Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Japlish' and the Japanese Language

What happens when the Japanese language, developed in isolation over the centuries, meets globalization and satellite TV? You get Japlish, which is not so much a hybrid of English and Japanese language, but a shortening and strange combining of English words.

Now Japlish is not something you can study at a Japanese language school; and learning Japlish is not the surest way to learn Japanese, but it is increasingly part of the Japanese language.

Sprinkling their lives with English is a way for the Japanese to signal that they're cosmopolitan and well traveled; which is important in a country that consists of four small islands where almost everyone shares the same ethnic Japanese background. English is plastered on advertisements, store fronts and T-Shirts giving the ordinary a touch of international sophistication.

A recent Japanese TV show titled "Around 40" explored the difficulty Japanese women over 35 have in finding husbands. One of the characters used the word ara-four to describe this unfortunate group of women in Japanese culture, and it has since entered the language as a new Japlish word.

While most people who travel to Japan are not interested in attending a Japanese school or learning Japanese, a basic familiary with japlish certainly makes things fun. Other examples of this new form of the Japanese language include:
  • Seku-hara - Sexual harassment
  • Para-Single -This word in itself comes from the Japlish phrase parasite single, which is an adult (usually in their 20s) who lives at home without paying rent, and therefore can use their salary on fun things like trips to Hawaii, brand name clothing and trips to hot springs
  • OL - Office lady; a young women who works in a corporate office setting as a kind of secretary/hostess who serves tea to executives and greets visiting businessmen; the societal understanding is that she is waiting to meet a man, get married, quit her job and have a baby
And like slang among teenagers in the U.S., Japlish is constantly renewing itself and adding new "words" to the Japanese language and the Japanese culture.

No comments: