Asian countries are fascinating for us because they are exotic. They are very different from what we see every day. One of such basic differences is the alphabet. For Westerners, it is a sequence of incomprehensible signs. When you  go to a place like this, where everything looks and sounds foreign, you may feel totally lost. You do not know what menu is in restaurant or what is the name of a street and where to go in the subway. Until recently, that is how tourists felt in Japan. It’s much better now, and English signs are everywhere. However, there are still situations when we can feel lost.

Over the past few years, Japan has made great progress in introducing English words in public space. This is certainly related to the Olympic Games that will take place in Tokyo in 2020. Also, there has been a huge increase in tourists. Japan has become a very attractive tourist destination. In 2016, when we were riding on a bus in Kyoto, we had to watch what Japanese letters are displayed on the screen with announcements of stops, so as not to miss our stop. In 2017, there were already signs and announcements in English. And it was the same in Kagoshima or at Hokkaido. However, another problem is to communicate with people, and this is not an easy task. And this is not due to the fact that the Japanese do not learn English or cannot learn it. They often have a problem with pronunciation and that’s why they don’t want to use English. Although they try as best as they can. They are also very helpful for lost tourists.

First of all, they have a problem with letters L/R. Very often, when they hear an English word they do not know if there is L or R in it. They have the same problem when they speak English. This leads to mistakes and discourages Japanese with using English. Even the Japanese, who know English very well and use it every day, can have problems. In most cases, when you speak to Japanese in English, he will respond to you in Japanese. In full, long sentences from which you will not understand anything. On the one hand, I would not like everything to be described in English. Ignorance can be fun and exciting. If you don’t know what the taste of the drink or chips you just buy, and the flavors are thousands in Japan and it can surprise you. Or in the restaurant, when you don’t know what dish the waiter will bring you. A little of mystery, uncertainty but also good fun. Sometimes it can be frustrating, when you have to do the laundry because you don’t have more clean panties, and this hellish washing machine has thousands of buttons with strange signs.

Although Japanese are reluctant to use English on a daily basis, they are very eager to use it in product marketing. Strange constructions of sentences, word-formation or the use of a word that does not fit at all. They are specialists in this. Sometimes I wonder how a serious company with a serious marketing department could have released something like that on the market?! Or maybe the 8-year-old president’s son was entrusted with creating a slogan? Shop with children’s articles “Starvations”. Chicken ass, which is called ‘Bon Jovi’. It happens that in the restaurant you can order “Monster Priest Octopus Sausage” and “Cinnamon Water of Terror”. This and much more you will find in Japan. Do you know that there is a special toilet paper for naive ladies?

Engrish or Japanglish is also used on a daily basis by the Japanese. We must remember that for some time they were under American occupation. Over the centuries, they also changed for their own use the names of Western products that were previously unknown to them. The most surprising thing is that certain names of well-known brands, which most of the world utters in their original form, the Japanese pronounce quite differently.

McDonald’s is Makudonarudo for them. Disneyland is Dizunilando, and Starbucks is Sutabakkusu. You will learn the rest of useful Japanese words from this video:


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