Friday, August 28, 2015

Converted into Japanese

Words from other languages are converted into English words all the time. You can find English words that came from almost any language you can think of, from Arabic (algebra) to Zulu (impala). Of course, the borrowing of words goes the other way, as well. English words show up in most other languages. Often these borrowings are obvious. Once while listening to a German-language radio station over the Web, I was surprised by how often English words came up, and they were pronounced just as they would be in most English-speaking countries.

Such is not the case in Japan, however. Many Japanese words came from English, but they don't sound like it or look like it. Vivian Cook comments on this in her book It's All in a Word. In the Japanese language, she writes, all words and, in fact, all syllables must end with a vowel, with the exception of the letter "n." Thus the English word hamburger becomes hanbaagaa in Japanese.

Sometimes Japanese adds syllables to English words and phrases. Other times it subtracts syllables. Here are some examples Cook provides:

strike - sutoraiike

green peas - gurin-piisu

hot line - hotto rain

drugs - doraggu

word processor - waa-puro

printer - purintaa

paper clip - kurippu

postcard - posutokaado

personal computer -paso kaon

convenience store - konbini

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