Western loanwords

< Previous | Next >

Tensai

Member
Chinese Cantonese, Hong Kong
What do you think about the use of Western loanwords and katakanas in the Japanese language?
Do you think Western loanwords are damaging the Japanese language?

I especially would like to hear the views from Japanese native speakers.

As a Chinese, I do not have any problems with Japanese using Chinese characters, and Japanese people used the Chinese characters brilliantly, so good that we actually took many Japanese-created-terms of Western concepts into the Chinese language. On the other hand, Western loandwords, I feel they are empty words, just using katakanas to mimick the sounds of Western words.

I was in my Japanese friend's place last night, I used his laptop, he had Japanese version of Windows, everything was in katakanas, like 'My Document' is 'mai dokyumento' in katakana.
'My Music' is 'mai myujikku'
'My Pictures' is 'mai pikucha'
Why not use 'watashi no bunsho' (私の文書), 'watashi no ongaku' (私の音楽)
, 'watashi no gazou' (私の映像, probably wrong)?

My Japanese friend hates katakanas, he told me that I do not need to learn katakanas, but I told him I will learn them so that I can understand when people uses them, I will probably avoid using them myself.

In Chinese, I think we are trying to keep Western loanwords to minimum, for example, in Japanese, computer is 'konpyuutaa', but in Chinese it is 電腦 dan4 nao3 in Mandarin, or din no in Cantonese, 電腦 literally translates to 'electric brain'.

Originally, the Chinese term for 'telephone' was 德律風 (de lu feng in Mandarin, duk lut fung in Cantonese), it literrally translates to 'moral melody/law wind' or something, it makes no sense. 'telephone' in Japanese is denwa 電話 (or dian wa in Mandarin, din wa in Cantonese), which literally translates to 'electric talk'. At the beginning of 20th century, in a letter writtened by a group of Chinese students studying in Japan, they mentioned about telephone, they wrote : 'to send speeches by using electricity, Chinese translates it to de lu feng 德律風, it does not fit as good as dian wa 電話.'
dian wa 電話 entered China and defeated de lu feng 德律風.


I found an article on this subject
http://www.japanvisitor.com/i_mode/clinic1.html
 
  • justjukka

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - USA
    Sorry, I'm not a Japanese speaker, but I must point out that all languages are subject to the influence of others. English is the product of several languages being meshed together sometime way back, which is probably the same beginning all languages share. And any language as we know it today will more than likely not be the same a thousand years from now.

    I'm sure this isn't a response you desired, so I hope this doesn't anger anyone.
     

    Hiro Sasaki

    Banned
    Japan, Japanese
    Tensai ,

    About 150 years ago, Japan began coining many words with new Western
    concepts using chinese characters. We did not used chinese characters
    as phonetic signs. Basically, we did not coined words like 德律風.

    For " station", we coind the word 停車場( ていしゃば ) which is not used
    now and we say " 駅 ”。  For "tour" or "tourism ", we had a traditional
    word "旅 ー たび ”。 But origanized mass sightseeing trip, we coined
    the word 観光(かんこう ) which was coined from some old chinese
    classic. 光 means "enlighting ", because one can have a wider knowledge
    trasvelling. At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the
    20th century, Japan received many chinese students. ( Read 藤野先生
    by 魯迅 )。 Many words coined by Japanese in medicine, chemistry,
    in many other fields of sciences, government administration systems,
    were loaned by Chinese. fter the second world II, we did not any subconscous anti-western feeling, and we started loaning new words,
    and some words were modified.

    Hiro Sasaki
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    Tensai said:
    In Chinese, I think we are trying to keep Western loanwords to minimum, for example, in Japanese, computer is 'konpyuutaa', but in Chinese it is 電腦 dan4 nao3 in Mandarin, or din no in Cantonese, 電腦 literally translates to 'electric brain'.
    Any language has its name for "computer", OK?!:)

    Tensai said:
    Originally, the Chinese term for 'telephone' was 德律風 (de lu feng in Mandarin, duk lut fung in Cantonese)
    "德律風"?? I think it was only named in Hong Kong Mandarin.

    In Taiwan, we never has that name. How about China?

    That's interesting, including China, some forer@ call their language as Mandarin, not Chinese.:confused: So.....there's no more Chinese, but only Taiwan Mandarin, China Mandarin (and HongKong/Macau Mandarin) exit in this world?
     

    Hiro Sasaki

    Banned
    Japan, Japanese
    During the second world war, we were more patriotic linguistically
    than Chinese and French peoples. During a few years, the military
    government considered as anti-patriotic the people who used the
    English words, a languaguage of our anglo-saxon enemies even of
    basseball. Japanese must invent many baseball terms.


    But, we were always good losers. We started learning from America
    and started using many English words without taking pains in coining
    new words.

    We compose poems called waka in which only the pure Japanese words are used basically except the foreign names. Even the chinese words
    loaned about 1500 years ago are not used. The sinto priests chant
    prayers of very pure and old Japanesae called Yamato Kotoba.

    The foreigner's view points are only one-sided, ignoring the long
    history of the pure Japanese language Yamato Kotoba.

    Hiro Sasaki
     

    MingRaymond

    Senior Member
    HK Cantonese
    Tensai said:
    Originally, the Chinese term for 'telephone' was 德律風 (de lu feng in Mandarin, duk lut fung in Cantonese), it literrally translates to 'moral melody/law wind' or something, it makes no sense. 'telephone' in Japanese is denwa 電話 (or dian wa in Mandarin, din wa in Cantonese), which literally translates to 'electric talk'. At the beginning of 20th century, in a letter writtened by a group of Chinese students studying in Japan, they mentioned about telephone, they wrote : 'to send speeches by using electricity, Chinese translates it to de lu feng 德律風, it does not fit as good as dian wa 電話.'
    dian wa 電話 entered China and defeated de lu feng 德律風.
    Yes. 電話 is better. But Shanghainese keeps 德律風. :)
     

    Thomas F. O'Gara

    Senior Member
    English USA
    To get back to where Tensai started, and as a baigui/gaijin who has some familiarity with both languages, I have to agree that the proliferation of katakana clones of English words in Japanese bothers me too. One thing that bothers me is that they tend to take on a life of their own, bearing little resemblance to what they meant in the original English; you refer to the use of "my..." in a lot of terms, and it has become almost a stylish prefix rather than just a simple pronoun.

    but what bothers me most is that the word, and not the concept in the word root, is what is taken in to Japanese. As Hiro Sasaki points out, this wasn't what happened in Japanese 150 years ago; the Japanese expertly coined a wide variety of terms from Western languages using the concepts behind kanji to translate Western word roots, so much so that the Chinese ended up adopting many of the same terms.

    But - what can I say? it's their language, and they can do what they want with it, and they don't need my permission.
     

    Hiro Sasaki

    Banned
    Japan, Japanese
    In a globalized world, we can not coin thousands of words each year.
    Technology is developing at a great speed. and our societies are changing
    rapidly and many English words will be born day by day. Chinese should now invent phonetic katakana. In the Buddhist sutra 般若心経 , many sanscrit words were not translated. The chinese characters were used
    phonetically because there were no chinese words exactly corresponding
    to many sanscrit words. What bother you is not loaning of words, but you
    must learn many words








    new English
     

    Thomas F. O'Gara

    Senior Member
    English USA
    I agree with your observation about the Chinese developing a form of Katakana. In fact, a system like that - or perhaps, a bit more like the Korean writing system - was developed and was used in a lot of students' texts on Taiwan. It was used like furigana is used in Japan - alongside the character - and was common at least up until about thirty years ago (I think it was called zhuyinzimu). The mainland didn't care for it, opting instead for pinyin, which was developed by the Russians, curiously enough.

    I have to admit that I've always found Chinese transliteration of foreign names to be a really complicated affair, and I would certainly welcome some standardization on that!
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Tensai said:
    I was in my Japanese friend's place last night, I used his laptop, he had Japanese version of Windows, everything was in katakanas, like 'My Document' is 'mai dokyumento' in katakana.
    'My Music' is 'mai myujikku'
    'My Pictures' is 'mai pikucha'
    Why not use 'watashi no bunsho' (私の文書), 'watashi no ongaku' (私の音楽)
    , 'watashi no gazou' (私の映像, probably wrong)?
    This is crazy, especially since these words probably don't mean anything in Japanese. Curiously enough, my Spanish-language version of Windows has everything translated into Spanish. "My Documents" is "Mis documentos", My Pictures" is "Mis imágenes". So I don't get why they don't do the same for Japanese.
    midismilex said:
    That's interesting, including China, some forer@ call their language as Mandarin, not Chinese.:confused: So.....there's no more Chinese, but only Taiwan Mandarin, China Mandarin (and HongKong/Macau Mandarin) exit in this world?
    Huh? Sometimes we need to specify which Chinese language we are referring to, and sometimes even the dialect.

    Chinese -- could be anything
    Mandarin -- more specific: this specifies the precise language
    Taiwanese Mandarin -- best: specifies both the dialect AND the language.
     

    Tensai

    Member
    Chinese Cantonese, Hong Kong
    vince said:
    This is crazy, especially since these words probably don't mean anything in Japanese. Curiously enough, my Spanish-language version of Windows has everything translated into Spanish. "My Documents" is "Mis documentos", My Pictures" is "Mis imágenes". So I don't get why they don't do the same for Japanese.
    actually, like in Yahoo Japan website, they use lots of these katakanas, my Japanese friend hates it, he thinks it is stupid.
    for whatever reason, some Japanese people uses katakanas (or Western loanwords) even if they have terms in Japanese that have the same meaning
     

    midismilex

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese, Mandarin
    vince said:
    Huh? Sometimes we need to specify which Chinese language we are referring to, and sometimes even the dialect.
    Chinese language sometimes even the dialect? I wish you are not kidding. I wish Maori language sometimes even the dialect of English. When English native speakers say they speak English, are you going to hesitate if they say the Maori language? So, do we need to specify anything?

    vince said:
    Chinese -- could be anything
    Mandarin -- more specific: this specifies the precise language
    Taiwanese Mandarin -- best: specifies both the dialect AND the language.
    I don't want to waste time to argue anything because there is only truth is that the two main system of learning Mandarin (if people in China would like to call their language as such) is in Taiwan or in China, just like the two main system of learning English is either American English or UK.

    Outside of the both system, if people want to learn Mandarin (if people in China would like to call their language as such) in Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, ... or even in Africa, that's their choice. We can learn English in Africa, can't we?
     

    Hiro Sasaki

    Banned
    Japan, Japanese
    Those Japanese who are not aware of the dfference between peanuts
    ピーナッツ and 落花生、 南京豆 are also very stupid. Those who use too much loan words are also stupid. About the discussions between Taiwanese mandarin and the mainland china mandarin, two systems must be respected. We have an old saying : なまりは 国の手形。 The dialectal
    accent is an identification card of the land where you are ffrom.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top