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Maciamo
Jul 19, 2003, 22:31
Japanese has very few sounds. Only 5 vowels (+ 3 diphthongs and 5 long sounds) and 16 consonants (d, t, h/f, m, n, b, p, r, g, k, ch, j, sh, s, z, y), compare with 13 vowels (+ 8 diphthongs) and 24 consonants in English, or 14 vowels (+ several diphthongs) and 22 consonnants in French. As a result the Japanese kanas always cause trouble to understand imported (English) words, but also give a hard time to Japanese learning English or French.

Few are the Japanese that haven't confused these words :

fast & first
bath & bus
Satan & Saturn
...

The most common mistake is due to the same pronunciation of "l" and "r", or "b" and "v" :

rice & lice
reach & leech
erection & election
rate & late
lover & robber
verge & barge
veal & beer
very % berry
vote & boat
vow & bow


Do you have any funny examples ?

tasuki
Jul 20, 2003, 08:02
Sock, suck, sack...
Back, buck
Sink and think

I think basically any two words involving a, o, and u... At least that seems to have been the ones my students (back in the days when I taught English) had the most trouble with...

Elizabeth
Jul 20, 2003, 08:33
Originally posted by tasuki
I think basically any two words involving a, o, and u... At least that seems to have been the ones my students (back in the days when I taught English) had the most trouble with...
Aren't the katakana spellings even the same for some of these "u" and "a" words? I'm sure there are others, these are the ones that come to mind, though.

ラック-- Lack, Rack, Luck, Ruck
トラック -- Track and Truck

tasuki
Jul 22, 2003, 09:10
Well, that's exacly what gives them a hard time... My time here has taught me that Japanese, even if they excel at other things, suck at learning foreign languages. One of the main reason for this is that they rely too much on approximated katakana pronounciations. French vowels and Japanese vowels are almost exactly similar, yet most of the people I've met who have learned French here just don't get it. First of all, their pronounciation invariably has an English tinge to it, and second their pronouciation is katakana-like and they can't seem to shake that off... But then, I've also noticed that a lot of people here actually think that the katakana pronounciation is close enough to get them by if they ever need it (which in some cases it will, but I don't know anybody back home who would know what a "beddo" or a "makudonarudo" is...).

Maciamo
Jul 22, 2003, 09:38
Originally posted by tasuki
French vowels and Japanese vowels are almost exactly similar, yet most of the people I've met who have learned French here just don't get it.

You are right that basic vowels in French are the same as in Japanese (a,e, i, o, at least). But French has more than twice more of them. For example, the Japanese "u" is used for both the French "u" and "ou", which leads to even more confusion than "drug" and "drag" in Jenglish. Add to this that Japanese don't have the French "e" (like the "i" in "bird" in English) or similar "eu", nor the diphthongs that go with it ("euil", "ieu", etc.). Japanese can almost pronounced the nasal "in" in French if they say "an" (like in "pan" that sounds similar to the French "pain", but with the "n" pronounced), but can't do the "un", "an" and "on". Then they don't make the difference between closed é and open è, which is not a major mistake, but sounds a bit strange (at least it's possible to understand while mistaking "u" and "ou" makes it near unintelligible for me).

Every time I say a word in French (even if it's the same as in English, like "introduction", for example), Japanese look at me flabbergasted and say "French is so difficult". I've realised that what they had the hardest time to pronounced and understand was the "r". Anyword with it makes it impossible to penetrate a Japanese brain. :D

tasuki
Jul 22, 2003, 09:43
Ahahahahah! I agree. But it's funny, I've always had the feeling that French, being such an organised, structured language, would suit the Japanese brain better than English. But you're right, they all have this innate fear of French for some reason... But in the end, of all southeast Asians, Japanese have been found to be the worst at learning a second language and I think it stems mainly from their use of katakana in approximating pronounciation (on top of making them incapable of reading the original words...)

kirei_na_me
Jul 22, 2003, 10:04
I couldn't agree with you two more. I am constantly asked "is it l or r?" (and many other scenarios) for words upon words. I definitely have to agree that the Katakana is so misleading.

Having studied French for awhile, I also thought that it would have been easier for Japanese to learn it, because some of the sentence structure is sometimes similar(right?), but it's hell for them when it comes to pronouncing the r!

Maciamo
Jul 22, 2003, 15:46
IMHO, Italian would be one of the easiest European language for Japanese to learn. Italian is much more regular in grammar and "pure" in its vocabulary than French. Italian words preserve their logical roots better, so that one can guess the meaning of other words with the prefixes and suffixes more easily than in French or English. In English the meaning of a word like "conversation" cannot be guessed by decomposing it. In Italian "con" means "with", "verso" means "towards" or "to face". With some imagination, we could guess that "facing with" means to talk face to face to someone. This example is maybe a bit tricky, but sometimes it's easy to guess. If you know that the root "-gresso" means "walk/go", joined to a prefix it's easy to picture the meaning : "ingresso" (entrance), "progresso" (progresso = go forward), "regresso" (regress = go back), "congresso" (congress = go together), "digressione" (digression = go/walk off), etc. Most words using the same prefixes and suffixes in a logical way, it's easier for people who don't know any European language to learn Italian than English, which has imported words from Anglo-saxon, Viking, old French and Latin origin at different times and sometimes changing the original meaning.

Besides, Italian pronunciation is very easy for Japanese too (except the rolled "r", but that's maybe easier than the French "r" for them). 'Ive been teaching English, French and Italian to Japanese and it is certain that Italian is easier for them at any level (beginner to advanced) than French.

tasuki
Jul 22, 2003, 16:02
Italian, eh? That's not the first time I hear that.

As for word recognition, it's easy for us to say who have some notions of Greek and Latin roots, maybe also some of etymology, but the Japanese I've taught had no notions whatsoever of these things, so for them to be able to do this, they'd have to learn a whole new set of linguistic skills... What I personally meant by French (or Italian) being easier for Japanese to grasp, was that every grammatical rule, verb form, and grammatical exception is clearly outlined (I don't know about Italian, but Bescherelle for French spells everything out...), so I feel that it would be more appealing to the structured way of learning that Japanese have over learning the mess that's the English language...

Maciamo
Jul 22, 2003, 22:28
Latin grammar is maybe well outlined (once the exceptions removed), but remembering the verb conjugation for every person (I, you, he/she, we, you, they) for every tense, word gender, "accord" of the adjectives, and more is surely much more difficult than English grammar. English is easy with auxiliary like "will", "would" or just put "-ed" for most past, then even irregular are the same for all persons (I went, you went, he went... but in Latin languages they are all different and must be remembered individually).

The word order being the same in English, French and Italian, Japanese aren't advantage for choosing one rather than the other.

Each language has its difficulties (French has them all :D ). English has an easy grammar structure, but complex tenses nuances (6 pasts, 6 futures, 3 conditionals, 2 presents...). It has almost no word gender or number, no "accord of adjectives, no declinations (like in German or Russian), but it has a huge vocabulary full of nuances and a difficult and irregular pronunciation.

Italian is just the opposite, but word gender is easy to guess (if the word ends in "o" its masculine, in "a" it's feminine), contrarily to French, German or Dutch where its virtually impossible. Because its conjugation is more regular than French, the spelling follows the pronunciation (no silent letters like in French) and the pronunciation is easy, it's certainly easier than French.

As for the Greco-Latin roots, I even teach them to my English students. If I can learn each kanji as a root, Japanese can learn Greek, Latin and Germanic roots, prefixes and suffixes too !

littlebear
Jul 26, 2003, 20:52
Originally posted by Maciamo
Do you have any funny examples ? [/B]

I've heard more than one Japanese person sing:

"Rub me tender, rub me do" instead of
"Love me tender, love me do" (Elvis - a favourite karaoke choice in Japan).

Rub me tender ? - Ouch !

Maciamo
Jul 26, 2003, 22:12
Yeah, I was justly thinking about that one. For Japanese these words are the same :
rubber - lover- robber
rub - love - rob
crowd - cloud
fun - fan
think - sink
thought - sought - sort
thumb - sum - Sam
wrong - long
(right - write - rite) -light
loot - root - route
oat - auto- (e.g. oatmeal => automeal)
low - raw
youth - use
blow - brow
bold - board
boat - bolt
loan - Rhone

Maciamo
Oct 12, 2003, 00:25
I have also noticed that the Japanese katakana words for "hood" and "food" is the same フード (fu-do). Why the hell did they put a long "u" for "hood" too ? Wasn't it bad enough that they had no different character for "f" and "h" !

Then, similarly, a "quilt" is the same thing as a "kilt" for Japanese, as the katakana is both キルト.

bakadesu
Oct 14, 2003, 17:31
It's also rather confusing for the poor gaijin trying to figure out what in the world a "ruususokkusu" is. (Loose socks! :D )

However, if you say it in a native accent, most native Japanese speakers won't know what you're talking about. Just say the loanwords over and over to yourself.

kohii, kohii, kohii...

-Bakadesu

Maciamo
Feb 29, 2004, 17:58
A few more words to the list :

firm and farm
fur and far
ball and bowl (because both words are used in Japanese and pronounced "ball")
vote and boat
voice and boys
vow and bow
valley, volley and ballet
room and loom
road and load
root and loot
rap and lap
rake and lake
ray and lay
rate and late
heat and sheet
he and she
hit and ****
...

Listening to Japanese speaking English really challenges your imagnation. :emblaugh:

Ewok85
Feb 29, 2004, 19:35
how about the loan words that have been changed once in japanese, things like jetcoaster and ensuto - stall your car, en(gine) sto(p)

kirei_na_me
Feb 29, 2004, 21:53
Good ones, Maciamo. :giggle:

My husband and I still have moments where he can repeat a word over and over and over again and I'm saying "huh?" over and over and over for about 15 minutes until I finally figure out what it is he's trying to say. Usually having to use sign language and usually because of rampant r and l's... :p I can understand everything he says almost all the time, but just sometimes, there are those moments.

I mean, we have our own version of English, which I'm sure those of you that live with a Japanese person and are not fluent in Japanese, have. Just about anywhere we go, I have to translate from English to English, so that "regular" people can understand him. He also makes me do all of his phone calls, which I'm really getting sick of...

Keeni84
Mar 1, 2004, 04:16
Aww, Kirei! :)

Hey what did you guys mean by you can't say loan-words with a native accent? Like, as an english speaker, you can't say "department" but "depaato" ??

Hey Maciamo--is Italian similar to Japanese in terms of pronounciation or just grammar or both???

Thanks!!! :)

Johnathan
Mar 2, 2004, 14:18
The whole "bath - bus, thing - sing, etc." thing made me think up a quick question. Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.

neko_girl22
Mar 2, 2004, 15:36
Hey what did you guys mean by you can't say loan-words with a native accent? Like, as an english speaker, you can't say "department" but "depaato" ??

"depaato" is no longer English, but Japanese. so to be understood you have to use their pronunciation - no matter how silly you feel!! :p


Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.

Personally I've never seen English written furigana style over Japanese but of course have seen English words with Katakana furigana.

oh, except when I watched a few English comedies, when it's a word pun sometimes they'll have the English word over the Japanese translation(not necessarily katakana). The Japanese translation is never as funny.....

Maciamo
Mar 2, 2004, 18:04
Hey Maciamo--is Italian similar to Japanese in terms of pronounciation or just grammar or both???


Italian, Spanish and French, as Latin languages have the same vowels as Japanese (French has actually 13 vowels, instead of just 5 for the 3 others).
Consonnants are almost the same except that Japanese confuse r/l and b/v, can't say "wu" or "lyi" ("gli" in Italian), and there is no "h" sound in Latin languages. Japanese "k" are also softer ("ka" sounds almost like "ha") and "fu" is pronounced "hu" in Japanese. Double consonnant (little "tsu" っ ) don't exist in French and Spanish, but exist in Italian and Japanese.

The French "j" doesn't exist in the other 3, and the Spanish "z" or "c" (like "th" in English) like they pronounce it in Spain (but not in Latin America) and "j" (like German "ch" or Dutch "g") also don't exist in the other 3.

All in all it is easier for French, Italian and Spanish speakers to speak Japanase than the opposite.

Maciamo
Mar 2, 2004, 18:06
The whole "bath - bus, thing - sing, etc." thing made me think up a quick question. Is the English word ever wrote over the Katakana, Furigana-style? (Or vice versa, Katakana over the English word.) 'Cause I think I've seen it done before.

In Japanese textbook to learn English (or any other language), there is usually the furigana written above, which I think is a very bad idea, as they end up saying something wrong. I've never seen the English word written above/under a katakana word.

Maciamo
May 9, 2004, 16:03
Some more :

- horse, hose, whores, force, fourth
- appeal, appear
- reader, leader

fixelbrumpf
May 9, 2004, 19:46
How about German as a second language for Japanese native speakers? Admittedly, German grammar can be tough (three pretty much randomly-assigned grammatical genders, lots of case inflection and conjugation), but yet again, there's a striking similarity between German and Japanese vowels, save for the /u/ phoneme. I know a few Japanese speakers with very good German skills and their accent is nowhere as thick as when I hear Japanese speakers speak English. The German /ch/ doesn't seem to give them much trouble, either, due to their noisy /h/ sound in words like hito which comes pretty close, in my opinion.

They still occasionally confuse Ls and Rs, though, even though the /r/ and /l/ sounds are a lot more different in German than in English and the German /r/ is a very throaty sound. Even my Japanese professor, whose German is excellent, admits to doing it sometime. Another Japanese teacher of mine also often confuses [b] and [v] sounds (the German "W" in words like Wetter, Wache, Wurst is usually pronounced [v].)

By the way, let's also add a few English words containing "shi" and "si" to our list. When I teach her English, my Japanese language pal often asks me "is this 'shi' or 'si'?"

Maciamo
May 9, 2004, 21:49
there's a striking similarity between German and Japanese vowels, save for the /u/ phoneme.

I have to disagree with that. Most German vowels don't exist in Japanese because there are only 5 vowel sound in Japanese and they are basically the same as in Italian or Spanish, not German which has longer "a" and "o" and 2 "u" (with and without umlaut) while Japanese have an intermediary.


The German /ch/ doesn't seem to give them much trouble, either, due to their noisy /h/ sound in words like hito which comes pretty close, in my opinion.

That is true for the "ich" sound in German, but not for the stronger "ach", "och" or "uch", which untrained Japanese can't pronounce at all.



They still occasionally confuse Ls and Rs, though, even though the /r/ and /l/ sounds are a lot more different in German than in English and the German /r/ is a very throaty sound.

I can tell you for having taught French (which has the same "r" as German) that most Japanese cannot make that sound at all, even after years of practice, if they haven't lived in Europe.


Another Japanese teacher of mine also often confuses [b] and [v] sounds (the German "W" in words like Wetter, Wache, Wurst is usually pronounced [v].)

Same in all European languages, not just German.


By the way, let's also add a few English words containing "shi" and "si" to our list. When I teach her English, my Japanese language pal often asks me "is this 'shi' or 'si'?"

Because there is only one sound for both in Japanese. Worse, some Tokyoite ("Edo-ko", actually) even mistake "hi" and "shi" while speaking Japanese, so that "Asahi Shimbun" becomes "Asashi Hinbun". :p

DaMo
May 10, 2004, 06:35
At a wedding: And now, we shall throw lice on the heads of the happy couple

On the phone to the boss: Sir, I've been trying to leech you for days

To an American in 2004: Wow, your country is having a huge erection this year



Interestingly, in the anime Last Exile, one of the characters was named Hamilcar Valca, but the last name is pronounced Barca in in Japanese. Therefore, the name becomes Hamilcar Barca, the name of the great Carthagnian king and father of Hannibal. I have a feeling that, like the name of the band GLAY, this was no coincidence.

Maciamo
May 10, 2004, 10:22
To an American in 2004: Wow, your country is having a huge erection this year


But will Bush survive the erection ? :D

Glenn
May 10, 2004, 14:52
But will Bush survive the erection ? :D

Well, Clinton did alright by it. :D ;-)

PaulTB
May 10, 2004, 22:02
Just to even things up a little ...

私の行ってた大学に来ていた留学生は日本語の覚えが早 く、みんなで感心していました。 る日彼が階段でこけ て「大丈夫か?」って聞いたら、「ジョブ、ジョブ」っ て答えたので、一同「???」。 ちょっと痛かったの で「大丈夫」の「大」を取って、「丈夫、丈夫」って答 えていたみたいです。

The overseas student who came to the University I went to was fast at memorizing English and everybody was impressed. One day he fell down some stairs and when we asked "You alright?" he replied "rite rite". Everybody went ???.

It seem that as it was a little painful he'd removed the 'all' of 'alright' and answered "right right".

How's my translation? :D :D

Glenn
May 11, 2004, 14:00
Just to even things up a little ...

私の行ってた大学に来ていた留学生は日本語の覚えが早 く、みんなで感心していました。 る日彼が階段でこけ て「大丈夫か?」って聞いたら、「ジョブ、ジョブ」っ て答えたので、一同「???」。 ちょっと痛かったの で「大丈夫」の「大」を取って、「丈夫、丈夫」って答 えていたみたいです。

The overseas student who came to the University I went to was fast at memorizing English and everybody was impressed. One day he fell down some stairs and when we asked "You alright?" he replied "rite rite". Everybody went ???.

It seem that as it was a little painful he'd removed the 'all' of 'alright' and answered "right right".

How's my translation? :D :D

Seems fine, except that it should be "the exchange student who came to my university was fast at memorizing Japanese, not English.

PaulTB
May 11, 2004, 15:55
Seems fine, except that it should be "the exchange student who came to my university was fast at memorizing Japanese, not English.
That's deliberate. I translated the joke not the passage. As such 'Alright' goes with 'English' as 大丈夫 goes with 日本語

Glenn
May 11, 2004, 16:54
That's deliberate. I translated the joke not the passage. As such 'Alright' goes with 'English' as 大丈夫 goes with 日本語

Oh, alright. I just thought that maybe you had misthought which language it was. It wouldn't be the first time I've seen it; I've even done it myself. Sorry about that.

DranoK
May 13, 2004, 09:10
Does any mainstream language have more phonemes than English? I've found a couple with over 100 (!? I guess tounge clicks count...) but these aren't spoken by a large number of people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoneme

It's hard for native English speakers to understand some the difficulties foreign learners have - to a large extent, native English speakers already know how to pronounce the vast majority of phonemes they're likely to encounter (with exceptions, such as the german/spanish 'r', etc). Learning another language would be infinitely more difficult if it meant learning new basic sounds as well. Even the japanese r/l sound can be easily described to a native English speaker ('course, he may be too forgetful to remember) in terms of other native phonemes (d position r/l sound).

On the other hand, I wonder if the number of people with speech impediments is fewer in languages with fewer phonemes?

In any case, while I find the mispronunciations as funny as anyone I'd never hold it against a foreign speaker. After all, most of the native English speakers I encounter don't know how to pronounce things right. Nor are they aware of many gramatical rules for their own bloody native language.

I can honestly imagine the pain of a non-native English speaker trying to learn English =) I'm a native English speaker and have studied my own for many, many years now and still make too many mistakes in my own writing. Spelling alone is a terrifying hurdle - I've never heard of other languages having the concept of a 'spelling bee', and it's a rare person who can spell more than 95% of his words correctly.

In the end, English grammar comes down to intution - in a very real sense the correct way is simply the way that sounds right. Getting to the level that you can intuitively feel what sounds like, however, is something that even most native speakers of the language never achieve.

Hmm, sorry for rambling on about nothing, its just an intersting topic to me. On another note, one striking similiarity between English and Japanese is the simplicity of adapting foreign loan words into the language. Many Americans may find it funny at the vast amount of English/German loanwords in Japanese but fail to realize just how many words they use on a daily basis are, in fact, loan words (what, you mean that 'origin' field in a dictionary means something!?)

It's for this very reason that I disagree with the growing number of people who think Chinese will overtake English someday as the de facto international language. I'm not certain the raw number of people who speak a language matters so much as to determine supremecy. A language which can easily adapt is indicitave of a culture that can easily adapt; as such it can literally envelop new cultures and ideas and integrate them into itself. I therefore believe in a hundred years the English language will contain a significant number of Chinese words, but doubt the language (or any tonal language, for that matter) could displace English.

Enough linguistical musings for now..

DranoK

tengpow
Aug 3, 2004, 23:30
Another example that springs to mind is the Japanese turning Cook (as in the job) into コック。 which often sounds like a male body part. "his job is ****".

More recently, I was grading papers at the Juku I work at and quite a few students had put the Japanese meaning of "cunning" instead of the English. The English form being an adjective meaning "crafty or tricky", while the Japanese is a verb meaning "to cheat" i.e. on a test. And our Japanese teacher often says "カンニングしないでください。" just before we have to take a test... which threw me the first time I heard it.