View Full Version : Japanese gov. to purify language

Aug 1, 2002, 22:55
This is actually from the news, but is related to Japanese language, so I post it here. It's from the Lonely Planet site : http://www.lonelyplanet.com/scoop/archive.cfm?DPID=437&region=asi

10 July '02
Keeping Japanese
The Japanese language is being invaded by so many foreign words that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has called for the Education Ministry to set up a committee of language experts to find Japanese alternatives. In particular, Japan's growing number of elderly are struggling to keep up with their own language, and Koizumi is said to have been forced into action upon receiving a document from financial bureaucrats that he found totally incomprehensible. Words such as 'kohi shoppu' for coffee shop, the French word 'pan' for bread and 'arubaito' from German for part-time work have been around for ages and don't cause problems - but a surge of new words, which, when adapted into Japanese sound little like the original word in its home language, are causing confusion all round. Japan's economy is struggling with 'resutora' (restructuring), while women in the workforce battle against 'seku hara' (sexual harassment). The country's growing number of unmarried women in their 30s are known as 'parasaito shingeru' (parasite singles), while those with a Lolita complex are called 'rori con'. Koizumi has a tough job on his hands - stemming the tide of foreign words is going to be near impossible when all things foreign are viewed as cool by the country's youth.

Aug 2, 2002, 01:44
The outcome of that will surely be interesting, but yet as it says at the bottom it's going to be nearly impossible as all things foreign are viewed as cool by the country's youth.

Aug 2, 2002, 01:50
I hear the french control the langauge also...

Aug 2, 2002, 04:30
A language can only be regulated to a certain extent, as it is a living thing. The French tried to enforce strict lingual control by law, in order to reduce the influx of English words (for instance calling walkmen "baladeurs" etc), it wasn't very successful.

Aug 2, 2002, 11:48
Indeed, I can tell you I never use the new words when I speak French.

I know that in Finland they have a special comitte of linguists that invent new words for everything. I heard there is not a single foreign word in Suomi (finnish). Even words like TV or Internet have been translated in completely different words. What the point, I wonder.

I Japan it's never going to work, as everyday more english word enter the language via ads on TV, songs or because so many Japanese people learn English (one of the national obsessions, if not the biggest). As there are plenty of English words that are still impossible to translate in Japanese, it continues. Ex. there is no word for animal in Japanese. Doubutsu refer to 4 legged animal only, not to fish, insects, birds, etc. There is no word for "in-law". There is one for father-in-law and another for mother-in-law, but it's impossible to translate any other relationaship (grandmother-in-law, brother-in-law, etc.). Everyday, I find at least one or 2 English words that have no translation in Japanese. The most obvious is when you watch movies in English with Japanese subtitles. The subtitles give very approximate translation and it always sounds so childish. It seems there is no way of being imaginative when speaking Japanese. For ex. in a film where someone kind of ask her friend if there is sth between her and one guy, she will answer "that's not what you think". In Japanese, the translation is "boyfriend ja nai" (he is not my boyfriend). I understand it's not always possible to translate all expressions, but it's all the time like this. Notice that there are no bad words in Japanese neither. It seems that European languages are much richer in vocabulary and way of saying things that Japanese. How can you say "tell me what car you like and I'll tell you who you are ?" Impossible to translate shortly in Japanese, you need at least 2 long sentences.

Aug 2, 2002, 14:38

I mostly agree with comments regarding translation, it's a constant with any translation that meanings will be changed, lost or altered slightly. On the topic of movie translation however I have a feeling that a lot of the time translators take 'liberties" with the script in order to "Japanise" it. This often has the effect of dumbing down the script. At times it could almost be considered a kind of censorship. :wave:

Aug 2, 2002, 21:30
Too true...

If you speak a language...you need to update it with technology.
simple right...why does everyone try to make this sooo hard

Aug 2, 2002, 22:49
I am also wondering why Japanese almost never translate movies titles like in other European languages. I wanted to speak of the series "Dark Angel" and translated it "kurai tenshi", but of course nobody understood me. I have to say "daruku enjuru", but apparently most Japanese don't even know what it means as they can't make the connection with my translation. Same for words like "World Cup";French say "Coupe du monde" or "Mondial", Italians "Copa del mondo"or "Mondiale di calcio", etc. Why do Japanese keep the English eventhough distrorted by their accent in "wa-do kappu". If I speak of the "Sekai no kappu", nobody understands. That's amazing.

Aug 3, 2002, 00:30
I think all that Katakana-stuff is weird. Sometimes japanese seems more like katakana-english. Crazy. In my japanese history class in university there is a 66 year old japanese, she almost only writes kanji. Another japanese friend of mine writes like Murasaki Shikibu in heian period, only hiragana. I think it's really difficult toread if you don't have Kanji. (On the other hand, if you don't know the Kanji, here you go without a dictionary.)

deborah gormley
Aug 3, 2002, 01:01
this difficulty to translate new words into a language is really quite common, here the irish language has the same problem, it has no meaningful word for microwave,compact disc,or even the colour pink, pink is as we all know the mixture of red(jarriagh,I know I have not spelt that right) and white(ban) so the irish word for pink is ban-jarriagh, just as the mix, Irish is an old language so these new words are alien to its foundations, it also has less letters than the english alphabet(23/24 I beleive, somebody correct me if they are certain), and if you where to lisen to a program in the irish language you would be amazed at the amount of english words that have to be used just to make the veiwer understand its meaning, and it works quite well to have both languages fused together, but as with the Japanese Prime Minister and the heads of state here it is not to say the least "smiled apon" or welcomed as a new era.

Aug 3, 2002, 02:37
Debs, I've read somewhere that Ireland is the only country where only 10% of the population speak/understand the official language. Is that true in regard to Gaelic?

deborah gormley
Aug 3, 2002, 07:16
@ thomas
I beleive that figure would be reflective of the north of the country, but recently Gaelic schools are now opening all over the north and are being well funded by the British goverment, as part of the peace process ect, so maybe in 5 years or so that percentage will be dramatically changed, Although we live in Nr.Ireland, we must travel under a British passport(unless your parents or grandparents where born in the south)and although we are not accepted as british, we are apparently "British subjects" so untill recently the irish language was frowned apon in schools and in social gatherings, but now its blooming,
As for the south of Ireland, its taught in schools and used in social gatherings and passed down threw generations as with all languages, in fact there are certain parts of southern Ireland that when you enter a shop and ask for an item, if you have not asked in Gaelic then you will indeed be looked at like an alien and the assistant will not speak any english at all,its an old proud language.

Aug 3, 2002, 11:56
It's interesting stuff... Why do we use other words when our own work just as well...? We should be used to it though... Hundreds of years ago Old English (Beowulf style etc) used to commonly make up it's own combinations for new concepts...then they began to borrow heavily. Especially from latin and french. In a way we did exactly what Japan is, it just seems so fast when it's happening...

Aug 3, 2002, 20:28
Englsih lannguage as we know it today takes 50% from old French and latin and the other 50% from old germanic languages of the Anglo-saxons and Jutes from Northern Germany and Denmark, then from the Danish and Norwegian vikings whose language was close to the one of the Anglosaxons anyway (still know, Scandinavic languages are incredibly close to English). French/latin words came mainly with the Normand conquest of England in 1066. You cannot really say the language spoken in England before that was "English" (even old, the vocabulary would be at least less than a third of the present language, if we consider Latin imports and words that were invented later such as tv, microwaves, etc).

Aug 4, 2002, 00:28
hmmm where to start ???

subtitles have a certain problem that they must solve. Being able to be read at pace that fits with the scene. If you watch a movie (DVD) you can notice the difference even between the spoken Japanese and Japanese subtitles. So, yes, liberties are taken to match a reading pace for viewers.

Many more movies are casting famous Japanese celebrities for voice overs. Yet, still some voices liek Stallon's, Schwartzenger, and Bruce Willis are basically the same voice over person for each of those actors.

Titles, just recently have begun to take on the English sounding katakana. I have trouble with the older movies since they have names that work in Japanese but have no relation to the original title.

@swear words
hmmm, it's pretty tough to do this normally. How many people were as creative as the wonderful British Navy? Not, many that's for sure. True, it's hard to say f_ck but any other nuances work just fine. Not as powerful but work none the less. If nothing else, say it English, you get it out and they pick up that somebody's in deep sh_t. I diffinetly miss the color of those 2 words ... and the word it sucks. You just can't get that to work properly.

Plus, you have to remember that Japanese swearing is not based on sexual origins. It's more of a variation of the pronoun "you". sort of like the idiomatic phrases of "you d_ck head, Are you brain dead, you're an airhead" and such.

hmmm, you just have to think like a Japanese to get those points across. "sou yuu kankei jyanai yo!!!" (not that kind of relationship) ... different but yet similar.

@less phrases or not
hmmm, true at times but I find it opposite most of the time.
[kouyo] -- the autumn leaves that are colored red, orange, and yellow.

1 word in Japanese but a mouthful explanation. Japanese have many 1 word phrases that cover a whole bunch of situations or manner assesment.

Think of it this way. In English you have many different words that related to "potato" but yet not in Japanese. While in Japanese you have a slew of words for "rice" but yet not in Enlgish.

Language is based slightly different that's all.

I agree with most of the above. Japanese will never be able to restrict to only Japanese. The Internet and US industries of Hollywood and Consumer purchases just out weigh the idea of limiting the use of loan-words. Besides, Koizumi just contradicted himself. In the near future, all English teachers will basically have to pass the TOEIC and/or TOEFL with native ratings or they would be hired.

So the government just doesn't know which head is doing the thinking.

@ I vs [watashi]
The western sense of "I" was introduced during the Meiji Period. Before which, "I" was more like "I your humble servant" or "I who gives care and life to your family" ... so it's not that strange that some words don't work by themselves.

ok enough for now.


deborah gormley
Aug 4, 2002, 02:54
very interesting insight moyashi!!:bow:

these japanese words (watashi)that have double meanings such as "I your humble servant or "I who gives care and life to your family" are facinating, are these phares still in use today? or are they a pass notion that no longer are in use by the youth?

I simply can't imagion any one speaking with those meanings in a sentence, I knew the japanese language was polite, and its respect levels are normally well above that of what I'm used to useing and hearing, just curious:sorry:

Aug 4, 2002, 09:53
No, most of the "I" forms are just simple politeness factors especially in regards to who you're speaking to.

[watakushi wa] -> [watashi wa] -> (start of male forms women shouldn't use any of the following) [boku wa] -> [ore wa]

these are all forms of "I"

Japanese is known as being difficult is really not related to the actual vocabulary, although more words are used daily than in English, but rather the several forms of politeness level. Using each level at the right time and place is pretty difficult. Lot's of calculation takes place at the beginning of a conversation.

I use a relatively "friendly terms" politeness every where. OR at most the level that is taught in textbooks. I do apologize for my Japanese (it's a Japanese softner and prevents bad feelings) but still, I should be more careful.

But if you think about being polite in English you should be pretty much ok in Japanese too.

Aug 9, 2002, 08:41
Oh, it's not about language purification, it's about stamping out foreign influences, hehe...

Foreign 'loan' words to be stamped out of Japanese

=> http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=1&id=225778&display=all

Aug 9, 2002, 10:13
yeah, getting rid of all the hairy devils ;)

Aug 9, 2002, 17:44
Long-nosed barbarians with unshaved arm-pits reeking of onions and garlic.

deborah gormley
Aug 10, 2002, 08:12
Mutsuro Kai and the rest of the team are really getting paid to work for two years on this subject and then they are only going to offer suitable translations, does that sound quite silly!!! or is it just me????:o

surely after getting paid for two years and finding these translations they will be used and entered into the appropriate authoritys ect and these new words should be used as such???

maybe its just my opinion!! but these people employed to find such new words in the japanese language, should be able to find them and make them work,what is your thought on this matter,, before I go off on another tangent, lolol:p

Aug 10, 2002, 09:38
They've now officially blundered and gave those 2 words noteriety.
My hero the ex-governor of Nagano uses too many words from English. He might be doing it on purpose to give those stronger emphasis but by doing so he just put more laon words in Japanese.

@hairy barbarians
Hmmm, they should dump half of those JapanToday posters. Lot's of them are trolls. 1 reason why I don't have too many hairy barbarian friends in Sapporo.

Aug 10, 2002, 18:07
@ JT

JT is a preferred habitat for such trolls. There are even some bulletin boards dedicated to JT and their staff. Interesting to read once in a while, but I would not like to have these ppl on our forum.

@ Purifying

Not a very nice word in this context, implies an ugly kind of weltanschauung (interesting that this German term found its way into English language).

Oct 7, 2002, 04:38
The English language is quite conspicuous here in Norway.
I don't mind loan words for the most part with some exceptions...
I especially don't like when people use words in writing that already have Norwegian ones with the same meaning.
We have the word "fjernsyn" and "televisjon" (television) meaning exactly the same, the latter one is used the most because of the popularity of English. The Norwegian one is superior in some aspects ways, "fjern" is a word meaning "distant" and "syn" meaning vision in Norwegian. Clearly "fjernsyn" is easier to learn than "televisjon." But then there's the fact that if "televisjon" is used, it gives you an edge when learning English, as the meaning of the English word would be absorbed automatically.

Like 70% or maybe more of the drama series on TV are American, and they're often the most popular ones.

blahblah, i'm too tired for this :)

Oct 7, 2002, 13:18
We have the word "fjernsyn" and "televisjon" (television) meaning exactly the same, the latter one is used the most because of the popularity of English. The Norwegian one is superior in some aspects ways, "fjern" is a word meaning "distant" and "syn" meaning vision in Norwegian. Clearly "fjernsyn" is easier to learn than "televisjon."

Television also means "far" (tele) + "seeing" (vision) in Latin. English as the peculiarity to be a very hybrid language (Japanese too). About half its vocabulary comes from Germanic origin (Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, whic explains the similarity with Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, German or Dutch), and the other half from Latin (mostly via French). Note that you also say "television" in French and Spanish (with a different pronuciation) and "televisione" in Italian, but you say "Fernsehen" in German (almost like in Norwegian). People could have called it "farseer" or "farseeing" in English, but they decided to go for the Latin root. BTW, don't you say "adjoe" (sorry I don't have the o with a slash) in Norwegian to say "goodbye" ? That's one of the numerous French import (adieu = farewell) in the language if I remember well. That's funny, English originally come in part from old Norwegian, but now English word find their way back to Norwegian (nynorsk or bokmal ?).

Oct 18, 2002, 10:53
Sorry for my late answer.

Yes, we have "adjø," presumably from "adieu."
Bokmål and nynorsk have the same status, but bokmål is preferred by more than 90% of the population. I've never used nynorsk in any real-life situations. We all have to learn both in school, which is largely a waste in my opinion. Bokmål is in a way "less Norwegian" because it's very influenced by Danish. Nynorsk was devised by Ivar Aasen in the 19th century. He literally travelled around the country for years, gathering information about dialects (he avoided large cities because that was where Danish influence was largest,) then he put together a new writing language, using words he had picked from various dialects. Learning to read nynorsk is one thing, but writing it...! Nynorsk was somewhat hard, because it's often easy to choose the wrong word (i.e. a bokmål word instead) because they're so similar.

Nov 3, 2004, 09:18
   I've always disliked Japan having English/European words turn into a Japanese style using katakana ever since I started learning Japanese . I actually like the idea of having pure Nihongo.
  I understand that businessmen who are lazy like to use kohii for coffee and sutoraberi gumii for strawberry gummy candy, but I find a lot of the time this somehow makes the language integrated with other countries. Perhaps to some that doesn't seem like a bad idea since world peace means every unites in a total understanding of each other, but sometimes i dislike it being that way.
   Mainly I dislike it because i like learning the original japanese word and having a kanji to associate with it. This enhances language learning for a serious person. Then again, having words that unite businesses together seem to be needed since Nihon is a business economy with many exports. In America we look at this problem the government having as the same as my parents trying to understand slang for the first time. They may not get it at first because the vocabulary isn't comprehensible and is made up totally on it's own. But government cheese means money handed out from the government and now i know that. Plus i understand what bling bling is. Even I had to teach myself before I understand it.
   This issue is going to be a long and perhaps confusing one for Nihon since this is a technology and communication age we are living. Good luck for them in finding an answer.

Mike Cash
Nov 3, 2004, 11:58
Nice work, reviving a two year old thread.

Nov 3, 2004, 12:09
You mean you didn't find his argument that the Japanese use loanwords like "koohii" because they're "lazy", and that they should replace these with "pure Nihongo" (with kanji, for that added kewlness factor) to "enhance" the learning experience of "serious" students like himself just so incredibly compelling that it was worth it?

Mike Cash
Nov 3, 2004, 12:37
I barely even glanced at what he wrote. I do that a lot with people who don't know how to start new paragraphs.

Wanna go get a cup of 珈琲?

Nov 3, 2004, 12:47
はは どおいたしまして マイクーチャン

which makes for a good lol question lmfao... that sure was a funny thing u said in reply to me...

what did happen two years later?

珈琲をのみません demo wa watashi no tokoro de nomimasen ka? :cute: :D

Jun 15, 2013, 17:07
sadly this is very true ........