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What do you think about the way English is used in the branding and marketing of products in Japan?

59 Comments

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Hilarious most of the time.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

I think it doesn't really matter, as we aren't the ones they are marketing to, and it works for those that they are marketing to.

6 ( +14 / -8 )

Pretty atrocious for the most part.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

The English used in marketing reflects how poorly English is taught and learnt here, and also how little regard most Japanese must have for it.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

Deplorable, juvenile, and as stated "pretty atrocious". And probably one of the reasons young people have such a hard time learning proper English.

5 ( +11 / -6 )

"THE 歴史" TV show always gets me.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It can be very entertaining.

Wacoal came out with a new pantyhose years ago when the word "City" was a buzz word.

They gave the item the name of "City Pants," which might seem reasonable except that the lady on the TV commercial pronounced it in perfect Katakana.

It was only on a couple of times and then they killed it.

Someone must have told them!

18 ( +20 / -2 )

When we consider the audience then maybe it isn't that big a deal, but often times mistakes are made when a simple check would fix it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hilarious at times. It brings to mind the auto supply store ad that advertised "farts and accessories" . Classic.. !

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I found my favorite example so far on a box of laundry detergent at "Donkey Hote". It was a pink box with flowers and a smiling teddy bear beckoning consumers to, and I kid you not, "Feel the Oriental Woody"

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Mostly entertaining! Sometimes painful

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I think that there should be more attention to either using borrowed words in correct context OR using the Japanese word for the object in question. I swear, sometimes the news is so full of katakana borrowed/re-applied English that it kinda does me head in a bit.

Surely there must be or could be a word for things like "consento" "pasacon" etc... I wish there were anyway.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Entertaining to say least. My family back in the states really loves it when I send pictures of butchered engrish.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It makes me furious. Kids go through the education system getting hammered by teachers for making even slight mistakes, and then they get into the adult world and suddenly any old rubbish English is fair? What kind of message does that send to each generation of students? And of course, it also means that the linguistic environment is constantly getting filled with nonsense English invented by graphic designers who don't know the language, which taints the input learners are exposed to.

It sends a terrible message to language learners- you don't have to bother to make your message comprehensible to real speakers of English, you just have to make it look cute to Japanese people. English in Japan isn't a language for meaningful communication, it's a decoration to move product.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

and it works for those that they are marketing to. but if it isnt correct english then whats the point! they may as well use egyptian hieroglyph as it would probably be better understood. Doesnt help the average Japanaese english ability when there reading Japanese pigeon english on signs, posters, T- shrts all the time

1 ( +3 / -2 )

if it isnt correct english then whats the point!

To make sales. It's not a lesson.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I am surprised no Japanese person has been on this thread yet saying, "But there are many strange kanji being used overseas." That usually seems to make it all alright. But actually to me it sometimes goes deeper than simply some funny English. Sometimes it really seems to be subversive, as if the writers understood what they were writing and are taunting the wearer or user. Has anyone else noticed this?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

It's hilarious!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The nonsense they put on tshirts I can deal with, it's when the more important stuff gets screwed up because someone didn't even consult a dictionary (that most people have on their phones) that annoys me. My town made a thousand roadside flags for an international event with 'Wellcome' written on them. When I pointed out the error they simply painted over one one 'l', so we had a thousand 'Wel come' flags embarrassing our town for a fortnight. Made me want to gouge my eyes out.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What does annoy me is the often incomprehensible drivel written by my coworkers in 'English' and sent to counterparts or even clients overseas. I'm not being pedantic and talking about missed apostrophes or affect/effect here - I do mean incomprehensible drivel. One of our translators, a very literate Japanese woman, tells me their Japanese is very slapdash and blames this on an education system which doesn't emphasize the importance of logically structured and clear writing. She's sick and tired of chasing people to ask what the Japanese means before translating it to English. Some even get uppity and think she's stupid for not being able to make sense of it ( I've read some of it and even to a native speaker it's often mind-bending ). Like me, most of my coworkers are from science backgrounds and aren't usually the most literate but I do at least take the time and effort to make sure my writing makes sense. On the very few occasions I do need to write in Japanese I make double the effort to ensure it makes sense and I get it checked if possible.

The stuff you see written in advertising is what I come across on a near daily basis at work.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

I was browsing in Yurindo and saw a yellow pencil case with a pink zipper (obviously aimed at a young girl) emblazoned on said case was I'M A LUCKY B*STARD ( I have the photo but can't post it here…why not?)

I think the coloring and the included word "lucky" would persuade someone to buy it with realizing (or caring) what the other word meant.

Someone is having a sick laugh.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I love the funny way they use English and I hope it never stops.

My only complaint is that it seems the English used has gotten better these days and it's harder to find good examples of unintentional mistakes.

Also, machine translation is sometimes used and that doesn't produce funny English.

Please give us more of the old classics, Japan!

I used to love it at my local supermarket in the early 1990s... the sign at the cash register said:

"We can't use a credit card."

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Haruki Murakami's novel "Norwegian Wood" is a lovely misunderstanding. The Beatles' song title refers to timber, "Isn't it good, Norwegian wood?", but the Japanese title is” ノルウェーの森“、or "Norwegian Forest".

My absolute favourite was on a T-shirt worn by a tiny girl. It had a picture of a teddy bear holding a red balloon who was saying "SMD,B". Can't say more than that at the risk of annoying the mods, but I'm sure someone can work it out.... ; )

1 ( +3 / -2 )

One of my step daughters wears a sweater that says "I promised you a happy ending", even after I told her what that means.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The English is downright embarrassing at times. They seem to like it though.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

These mistakes aside It annoys me most when some Japanese person says that British English is more refined . lol

1 ( +3 / -2 )

@Rana

It annoys me most when some Japanese person says that British English is more refined . lol

The truth can be annoying, can't it, old chap? ; )

6 ( +10 / -4 )

'These mistakes aside It annoys me most when some Japanese person says that British English is more refined . lol'

Well, it is true, innit?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Some of the strange English is actually intentional since it is written to appeal to Japanese. Other times it is because the checker needed to be checked...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The real gems are in the past. I think companies are getting wise to unintended meanings.

Anyone remember "F--- the Neb Star babies while you can"?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I found my favorite example so far on a box of laundry detergent at "Donkey Hote". It was a pink box with flowers and a smiling teddy bear beckoning consumers to, and I kid you not, "Feel the Oriental Woody"

Wrong article. The article on gropers is here:

http://www.japantoday.com/category/lifestyle/view/schoolgirl-seeking-crowdfunding-to-produce-anti-train-groper-pins

0 ( +1 / -1 )

English in branding and logos and marketing in Japan is merely intended to be "decorative"and fun. To the Japanese consumer, it is just background noise and never taken literally or even read for that matter. Decorative English is all it is meant to be. It is not created for Westerners. Pocari Sweat?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Great attention getter,...like most local accepts and always get the message so why not except foreigners who can't make it in their own country will search coming to Japan to get the attention of the Japanese people only feeling that they are inferior but still superior in the English language so that's what they're in to?

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

To an extent I think as long as it is marketing within Japan it doesn't matter because people will accept what they are told something means, and use it as such. However, if companies or even just regular Joe's are trying to use the same English overseas or with foreign people who speak English I think they should at least have someone with proper English skills (not necessarily a native speaker) to vet that it is correct, and they should understand that most 'Japanese English' doesn't make any sense in ACTUAL English, especially sports and advertising.

The problem is that it is so pervasive even domestically that it has taken over as a substitute for using proper Japanese.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Couldn't agree more with most of the comments, but @wtfjapan, just for the record, it's not pigeon english, it's pidgen English.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

"Feel the Oriental Woody"? I take it back. Not much has changed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The one that amused me was seeing a fairly well endowed lady, jogging through the park with the following written on her T-shirt : "Open your fly..." (with a very determined look on her face...)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sometimes I see an advertisement or shop sign that the English is so bad that I think come on man, couldn't you have checked or asked someone if your English was correct. I have been asked several times to help someone's English for a shop ad or sign.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@DaDude

Yeah. The problem is some folks think they know better than native English speakers.

I was asked what the English was for a special room where babies could be breastfed in a community centre. y suggestion of "nursing room" was ignored because "it sounds like a room in a hospital."

So what did they come up with? "Suckle corner."

7 ( +7 / -0 )

On one level it is a really good chuckle.

However, I don't like it being referred to as "Japanese English" as that is at best ignorance, at worst arrogance. It is not a linguistic variety of English, simply Japanese.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

TrevorPeace: "it's pidgen English"

You got the spelling right, for sure, but technically (and I'm not suggesting you didn't know this), it's not pidgin, either. For it to be pidgin it can't be the native language of either group communicating.

Duck70: "It is not a linguistic variety of English, simply Japanese."

But that's the thing; it's NOT Japanese when no one here understands it, and if they are trying to use it to communicate with English speaking people (as in, thinking they are using English). In regards to 'Katakana English', outside of pronunciation, yes, I agree with you. Loan words used in Japanese ARE Japanese.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Quite a few years ago I saw a little ojisan coming out of a pachinko parlour with "KING OF F***" emblazoned across his t-shirt.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

smithinjapan: You got the spelling right, for sure, but technically (and I'm not suggesting you didn't know this), it's not pidgin, either. For it to be pidgin it can't be the native language of either group communicating.

Is it the native language of anyone anywhere? Anyone in the world solely communicating in Japanese-T-Shirt-Signboard-English as a native language?

'Japan' doesn't show up in wikipedia pages on Creole Language: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creole_language

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just remembered another one : When I grow up, I want to be Barbie. That b**** has everything ! The young lady wearing it was probably not even in her teens !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My only complaint is that it seems the English used has gotten better these days and it's harder to find good examples of unintentional mistakes.

I agree, the English was more more hilarious many years ago. Now it tends to be just grammatical/spelling errors; i.e., boring.

Its not just with English, they screw up other languages too. And they often combine different languages (e.g., petit cake).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It seems to just make a mockery of English, which pretty much sums up the whole attitude towards foreign languages in Japan.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Mere decoration.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Can you remember the widely publicized campaign of "Japan. Thank you" in 2012? Interestingly, that was not intended for the foreigners within Japan only, rather for international community in the world.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the local Tullys coffee shop I spied today - a tastefully hand drawn, coloured notice board with the title

"Bean Crender".

What you may ask is a bean crender? Well they have daily specials of different coffee beans over the month of November and have drawn up a pretty calendar with the special days highlighted. So obviously it's a "Bean Crender".

Actually, I don't mind at all most of the casual, small time mistakes - a chuckle or two - but the big corp, big biz, govt misses are to be frowned on, as it shows a lack of professionalism, a lack of nouse or a lack of willingness to accept a nobodys critical proof reading valued above the senior staff ability - imo.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I once saw an obaasan wearing a T-shirt with the word JUICY written on the chest. Nothing wrong with the English, but I'm just saying.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am cool with it, like the majority of the Japanese population. After all it's been created for them and not for the English speaking minority.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Is it revenge for all the years of having to study something they hated? Or just plain laziness? Whenever I have seen French or German written, somehow it is always grammatically correct and without spelling errors.

Is it me?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sensei258 I found my favorite example so far on a box of laundry detergent at "Donkey Hote". It was a pink box with flowers and a smiling teddy bear beckoning consumers to, and I kid you not, "Feel the Oriental Woody"

It's Don Quijote not "donkey hote". If you want to spell it out by sound that is cool, but "Don" and "Kihote" are the separate words used. So the space should be in a different place. Even on the advertisements for the company you can see a dot after ドン that separates it from the rest. Sorry to be nit-picky but it is my most frequented shop.

On another note. Whether British English or American English is more refined is irrelevant when someone that has virtually no skill in either is speaking to someone who is fluent. To try and argue that the problem lies in the fact that you studied British English in School and are thereby unable to communicate properly with an America is rather immature, arrogant, or both.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think Japan needs to once and for all "grow up" when it comes to ESL. "It sounds cute" does not resonate anymore. You can't really stop freedom of speech, but there are enough foreigners here to help with "catchy phrases" and "buildings, cars, businesses" names. It's ridiculous that highly paid executives are signing off on silly English.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I just look at it as a desparate attempt to market/sell japanese products to foreign customers. Nothing wrong with it.

This was never the case about 8 to 10 years ago.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

To make sales. It's not a lesson.

But what people wear matters.

I love Bertie's Happy Ending shirt!

One girl came up to me at my gym a few years back and asked me what the word on her shirt meant. she had one word in bold black capitals on her plain white shirt. SWINE

Same gym same situation, but a guy. HE had a shirt with the mastercard logo on it. but instead of mastercard it said masterb____ (fill in the blanks)

I'll never forget the string bikini girl who had HAVE A GOOD TIME sprinkled on her bottom with hearts. I had the urge to chikan her and say "well, it does say have a good time".

neither of these poor souls had a clue about their clothes. So, no, strangerland. Bad English is not excusable.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

it's been created for them and not for the English speaking minority.

Which is what it is, but some in the clique don't accept that. They will vote you down just for the hell of it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

no, strangerland. Bad English is not excusable.

Matter of opinion, innit. The only people who care are those who are not the target of the marketing.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The only people who care are those who are not the target of the marketing.

Nope. The people who were wearing the t-shirts CARED A LOT when they found out what their shirts said.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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