious note. Signs like these should help English teachers better understand problematic areas for their students. Why not give more summarization activities. Start with the long sentence ( “Please understand that, due to maintenance, the waterfall in the outer garden is not flowing today.”) and ask students to summarize using four words? See if you get back the same result as here. Take the opportunity to explain the whys and the why nots. Take the positives out of the negatives. Let your students summarize other sentences. A lot of natives do not spell correctly (outside of British and American spelling) so I wouldn't bang spelling. Natives frequently confuse their/there, your/you're, whose/who's to/too, and the list goes on.

Some commenters write, "Ask a native speaker of English for help." Here they are thinking like a Westerner and not like a Japanese. Can't really expect a Japanese to act the way you think. Culture clash. From experience, there is absolutely no way that a Japanese will ask someone they see passing or someone they are familiar with, to check their grammar. If it is a school situation it is expected, but not otherwise. It would be like saying, You are better than me."

Why does Engrish happen? Because the main focus is having blonde blue eyed American teachers to gape at, while using learning English as a front. Not dissipating anytime soon. Sorry, qualified teachers who do not fit the profile.

Okay, enough for today's construction. The Best Ever Maid.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Pride. After several years in school "studying" English, it hurts to admit that your proficiency in English is actually pretty dismal. I've taught many students who have said, "Please don't teach us grammar. We know lots of grammar ( from school )" when their written and spoken composition strongly suggest otherwise. Pride together with fear of making mistakes is another such reason why Engrish exists.

Then there's the fear of losing cultural identity. I'm sure there are people in Japan who don't care about this, but I'd say the majority of people in Japan slightly fear foreign culture and see English in particular as a threat to their cultural identity. In others I'd say it's stronger. These are the types who say things like, "This is Japan!" "I am Japanese." when asked about using English. There are a lot of countries that have embraced bilingualism and the professional and economic opportunities it brings without necessarily losing their cultural identity. I feel as if Japan is too hung up on this though. I don't see English proficiency and usage increasing dramatically anytime soon in Japan.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Engrish.com is a funny web site. there are a lot of picture from all around the world

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I won't complain about Engrish is most cases, particularly when it is a small Mom and Pop type business or a sign painter in a rural town...it might not be perfect, but at least it gets the point across in some way to an English speaking visitor.

What I do object to is Engrish when it is done by a huge corporation. Look at Hitachi who are using the slogan "Imagine the Next". Just saw it on a huge sign today outside one of their facilities. I just can’t imagine how or why the brain trust there picked that slogan.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I have no intention to belittle the Japanese language but it's a dog's breakfast of borrowed words. Thus indicating that is incomplete. English is simply not so. It would be best if Japanese stick to the original formula and not be lazy trying to learn the English language.

You are joking, aren't you? English is a mongrel language of the grand order. It's made up of Latin, Olde English, Norse, Germanic and Greek words... all cobbled together to form what we know today. Stop being such a bloody snob.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Have to add mine, seen in store in Japan:

Label on a cooking implement: "Warning: Burn yourself carefully."

6 ( +6 / -0 )

you show me one person who speaks a correct english in any of the english speaking countries besides english teachers, laywers or doctors?

Anchormen and Women from the news on the Mid-West USA, They are widely known for their correct use of English. Also, Voice-over actors, the ones that do the dubbing.

That's why spelling texts that teach the classical roots of English words work so well. Such programs look deeply into words and explain why English has so many strange spellings.So your point about cultural origins is a good one.

I agree.

"after decades of painfully hard work" You shouldn't take Japanese inablility of English as an insult to English speakers.

You are generalizing that all the Japanese are unable to learn English. They are not, they are lazy on learning it well. Take any person from any part of the world that it is not a English native speaker but knows a little, dump them in any English-speaking country for three months with no contact with people of his/her own language. They will learn better English than the average Japanese taking years of lessons in Japan

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Yakimo Your frustration is noted- street English is not always the same as textbook English; however WE can understand each other most of the time, whereas we have no clue what someone blabbering this Engrish nonsense wants to say. I daresay if we don't understand them, their countrymen also will not. Moreover, it only makes the barrier to International business, etc all the more difficult.

@JWithers Respectfully, teaching false information to students/Japanese in general contributes to the problem as much as their making mistakes. Please research why the days of the week are called what they are. Our western week is almost identical to Japan's, because both are very rooted in the Chinese calendar. The days are based on the 7 most prominent things in the sky, from biggest to smallest... the Sun (biggest), then the Moon (2nd most prominent) then the 5 known planets in antiquity.

Tuesday, or "Fire-Day" in Japanese, for example is based on Mars (God of War and 4th planet). The planet's Latin equivalent for Monday is Martes or Mardi, which corresponds to the Norse God of War, Tyr..as in Tyr's Day, as in Tuesday.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There's a good Wiki page here... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_the_days_of_the_week which details why we call the days of the week the names that we do. Like English, a mish-mash of other cultures and languages.

Christianity is also part of the language. For example, you teach the days of the week as just sounds they should remember. However most people know why it's called "Sunday". God said "Let there be light". Sunday!!!! Hello!!

Hahahahahaha... yes because the Bible was written in English, lol.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tuesday, or "Fire-Day" in Japanese, for example is based on Mars (God of War and 4th planet). The planet's Latin equivalent for Monday is Martes or Mardi, which corresponds to the Norse God of War, Tyr..as in Tyr's Day, as in Tuesday.

Just a little correction (middle is Spanish)

Monday = Lunes = Moon (Luna in Spanish) Tuesday = Martes = Mars (Marte) Wednesday = Miércoles = Mercury ( Mercurio) Thursday = Jueves = Jupiter (Júpiter) Friday = Viernes = Venus ( Venus) Saturday = Sábado = Saturn (Saturno) Sunday = Domingo = Sun ( Sol - later became dies Dominicus => Día del Señor)

God said "Let there be light". Sunday!!!! Hello!! That is an stretch of the meaning, it is just a "reconciliation" of two different meanings, the Old Rome called it "Dies solis" (Sun's Day) in reference to the planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn) with the arrival of Christianity, it became "dies dominicus" or "Day of the Lord", So in English speaking countries it retained Sun's day, whereas in countries with romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, etc) "Dominicus" stayed, from Dominicus it came "Domingo" in Spanish

Christian texts relate the genesis and the resurrection of Jesus that happened on the first day of the week, which is a Sunday, from that Christians relate Sunday with the "The day of the Lord".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As with pronunciation, grammar must kneel at the throne of communication. In practical English usage, if we are able to understand and be understood, we have succeeded. Those who wish to heap scorn on parties responsible for every misspelling and grammar flub are missing the point. If the sign has done its job, we can all relax. If it hasn't, maybe the writer ought to consider brushing up on their English.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very interesting and very important issues bing discussed here. It is importsnt to stay focus.on the subject matter Why?

One importantvfact is that Japanese language is basically syllabic and English is phonetic. Although our mouths can sound out either, since one's usage is restricted by the available written characters, it is difficult for one to master the use of phonetic lnguage when accustomed to a syllabic one. Unless of course one's syllabic language has the written characters that can represent phonic sounds as used in English.

Second the problem is with the Japanese government dictating Educational,standards based on written examinations. That is also in the back ground dictated by the government and corporations that use academic standing based on levels determined by writren tests for hiring and promotions.

Third, the major problem is that the Japanese corporations and the Media along with the biggest problem Advertising and Marketing compamies abslutely prostitute ALl foreign languages that are available to "create" totally useless or meaningless names for brands and products, thus destroying the proper use of words in a foreign language. The created words may sound nice to a Japanese, but makes absolutely NO sense to any foreign language native speaker.

Thus the cycle of very slow progress in learning a foreign language, especially in verbal communication, here in Japan. Thus this article.

More to add later...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Mennonite Maiden

I prescribe one chill pill every three hours, with a sense-of-humour transplant as an eventual possible cure : )

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

JWithers scribed thusly:

Christianity is also part of the language. For example, you teach the days of the week as just sounds they should remember. However most people know why it's called "Sunday". God said "Let there be light". Sunday!!!! Hello!!

Actually, no.

English names for the days of the week come - via Old German, from ancient Rome - where the days of the week were named after the seven planets (according to classical Roman learning), those planets being the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.

It is in Russian where the name for the day has heavy Christian overtones ("Voskreseniye" = "Resurrection").>

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Sunday

1 ( +1 / -0 )

All I would like to add here is it's thanks to the internet that "Engrish" has becomes it's own language in a manner of speaking.

This topic however has been hashed, re-hashed, regurgitated, up-chucked, laughed about, argued about and lord knows what else for literally decades.

All I suggest is that folks take in tongue in cheek, enjoy the humor, laugh with them and not at them.

BUT if you are really interested in seeing things change, start small, because there is no way the old-farts in MEXT are going to make any real changes that matter.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Usually Japanese workers are diligent and careful so they check something to avoid mistakes. Then why they are lenient to this matter? My friend Michiko (Japanese) pointed out that it is triggered by the direct translation from Japanese to English. I agree with her but still we get lazy not even checking the spelling. So we made stupid mistakes like "Lamb-raisin flavored ice-cream" "flesh juice". Here are some examples of silly English signs. Enjoy!

https://www.google.co.jp/search?q=funny+english+in+japan&sa=X&hl=ja&rlz=1T4SNJBjaJP508JP508&biw=1366&bih=618&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=skFSVP5ThLmbBYuogqgI&ved=0CB8QsAQ#imgdii=

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Because not enough Japanese can speak English.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Yubaru

having a word document show centre (here too by the way, a goofy red-line shows up underneath that spelling even though it's accurate) and them go "AhHA...YOU are WRONG!"

Actually, in "Word" you can choose to use either American or British English with "centre" being perfectly "correct" in the latter.

@Shanique Smith

@FightingViking.. Sign in a store in Tokyo : "No dangerous subjects" - better be careful what you say...;-)

One up for the Japanese. 'Subjects' can be used to refer to people. A subject is an individual who is subjected to the rule of an elite.

Of course it can mean "people" however I've never seen a sign that says "No dangerous people..." In this case it is definitely referring to "OBJECTS" as in "No dangerous objects..." (which is a sign one can see in many countries - even those that are NOT native English speaking countries).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually, in "Word" you can choose to use either American or British English with "centre" being perfectly "correct" in the latter.

Then you write a word in Japanese, switch back to English - and it's American. Microsoft seems to think this is a feature, not a bug. But it bugs me no end.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@cleo

Then you write a word in Japanese, switch back to English - and it's American

You must have an "older" version of Word, I very often write a word either in Japanese or (more often) in French and "that" (foreign) word will be underlined in red, but not the English part.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Fighting - It's Office 2011 for Mac, which I think is the latest available. I complained to Microsoft about it (actually I asked their support staff very nicely what I was doing wrong to have my documents constantly slipping into American) and they didn't seem to think it was any kind of problem, so I'm not expecting them to fix it in the new Office for Mac due out next year.

Maybe it's because it's the Japanese version - high time Microsoft fixed its apps so that they integrate with the language of the OS.

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Cleo

We speak English in America, not "American."

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Actually, in "Word" you can choose to use either American or British English with "centre" being perfectly "correct" in the latter.

You miss the point, BOTH should be allowable but to do that makes it difficult for teachers teaching AMERICAN English. Plus telling students that one or the other is correct/incorrect is screwed too.

@JTDanMan

We speak English in America, not "American."

Actually American's DO speak AMERICAN English, however if you noticed the discussion was about writing not speaking and there too American's write AMERICAN English.

You just choose to drop the American part before saying or using the word English, because if you believe everyone speaks and writes English the same you would be 100% wrong.

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@Yubaru There is no problem with the American dialects of english, nor are there any problems with any of the different dialects of japanese as well. People who try to make the distinction are being foolish. If a teacher is from the reigon of that dialect, he should teach what he knows and speaks. A american's english is just as understood by the british, as british english is understood by the americans as well.

In essence, if you can speak and read one dialect of english, you can understand all of them. The anti-american slant you are using is not appreciated here; American and British english are equally used as a common language, and are indeed, the same english, with differences in dialect. Both of those countries are equals with japan as a first world nation, and as they share a common root and common language, the people within speak merely "English". There is actually 19 distinct dialects of english that belong to the American people, as there are over 30 distinct dialects that constitute "british" english. Both of these are valid forms of the language, and indeed are the same, just as japanese from kyushu is not the same as the Kagoshima area.

Engrish as used by the japanese is a amusing thing indeed, but it's mostly built around the failings of the rote memorization system employed by the japanese school system.

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The anti-american slant you are using is not appreciated here

There is no 'anti-american slant', just a complaint about a software program not working as it's supposed to.

If a teacher is from the reigon of that dialect, he should teach what he knows and speaks

Well and good, but if he has a very strong regional twang (from whatever region) he should not advertise himself as teaching standard English. I speak both standard English and broad Lancashire, but a doun think tha'd won'thi childer tort t' spek lak this, wudter? - for all that I'm very fond of my regional accent.

(when I typed advertise there, the spell check program automatically 'corrected' it to adverse because it didn't recognise the -ise spelling. That kind of thing is not anti-anything, it's just annoying.)

japanese from kyushu is not the same as the Kagoshima area

Since Kagoshima is in Kyushu I'm not sure what you're saying there, but when I was studying Japanese I was taught the difference between (e.g.) arigato (standard Japanese, used all over the country) and okini (used in and around Kyoto, sounds daft and affected if you are not in the area and not a native of the area).

But Engrish is not a question of regional dialects being used inappropriately, it's about the language itself being mangled mercilessly.

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@leo

My son uses a couple of "Macs" but I still prefer the good "ole" PC... (So far, no problem with "Word spell checking" !)

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Lol, It's a sense of thought without delivering grammatical expression, a direct answer to wondering curiousity of an eye, take note "It' a sign" to fake fountain and for sight seeing. wakaro ka?

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I think I have posted my comment about a month ago. The ability to communicate in English is very important these days especially. I am Japanese and brought up in the States part of my life. I think there is no magic wand to make people have good command of any foreign language. My experience tells me that one who wishes to learn foreign languages needs to be immersed in speaking and hearing environment day and night, and copy what they say. Just think how a new born baby learns how to speak.

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Nice big, beautiful sign at the Miyazaki Airport brand new by the fact the old sign (which was correct) is gone.

New sign: Buggage Craim

Then outside at the curb a metal sign on aluminium pole set in the concrete: Takushi Stoppage

Down the walk way outside: Basu Stoppage

Finally: Stoppage of walking way

An in 10 days is the Phoenix Dunlop Open, an international PGA event. I informed the manager of the errors and he already knew, his comment "Sou desu ne. Shyoganai ne."

Yup, shyoganai indeed.

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@Yubaru There is no problem with the American dialects of english, nor are there any problems with any of the different dialects of japanese as well. People who try to make the distinction are being foolish. If a teacher is from the reigon of that dialect, he should teach what he knows and speaks. A american's english is just as understood by the british, as british english is understood by the americans as well.

You don't get it do you. Yes there are problems for JHS teachers who have ALT's that can not speak pretty much unaccented American-English. Call them foolish, but that just shows your own ignorance of the system in place here. They WANT and pretty much demand AMERICAN, not British, Canadian, Aussie or whatever.

He or she CAN NOT teach what he or she wants, because he or she is working in a system that does not recognize "other" brands of English.

The anti-american slant you are using is not appreciated here;

Dude. I am an American, I've probably been here longer than you have been alive, and I KNOW in detail what is wanted, vs what it should be. Live and learn.

In essence, if you can speak and read one dialect of english, you can understand all of them

That is BS...I am willing to bet you can not understand Ebonics, Cajun, Deep south, northeast, valley, or any number of other "dialects" of American-English. Not to mention Brits, Indian, Aussie, New Zealand and other dialects as well.

Sure we can communicate, BUT you cant understand ALL of it.

Both of these are valid forms of the language, and indeed are the same, just as japanese from kyushu is not the same as the Kagoshima area.

This has NOTHING to do with Japanese, and bringing it up means nothing and just lessens your own argument.

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@Yubaru

Once again we agree !

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It is not uncommon for non-English speaking countries to develop or invent their own terminologies, slangs or styles which could be a combination of English and the main local language. 'Chinglish' is for English as used in China, 'Hinglish' for India and for Japan it would be better to term it 'Jinglish' rather than 'Engrish'! We do have American English for US where English Language as used in England has been reformed in many ways and so are in other countries like Australia and Europe. It has been said English is spoken in different tones in different streets of London! Australian English has a unique style especially pronunciation. For example Australians could be heard pronouncing 'today' as to 'die'! So much for the time being but all said and done, English remains an international language for all practical purposes and it is used better than in England in many other countries such as India!

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It is not uncommon for non-English speaking countries to develop or invent their own terminologies, slangs or styles which could be a combination of English and the main local language. Yeah and I think the most common is "Spanglish" which it is actually spoken by some people in American neighborhoods or countries close to the US.

But that's different from "Engrish", when you Japanize a word in English you adapt that word, whereas in Engrish you actually want to say the word or sentence in English, which is poorly translated, spelled or spoken.

There is a difference to me to use the word "standard" , when you want to use in actual English it doesn't occur naturally in an sentence, so you use "it is within the protocol to do this thing", when you can perfectly say "it is standard doing it that way" (sorry maybe my grammar is off here)

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A mother was bringing her daughter to kindergarten. The little girl was crying and having a rough start to her day. I read the mother's Enlish sweathirt aloud. This time the English was right on the money, but the mother had no idea of the message. When the little girl understood that, she cheered right up! It read, "If we only look down, we will never see a rainbow" on the back and "A smile brings sunshine" on the front.

She wears the shirt to take her daughter to kindergarten when she feels "down."

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