sci.lang.japan (TT topics) FAQ

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Tomoyuki Tanaka

Jun 23, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/23/99

Maintained-by: TANAKA Tomoyuki <>
Archive-name: japan/language-TT
Version: 0.3 (about 1100 lines)
Posting-Frequency: at most once every two or three months
Last-modified: 1999 6/22

Written/edited-by: TANAKA Tomoyuki <>

BB's sci.lang.japan FAQ:
Olaf's old <s.l.j> FAQ:

<soc.culture.japan> FAQ files are at

new in this version:
trivia, "besuboru", slang, doraemon, pangram
white American teachers of English in Japan


-- preface: the "real" FAQ files for <sci.lang.japan>

-- Japanese is one of the world's top-10 languages.
-- Jp phonology: mora, rhythm, tones, ...
-- gairaigo origins
-- is "gaijin" a derogatory word?
-- Jp slang: charinko, kattarui, uzattai, ...
-- Jp wordplay: palindromes, ...
-- How do I say "I love you" in Japanese?
-- "akai desu" is ungrammatical, and other fine/anal points

-- notation of Jp names
---- 1. family name first?
---- 2. capitalization
---- 3. "Tsuchihashi" or "Tutihasi"?

-- offensive use of the "-san" suffix by white Americans.
-- Japanese learn English faster than Americans learn Japanese.
-- racist "transcription" of Jp loanwords: "sararii man", "besuboru", ...
-- Reischauer's poor spoken Japanese
-- American misconception about `L's and `R's in Japanese.
-- Am. misconception of "uniquely Jp concepts": amae, honne/tatemae ...
-- Am. expressions about the Japanese (Asians) with racist overtones
-- Asiaphiles who love to talk about Jap-lish
-- white American teachers of English (conversation) in Japan
-- trivia and other topics (loose ends):

-- submissions to this FAQ
-- about the author

-- preface: the "real" FAQ files for <sci.lang.japan>

this file complements the "real" FAQ files for <sci.lang.japan>
1. BB's sci.lang.japan FAQ:
2. Olaf's old <s.l.j> FAQ:
3. (one by Micky Santos?)

"sci.lang FAQ" contains interesting references to Japanese.
(e.g., language family question: is Japanese Altaic?
Chinese characters used in Jp)

easiest way to read Jp WWW pages: (gone?)

the best/biggest compilations of Japan-related WWW links: (gone)


s.l.j (TT topics) FAQ:

<soc.culture.japan> FAQ files:

-- Japanese is one of the world's top-10 languages.

in terms of number of speakers, 20 years ago Japanese
was number 7 in the world. it has slipped somewhat in
the raking, but it's still in the top 10.

| from
| Rank Language Country Population
| 1 CHINESE, MANDARIN [CHN] China 885,000,000
| 2 ENGLISH [ENG] United Kingdom 322,000,000
| 3 SPANISH [SPN] Spain 266,000,000
| 4 BENGALI [BNG] Bangladesh 189,000,000
| 5 HINDI [HND] India 182,000,000
| 6 PORTUGUESE [POR] Portugal 170,000,000
| 7 RUSSIAN [RUS] Russia 170,000,000
| 8 JAPANESE [JPN] Japan 125,000,000
| 9 GERMAN, STANDARD [GER] Germany 98,000,000
| 10 CHINESE, WU [WUU] China 77,175,000

| from "The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1996"
| Speakers (in millions)
| Native Total
| 1. Mandarin 844 975
| 2. Hindi 340 437
| 3. Spanish 339 392
| 4. English 326 478
| 5. Bengali 193 200
| 6. Arabic 190 225
| 7. Russian 169 284
| 8. Portuguese 172 184
| 9. Japanese 125 126
| 10. German 98 123
| 11. French 73 125
| 12. Malay-Indonesian 52 159
| (from Keith Finch <>)

QUESTION: is <sci.lang.japan> a good way to learn Japanese?


<sci.lang.japan> can help a learner's Japanese if for
every minute spent with <sci.lang.japan>, the learner
spends several minutes actually practicing Japanese
talking/writing about the topics raised there.

-- Jp phonology: mora, rhythm, tones, ...

--- mora, mora-timing

Japanese words are made up of moras (or morae).
and syllables seem to be of lesser importance.

each mora gets equal time (isochronous moras).
see Robert Port, et al. "Evidence for mora timing in Japanese"
in JASA (Journal of Acoustical Society of America)
Vol 81, No 5, pp.1574-1585 (1987).

--- tones, H and L

most gairaigo words and end with the tones ...HHHLL
(and if longer than 3 moras begin with the tones LH).

--- 2-mora foot, 4-beat rhythm, stupidity of 5-7-5 haiku in English

2 moras constitutes a "foot" in Jp.
(example: in abbreviation/inversion
san | gura | su --> gura | san
2 moras move together. many examples like this.)

these 2-mora feet combine to form a 4-beat rhythm, the
basic rhythm/prosody of spoken Japanese.
the "7-5 chou" on the surface is really this 4-beat rhythm.
see Bekku Sadanori [book] "nihongo no rizumu" (1977).

so i say,
Haiku in English:
it's cute when children do it;
stupid for grown-ups.
(by TT)

as you can see, rhythmically 5-7-5 means nothing in English.
serious translators of haikus into English ignore 5-7-5.

--- Jp spoken by gaijin tend to be 3-beat?

i was looking at "Chapter 4: stupidity of English haikus"
in Bekku's book (listed above) and found this:

Jp spoken by English-speakers tend to be 3-beat.
yoko | HA: | ma
kama | KU: | ra
o: | FU: | na

kama | KA: | zee
carry | O: | key

tokoro | ZA: | wa

--- historical Jp phonology: 8 vowels, instead of the current 5

in the Nara period (8th century) "Joudai nihongo" had
8 vowels. the current 5 + /i", e", o"/

but some argue that there were only 5.

--- historical Jp phonology: H-line (ha-gyou)

before the Nara period, the current H-line (ha-gyou)
corresponded to /p/ sounds.
(this would mean that the word for "mother"
(now pronounced /haha/) was then pronounced /papa/.)

then H-line became /f/.
fito (now pronounced hito (meaning "person"))
fana (now pronounced hana (meaning "flower"))

during the Edo period, H-line became the current /h/.

this explains some {rendaku}:
wari + hasi --> waribasi
/h/ (underlyingly /p/) becomes voiced to be /b/.

** info on Jp phonology comes from
kubozono haruo, oota satosi
"on-in kouzou to akusento" (1998),
an exellent book which points out
commonalities between Jp and English phonology.

-- gairaigo origins

i've always been interested in the various interesting
etymologies of Jp gairaigo (loan words).
"chongaa" is from Korean.
"rootoru" is from Chinese.

i thought about writing a book about them, until i
realized there are many good books on the subject
published in Japan.
| --- abekku (a (heterosexual) couple out on a date)
| from the French "avec" (a preposition meaning "with")
| --- bakku-shan (a girl who appears pretty when seen from behind)
| (this word is pretty outdated now.)
| bakku: from English "back"
| shan: from German "scho:n" (meaning "beautiful")
| (from the 1930s to the 1950s or 1960s (?) "shan" was
| commonly used to mean "a beautiful girl".)
| Together "bakku-shan" means "a girl who appears pretty when
| seen from behind (but not when seen from the front)."
| (It's kind of like "shunkan-bijin" --- "a momentary beauty".)
| [...]
| -?- batten (a conjunction meaning "but"; used in the Kyuushuu area)
| from English "but then".
| this is not from the dictionary. i read and heard about it on
| several separate occasions. [do you have any references?]

-- is "gaijin" a derogatory word?

(this is a FAQ in <sci.lang.japan>.)

the short answer is NO.

"gaijin" is as derogatory as "foreigner" in American English.
(note that many US universities today avoid "foreign
student" and use "international student".)

white Americans who complain about the word "gaijin"
unreasonably vocally
(1) are ignorant of the Japanese language, and
(2) have racial prejudice toward the Japanese.

from Olaf's old <s.l.j> FAQ:
| Subject: Q2.11 Is "gaijin" a derogatory word?
| In and of itself "gaijin" can hardly be said to be a derogatory
| word. Most people and dictionaries will tell you it is just
| short for "gaikokujin", means `foreigner' or `alien' and can be
| contrasted with "houjin" (Japanese person). Any negative conno-
| tations that come with the word are the results of gross general-
| ization, lack of information, (hyper)sensitivity, and the like.
| Whether these negative associations are implied, depends on con-
| text.
| Kids playing in the street exclaiming "Ah, gaijin da!" are gen-
| erally just surprised at the sight of a foreigner. Real estate
| agents using "Gaijin wa dame!" are pigeon-holing all obvious
| foreigners into a group of potentially troublesome customers
| they'd rather not have.
| [ed.: I think most of the fuss around the word is caused by
| overly PC-sensitive types not comfortable with the idea of (sud-
| denly) being part of a rather conspicuous minority.]

| soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting]
| (3.5.2) Is "Gaijin" a derogatory term?
| This issue crops up occasionally as a heated debate in this newsgroup.
| Gaijin is a contraction of the word gaikokujin, and literally
| means "foreigner". The Japanese language has several cases of
| using "gai" (outside) with a noun to indicate one of <noun> from
| another country. Gaisha for foreign cars, gaijin for foreign
| people, gaika for foreign currencies.
| Some people are deeply offended by the word, saying that "gaijin"
| refers to outsiders rife with undesirable characteristics. There
| is no doubt that is one meaning of the word.
| "Gaijin" is also used in many cases where it is probably not
| intended as a negative statement. Consider that it is common in
| the Japanese language to address people whose names are not
| known, or even if names are known, by titles: omawari san, Mr.
| Policeman; sushiya san, Mr. Sushi Shop. It is not unusual for a
| Japanese speaker to call a non Japanese who is otherwise not
| known, "gaijin san".
| It should be noted that:
| The language also has much stronger words for cases where a
| speaker wants to discriminate or insult.
| and
| Non-Asian foreigners _will_ be called "gaijin" by many Japanese.

-- Jp slang: charinko, kattarui, uzattai, ...
> ajapa-!: A sound of disbelief or shock.
> charinko: It means "bicycle." Usually, highschool students use it.
> chin suru: Microwave it. [Nuke it.]
> choberiba: [...] the second part of it came from English
> expression, "very bad." "Cho" means, "extra-ordinary."
> So, it means, "extra-ordinary bad."
> kattarui: It means "tired." It's often pronounced, "Kattarii."
> uzattai: This is an adjective for young people to
> disrespectfully describe older people who are fussy.
> It's often used to describe teachers who are very strict
> with their students.

-- Jp wordplay: palindromes, ...

(see BB's AFAQ

--- kai-bun, sakasa kotoba(?) (palindromes)

akasaka (in Romaji)

take yabu yaketa

subuta tukuri mori-mori ku(tu)ta busu. ["(tu)" is small "tu"]

satou ikeda souri uso dake iutosa.

--- haya-kuti-kotoba (tongue twisters)

(repeat each 3 times.)

tokyou tokkyo kykakyoku.
nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago.
tonari no kyaku ha yoku kaki kuu kyaku da.

ao maki gami, aka maki gami, ki maki gami. (?)
sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, momo mo sumomo mo momo no uti.

--- siritori
2 or more persons take turns, e.g., as
ringo gorira rappa pantu ...
one who gets stuck or says a word ending in "N" loses.

--- "tebukoro"
you ask someone, "what's TEBUKORO read backwards?"
upon the response "rokubute", you hit the victim 6 times.

--- nazo nazo (riddles)
[a good example?]

--- dajare (puns)
A: "tonari no ie ni kakine ga dekitatte nee"
B: "hee"

--- obscence backward "double-entendre"
when you read the sentence backwards, the message is obscence.

--- "jugemu jugemu, gokou no surikire ..."
(from a classic rakugo)

--- see
(1) risque/obscene pardody of 'Ringo no uta'
(2) pretty elaborate pun/saga (true story)
'Aku no juujika...' (Devil's Cross)

--- self-doc sentences (pangrams/Sallowsgrams) in Japanese and Chinese

if you like this sort of thing, visit

-- How do I say "I love you" in Japanese?

There have been two traditional answers for this.
(i think someone posted an answer in this form before me.)

1. you don't. (you don't say it; you show it.)

Confucius, Jesus

Nicholas Kristof's racist spin
(1) Jp married couples don't love each other
(2) in Jp there are more words for rice than for love (false).

for Nicholas Kristof and The New York Times, see:

2. suki, daisuki, suki-dayo, suki-desu, ai-siteru-yo, ...

dialect and other variants:

suki-yanen, horetennen, ho-no-ji nanda,
gottuu suiterunen, ositai siteimasu,
kimi ni muchuu nanda, koisiinda,
mae kara kimi no koto omotte tanda,

other expressions for love:

kesou-suru, sibo-suru, renbo-suru (renbo no jou)
ren-ai, aijou, aigan, aiseki-suru,

ren-ren-to (adv.)

aiyoku, seiai, yokubou, yokujou, retujou, ...

yuuai, keiai, jou-ai

ii hito ga iru, ...
mune ga uzuku,

koibito, karesi, kanojo, koibumi, ...

"kawaisou dataa horetatte kotoyo"
(Natume Souseki's interpretation of "pity is akin to love".)

-- "akai desu" is ungrammatical, and other fine/anal points

> `desu' after an adjective has
> no other purpose than to provide politeness,

(ungrammatical phrases/utterances are marked with asterisks.)

"*akai desu" is ungrammatical and sounds juvenile (infantile,
baby-talk, as "akai desyu").
it sounds like a Jp phrase spoken by a gaijin.

the correct way to make the assertion "akai" into a more polite
form is "akou gozaimasu" (which, i admit, sounds anachronistic
and over-polite).

since DESU and DA are grammatically equivalent, allowing
*AKAI DESU would result in allowing *AKAI DA.

strange: *abunai desu/da

kiken desu/da
abunou gozaimasu
abunai no desu/da
abunai n desu/da

i think this is a position shared by older (purist) writers
and linguists.

"ookii desune" sounds acceptable.

akai is a (canonical) keiyoushi
shizuka is a (canonical) keiyoudoushi

("canonical" means "archetypical" in Hackerspeak.)

keiyoushi words have inflections (katuyou), e.g.,
akai akakatta akakunai akaitoki akakereba ...

keiyoudoushi words don't have inflections (katuyou)
and are followed by DA/DESU.

on "akai desu", Honda Katuiti (prominent journalist) agrees
with me completely. "nihongo no sakubun gijutu" (p.222--)

another "gaijin-sounding" phrase is "... nai desu".

strange: "XXX ga nai desu"
correct: "XXX ga arimasen"

strange: "XXX-sinai desu" (okinai desu, toranai desu, kakanai desu)
correct: "XXX-simasen " (okimasen, torimasen, kakimasen)

this "akai desu" is (to a small extent) a matter of taste.

question: what other topics do Jp linguistic purists talk about?

(Jp counterparts to the US "different than/from",
"it's me/I", "10 items or less/fewer", etc.)

1. another SABORI KEIGO (sloppy polite-form), like "akai desu"
using "rare" too much.

strange: korareru kakareru
correct: irassharu okakininaru

2. "ageru" is for people only.
(TT doesn't have a stand on this one.)

according to these people,
strange: kingyo ni esa wo ageru. (hana ni mizu wo ageru)
correct: kingyo ni esa wo yaru. (hana ni mizu wo yaru)

these seem much more technical/picky than "akai desu".
let me know if you remember other issues like these.

-- notation of Jp names

[mention SWET's style book here]

---- 1. family name first?

from "American misconceptions about Japan FAQ":
| (MISCONCEPTION 4) Japanese have first names followed by last names
| just like Americans do.
| THE TRUTH: a Japanese name usually consists of a family name
| followed by a given name.
| most academic and serious treatment of Japanese culture
| in English text (such as scholarly papers and serious
| books) observe this original order, while popular and
| cursory ones (such as newspaper and magazine articles)
| reverse and "Anglicize" the order.
| note that preserving the original name order in English text
| is the default for people from mainland China (PRC) (Mao
| Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, Li Peng), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh, Nguen Van
| Thieu, Pham Van Dong), and North Korea (Kim Il Sung). it is
| also common for people from Taiwan (ROC) (Chiang Kai-shek) and
| South Korea (Rho Tae Woo, Chun Doo Hwan).

---- 2. capitalization

it is a good idea to write the family name in all capitals
(as TANAKA Tomoyuki, Gray DAVID, WANG Pei)
whenever there is a possibility of confusion, like the
first time the name appears.

this way of capitalization to specify the family name is
also common in the U.S. military, U.S. phone books.
the French-speaking world (see <news:soc.culture.french>),
and Esperanto community (see <news:soc.culture.esperanto>).

---- 3. "Tsuchihashi" or "Tutihasi"?

when you study the Jp syllabury
(the gojuuon (50-on) table, which you can
probably see in BB's and Olaf's FAQs),

you'll realize how much more logical and consistent to
use "Tutihasi" over the ad hoc spellings such as "Tsuchihashi".

[more later]

-- offensive use of the "-san" suffix by white Americans.

inappropriate use of "-san" in English speech/text

please do not call me "Tanaka-san" in English speech or text.
white Americans (e.g. comedians, bigots, smart alecs) often use
the "-san" ending to make fun of the Japanese and Japanese Americans.

[more later]

QUESTION: how many years does it take to learn Japanese?

Americans often ask me such a question, expecting an
answer such as "10 months" or "about 2 years" or
"5 years, 7 months, and 12 days".

such a question only reveals the questioner's naivete
about learning a foreign language. (similar naivete
about about learning a foreign language is almost as
common among the Japanese.)

do these people also ask,
"how many years does it take to learn to play
the piano / guitar / soccer / baseball ?"

see also the next section "Japanese learn English faster
than Americans learn Japanese".

-- Japanese learn English faster than Americans learn Japanese.

> Hi there. I have a thought for you regarding one reason
> why Japanese seem to have so much difficulty with English.

> After, say, 2 years of classroom instruction,
> Japanese know (speak/write) much more English than
> Americans know (speak/write) Japanese.
> Why is this?

i know that much fewer Americans study Japanese than Japanese
study English.

my question is,
but even when Americans *DO* study Japanese, they don't
learn it as well as Japanese learn English. why is that?

i talked to a Japanese guy about this.
we think that the reasons this happens are ...

1. the difference in enthusiasm and interest.

2. studying KANJI is a big burden for Americans.

3. for Japanese students of English, abundance of loanwords from
English makes vocabulary-building easier:
car, computer, printer baseball, red, brown, blue,
camera, center, book, magazine, typewriter, ... .
(elaborated as L1 and L2 below.)

4. Japanese start studying earlier than Americans.
--- Japanese students: 12 or 13 years old. in junior high school
--- American students: 18+ years old. in college

loanwords from English help the Japanese students much more than
they do American students, because ...

L1. Japanese students know the word RED already. there is no need to
learn a new word for the color red.

American students may learn that RED can be used in Japanese,
but, in addition, they learn the word AKA.
(the same for car/jidousha, brown/chairo, book/hon ...)

L2. apparently, for Americans with a few years of Japanese study,
transliteration of English --> katakana (katakana-ization)
e.g., McDonald --> makudonarudo,
is not trivial.

-- racist "transcription" of Jp loanwords: "sararii man", "besuboru", ...

narrow-minded white Americans (journalists and others)
take particular delight in "phonetically transcribing"
loanwords in Japanese,
e.g. as "sararii man", "besuboru", "saabisu opution".

why do these narrow-minded white Americans use these
strange transcriptions instead the more obvious
"salary man", "baseball", "service option"?

1. because this B/V (or R/L) thing is one of the
standard ways that monocultural, monolingual white
Americans make fun of the Japanese.

2. because these monocultural, monolingual white
Americans intend subtle cultural/racial mockery.

we (Mr Okada, i, and many others) object to this kind of
gratuitous insult, a subtle cultural/racial mockery by
monocultural, monolingual white Americans.

Note that these same narrow-minded white Americans never
use similar "transcriptions" to emphasize how the French
don't pronounce the H sounds, or how Mexican Spanish
does not distinguish between B and V.

[from a TIME magazine article containing much prejudice
toward the Japanese]
"Japanese besuboru is not exactly the same as
American baseball."

[Mr Okada's comment] I don't like to see such deformed
pronunciation (Japalish?) in written form, which sounds
sarcastic and derogatory to Japanese.

finally, how should this type of insensitive (phonetic)
"transcription" of katakana loanwords be avoided?
very simple. journalists should learn the nature of
this insensitive practice. if it can not be done in a
non-arrogant/non-patronizing way, it should not be done.

-- Reischauer's poor spoken Japanese

-- American misconception about `L's and `R's in Japanese.

white American authors (Reischauer, Taylor, etc) make a
special note of Japanese R and L.

underlying this special emphasis is their notion of
"linguistically inept Japanese".

Edwin O. Reischauer. The Japanese Today. (1988)
"Unfortunately the Japanese have proved notably inept at
learning to speak foreign languages or to comprehend them
aurally." (Page 387)


-- Am. misconception of "uniquely Jp concepts": amae, honne/tatemae ...
keiretu, ... (wabi, sabi, koku, mattari?)

the most racist of the white Americans
(Reischauer, Jared Taylor, Nicholas Kristof)
emphasize the uniqueness/inscrutability of the Japanese
and claim that AMAE etc are uniquely Japanese concepts.

--- amae: to act like a baby, to be dependant, immature,

--- uti/soto: insider/outsider, us/them, inner circle

--- honne/tatemae: hypocrisy; extremely common
behavior/attitude among white Americans.
to have a double standard. e.g., to *SAY* that
they are against racism and to *MEAN* something
else: to condone (do nothing about) ubiquitous
racism in the USA.

therefore, when you see an American newsreport
(TV, newspaper, magazines) that flippantly mentions
these Japanese words in English text, you should
question the motive or hidden prejudice.

-- Am. expressions about the Japanese (Asians) with racist overtones

note that smart-aleck Americans who like to use the
following words/expressions when talking about the
Japanese (or Asians) are intending subtle racial mockery.

--- (puns about) "dioriented"
--- "have a yen for"
--- "to kowtow"

--- "Japan, Inc" (a modern euphemism for "yellow peril",
"yellow horde", etc)

--- "island nation" ("archipelago")
(do the white Americans who like these expressions
also use it for the UK, which is smaller than Japan?)

--- "ideogram" or "ideograph" (most Chinese characters
don't reprensent ideas, just sounds)

--- "inscrutable" "Oriental", "Asiatic", "Far East", "Mongoloid"
--- "Nippon", "Nipponese", "-san"
--- "Geisha doll", "China doll", "Drangon Lady"

--- "the Japanese version" (the notion of copycat Japanese)

--- "lose face", "(culture of) shame"

--- mentioning "Samurai", "Madame Butterfly" out of context
(e.g. "Samurai from Outer Space" == stupid book title)

(Buddhahead, Buddhaland, ...)

then there are the American racial slurs:

Jap, Nip, Tojo, Japland, Japlish, Niplish, ...

<> and PGA recently stopped using the short
form "JAP" for Japan/Japanese
and now uses JPN.

most commonly used American racial slurs for Asians:
Chink, Chinaman (cf. Seinfeld episode)
Gook, Slope, Slant

-- Asiaphiles who love to talk about Jap-lish

Reischauer, Jared Taylor, Nicholas Kristof
whole books on Jap-lish

other names for Jap-lish: Jinglish, Japalish,
Japanglish, Nip-lish?,
Janglish (suggested by Rhialto)

(not to be confused with:
wasei eigo, Japanese English, broken English)

> Hi,
> Wanna have a laugh at Japan English...? Then come to my new
> revised and enhanced website at
> [ ]
> Lots of great new examples fresh from the Island Country!!
> Let me know what you think

re: white American teachers of English in Japan

note: the word "American" (like "Nazi") has a symbolic
meaning far broader than its primary, literal meaning.


In article <...>, <> wrote:
> there are very few good instructors out there. some instructors refuse
> to believe that caucasians can handle kanji, so the standards for
> learning the language are quite low.

yes. this must be a factor.

the reason i brought up this topic of
"why Americans can't speak Japanese well."

i know how some Americans *LOVE* to ridicule Japanese's English (see
examples of Reischauer and others below).

some of it is fine; we can all be ethnocentric once in a while.
but i've heard too much of this stuff and i'm getting annoyed with it.
i want to remind such Americans the following basic facts before they
get too carried away.

1. Japanese living in the USA speak *much* better English than
Americans living in Japan speak Japanese.

2. after, say, 2 years of classroom instruction,
Japanese know (speak/write) much more English than
Americans know (speak/write) Japanese.

3. overall, Americans are probably the worst in the world (certainly
worse than Japanese) when it comes to mastering foreign
languages (and appreciating/respecting foreign cultures).

a well-known joke: (i first read this in Newsweek a decade ago.)
Question: what do you call a person who speaks 3 languages?
Answer: a trilingual.

Question: what do you call a person who speaks 2 languages?
Answer: a bilingual.

Question: what do you call a person who speaks only 1 language?
Answer: an American.

Americans ridiculing Japanese's English: examples

example 1:
Edwin O. Reischauer. The Japanese Today. (1988)
"Unfortunately the Japanese have proved notably inept at
learning to speak foreign languages or to comprehend them
aurally." (Page 387)

Tanaka's response:
"Well, Mr Reischauer, you should talk. you were born in
Japan, and lived there many years, and yet, you never
became fluent in Japanese."

example 2:
Jared Taylor. Shadows of the rising sun, 1983. Pages 229-236
(pretty comprehensive; in these several pages Taylor manages to
make fun of Japanese's English in most of the standard ways:
L and R, nonsense on T-shirts, nonsensical brand names, etc.)

example 3:
1-hour PBS TV show entitled "The Japanese Version" (1991) is
entirely on the Japanese imitation of American culture:
Japanese cowboys in Tokyo, etc.

there is a section on "The English Craze": ungrammatical
English in commercials, etc.

example 4:
an American publisher (Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.) published
two books devoted to making fun of Japanese's English:
(both by Miranda Kenrick)
--- Gems of Japanized English: "Is that an 'L' as in Rome?"
"No, it's 'R' as in London", 1988
--- More Gems of Japanized English, 1992

more examples are found on Usenet in the current thread.
one example:
> [...] of all the people I met in Japan who claimed to have
> studied English extensively (or even had degrees in English),
> none could communicate effectively. Their high school and
> college English courses were geared toward reading, and the
> vast majority of english texts I saw were full of errors.

-- white American teachers of English (conversation) in Japan

the most important work on the topic has been Charles Douglas
Lummis's essay available in English and Japanese: "ideologie
tositeno eikaiwa" (English conversation as an ideology).

the main point of this essay is that teaching of English
(conversation) in Japan is filled with American racism.

i read the suggestion that Jp schools should not hire
narrow-minded white Americans as English teachers, but instead
should consider hiring open-minded non-whites or non-Americans:
Singaporeans, Kenyans, ....

i read this suggestion in at least two books, one of them (i
think) was entitled "eigo sihai e no iron".

recently i saw two good illustrations of this suggestion.

1. some English teacher quoted from his Jp student's
homework without the student's permission solely to
ridicule his/her English.

see also:

2. another English teacher rambled on, making inane
claims in snobbish, pseudo-academic language.

Jp universities hire foreign English teachers for
helping Jp students learn (international) communication.
hiring narrow-minded white Americans as English teachers
goes against this goal, as they

1. ridicule Japanese students ; and

2. rather than communicate clearly, confound and
confuse using pseudo-academese.

-- trivia and other topics (loose ends):

--- trivia: the name "Jedi" in Star Wars is derived
from Jp "jidai" (as in jidai-geki)

--- trivia: it appears Fukuzawa (the guy on 1-man (y)en bill)
-- U" (U with dakuten, for the V sound)
-- small tu, small a, etc.
-- "-" bar/dash for long vowels

--- "hai" is not "yes". it sometimes means "no". and
often it means "i'm paying attention".

?-- the hidden message in iroha-uta: "toga naku sisu"

--- inherently racist concepts:
1. notion of "native speaker" (held by Chomsky and most
2. white Americans who say that French sounds beautiful

--- kanjis, yens, prefecture, Paliament, Diet, ...

like BB (Ben Bullock), i prefer "kanjis" (for plural of
"kanji"). isn't it usually "2 futons" and "3 kimonos"?

likewise, i dislike the "Chinky" Oriental ring of "200 yen".

--- strange/unusual "Japanese" words in the USA
strange: fujiyama
correct: fujisan

strange: chindogu (chindougu)
correct: chinhatumei

strange: sobakawa (pillows)
correct: sobagara

>Chris Tang <> wrote:
>> What does Doraemon (A Comic Figure) mean?
>> I can't find it in dictionaries.
>> Does it carry any meaning?
>> Or is it just a proper name without any meaning?
>The name was revealed (by the authors of the comic who invented
>doraemon) to come from `doraneko'.
yes. it has some meaning, like the name "Catbert".

`doraneko' means "stray cat". and DORA by itself can mean
"stray cat".

EMON is an old-fashioned ending for a male given name.
it became outdated about 100 years ago. but i see that today
there are still a few young guys named XXX-emon.

> Kichi Homepage!!!
> This is Doraemon.
> My name is like his...Kichi"emon" Dora"emon" ...get it?

-- submissions to this FAQ

email submissions to <>.

it'd be better if you could also post the submission to
<sci.lang.japan> and <alt.tanaka-tomoyuki>.

-- about the author

in Aug 1996 i (Tanaka) moved to Davis, CA (from Bloomington, IN.).
Davis is near San Francisco (90 miles away).
i'm a 3rd year law student at U.C. Davis (J.D. program).

i plan to elaborate these two FAQ files
(American misconceptions about Japan, and
Asian/white dating disparity)
and publish them in a book form.
i hope to publish the book within 1 year or so.

my Usenet FAQ files:
1. American misconceptions about Japan FAQ
2. disparity in Asian/white interracial dating FAQ
3. <> and "GEB" FAQ
4. ITAMI Juzo, OZU Yasujiro, and the Japanese Cinema (FAQ)
5. NAKAJIMA Miyuki, Sakamotos, and Japanese music abroad (FAQ)
6. sci.lang.japan (TT topics) FAQ
7. Japanese economy and Asian financial crisis (FAQ)

my FAQ files are stored in FAQ repositories around the world,
including at:

if i become unable to update/maintain this FAQ file
"sci.lang.japan (TT topics) FAQ)",
no person may change its content.

;;; TANAKA Tomoyuki ("Mr. Tanaka" or "Tomoyuki".)
;;; For <soc.culture.japan> and <soc.culture.asian.american> FAQ
;;; files, see <>.
;;; e-mail:

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