Response:

Hahaha! Ekin wrote that I look like a spokesman for RBJ… Egads, that was not the point. But I do know that there are a few readers who are members of RBJ and I just wanted to pass along some of the new things happening there. And I am moved by the fact that some find RBJ to be inappropriate or distasteful, as it is a place only for Asians. And yet, I am a member because I find that connecting with other Asians–not just JAs–is “comfortable” at times, mostly because we have a shared experience in the US (or some other non-Asian country). What’s it like being different from virtually everyone on TV or in movies or at work? Do foreigners ask you if you own a cowboy outfit, as more than a few Americans have asked me if I own a kimono? (Which I do actually, hehehehe.) Have you been called a “Ching-chong Chinaman”? (I have…) Don’t get me wrong, I too believe that diversity is an important and crucial part of our culture and we should be open to all, but the Asian experience is, in many ways, different from other ethnicities and a place to gather with those who have had similar experiences is not a bad thing. But, “No”, I am not trying to promote RBJ. As I said yesterday, I had nothing else to talk about…

But I do today…

Pronunciation

Zettonv mentioned how many Japanese mispronounce Ls and Rs. But let’s not forget that many Americans mispronounce Japanese, as well. “Tsu” つ is pronounced “su”–as in sunami (tidal wave)–and some ら as “ra” or “la”. How often have you heard Tokyo pronounced Tokio? Indeed, many even have a hard time with the vowel “e” when it comes at the end of a sentence. It is either pronounce “ee” (as in “see”)–karatee (karate) 空手, sakee (sake) 酒, and the ever-popular kari-okee (kara-oke) カラオケ–or in an attempt to pronounce it properly, they turn it into a dipthong–karatay, sakay and kara-okay. And most can hardly pronounce ん without concentrating. Even students of Japanese can have problems with it: a phrase auch as ほんを (hon-o) is pronounced ホンノ (honno). The interesting thing is that while Rs and Ls don’t exist in the Japanese language, most of the sounds in Japanese exist in English–ん is pronounced like the “n” in “think” not “thin”. (Did you know that there are two pronunciations for “n” in English? The tip of the tongue doesn’t touch the back of the teeth in words like think or hung, but should in thin and hunt.) And the “ts” sound is found in words such as “that’s all” and “what’s up”. So why can’t many pronounce it? Of course, the inablility to deal with foreign words isn’t limited to Japanese. Words like maitre de and Volkswagon are accepted in English in their “mispronounced” form…

I am reminded of a time when I was in Japan. I was on a crowded train and two Americans board laughing about a Japanese commercial for Green Giant frozen foods. They were cracking up about how the Japanese couldn’t pronounce “giant”, that they had to put an “o” after it: Ho-ho-ho, guriin jai-anto. It probably didn’t occur to these linguistic giants that no word in Japanese ends in a consonant. (Although represented as “n” in romanization, ん is not a consonant but a nasalized vowel.) Loan words in Japanese are subject to the same linguistic rules as native words, just like… like… English. That’s why the “v” in Volkswagon is pronounced like a “v” and not an “f”.

I guess pronouncing foreign words in any language is difficult. What’s it like in the language you’re familiar with?

Response:

Hahaha! Ekin wrote that I look like a spokesman for RBJ… Egads, that was not the point. But I do know that there are a few readers who are members of RBJ and I just wanted to pass along some of the new things happening there. And I am moved by the fact that some find RBJ to be inappropriate or distasteful, as it is a place only for Asians. And yet, I am a member because I find that connecting with other Asians–not just JAs–is “comfortable” at times, mostly because we have a shared experience in the US (or some other non-Asian country). What’s it like being different from virtually everyone on TV or in movies or at work? Do foreigners ask you if you own a cowboy outfit, as more than a few Americans have asked me if I own a kimono? (Which I do actually, hehehehe.) Have you been called a “Ching-chong Chinaman”? (I have…) Don’t get me wrong, I too believe that diversity is an important and crucial part of our culture and we should be open to all, but the Asian experience is, in many ways, different from other ethnicities and a place to gather with those who have had similar experiences is not a bad thing. But, “No”, I am not trying to promote RBJ. As I said yesterday, I had nothing else to talk about…

But I do today…

Pronunciation

Zettonv mentioned how many Japanese mispronounce Ls and Rs. But let’s not forget that many Americans mispronounce Japanese, as well. “Tsu” つ is pronounced “su”–as in sunami (tidal wave)–and some ら as “ra” or “la”. How often have you heard Tokyo pronounced Tokio? Indeed, many even have a hard time with the vowel “e” when it comes at the end of a sentence. It is either pronounce “ee” (as in “see”)–karatee (karate) 空手, sakee (sake) 酒, and the ever-popular kari-okee (kara-oke) カラオケ–or in an attempt to pronounce it properly, they turn it into a dipthong–karatay, sakay and kara-okay. And most can hardly pronounce ん without concentrating. Even students of Japanese can have problems with it: a phrase auch as ほんを (hon-o) is pronounced ホンノ (honno). The interesting thing is that while Rs and Ls don’t exist in the Japanese language, most of the sounds in Japanese exist in English–ん is pronounced like the “n” in “think” not “thin”. (Did you know that there are two pronunciations for “n” in English? The tip of the tongue doesn’t touch the back of the teeth in words like think or hung, but should in thin and hunt.) And the “ts” sound is found in words such as “that’s all” and “what’s up”. So why can’t many pronounce it? Of course, the inablility to deal with foreign words isn’t limited to Japanese. Words like maitre de and Volkswagon are accepted in English in their “mispronounced” form…

I am reminded of a time when I was in Japan. I was on a crowded train and two Americans board laughing about a Japanese commercial for Green Giant frozen foods. They were cracking up about how the Japanese couldn’t pronounce “giant”, that they had to put an “o” after it: Ho-ho-ho, guriin jai-anto. It probably didn’t occur to these linguistic giants that no word in Japanese ends in a consonant. (Although represented as “n” in romanization, ん is not a consonant but a nasalized vowel.) Loan words in Japanese are subject to the same linguistic rules as native words, just like… like… English. That’s why the “v” in Volkswagon is pronounced like a “v” and not an “f”.

I guess pronouncing foreign words in any language is difficult. What’s it like in the language you’re familiar with?