Japanese English

by Tomoaki Ishii

Word elements

4, 30, 2002

Japanese English addressing car and their problems

1. What is Japanese English?

To think about Japanese English, we have to think about loan words. Loan word is simply the word from foreign country. Usually, the country that has low standard of living loan the words from the country that has high standard of living. According to World Encyclopedia, until the middle of 19 century, Japan loaned many words from China. However, Japan changed the policy of national isolation in the 1850s and Japan got higher standard of living than China, Japan stopped loaning the word from China and started to loan many words from Western countries. After the Meiji Restoration in 1867, Japan started to modernize country like Western countries. In addition to that, traditionally Japanese people love new and foreign things so we started to loan many words.

After Japanese people started to loan the words from Western countries, they faced the problem. That was pronunciation. Japanese language roots is Chinese so they didnt have difficulty to pronounce Chinese words, but we dont have some of Western languages pronunciation. For example, we dont have the pronunciation of "R" so we call "radio" "lajio" in Japan.

8, 15, 1945, Japan lost the war and United States started to occupy Japan, and Japan began to make country aiming at U.S. so naturally, a lot of words came into Japan from United States. Besides that, all Japanese people longed for the U.S. which was the strongest and highest standard of living in the world. These factor made Japanese people use English very much and people thought "using English is cool and neat so lets use roman letter". So Japanese people started to use English every sector like business, music, goods, and etc. However, the problem was pronunciation. As I mentioned, there are some sounds we dont have in Japanese. So Japanese people made intimate and easy English, in other words, Japanese fashion English. Especially, after the "walk man" by SONY was all the

 rage, more and more Japanese English was made. This is the origin of Japanese English.

2. The list of Japanese English about car

Japanese English

Real English

Front glass  Windshield
Back mirror  Rear-view mirror
Side mirror  Side-view mirror
Number plate  License plate
Klaxon Horn
 Handle Steering wheel
Side brake Parking brake
Accel  (Accelerator) Gas pedal
Bonnet  Hood
Winker  Turn signal
Wheel cap  Hubcap
Back gear  Reverse gear
Cell-motor  Starter
Gasoline  Gas, Petrol
Gasoline stand  Gas station
Punk  Flat tire (Puncture)
Enst Engine stall, Engine trouble
Dump car Dump truck
Pat car Police car (Patrol car)
Open car Convertible
Auto bi  Mortorbike
Light van  Station wagon
Wagon  Van
Camping car Camper
Tank  lorry, Tanker, truck
Child seat  Car seat
Car navi  Car navigation system
Safety drive  Driving safely
Bentz Mercedes
Shivorei Chevrolet
High way  Express way, free way
RV Sports utility vehicle (SUV)
My-car  Owned car
Paper driver Person with a driver license who seldom drives
Metto-in  A style of a scooter which has a compartment under the seat to hold the crash helmet

 3. Questionnaire

Next, I distrbuted a questionnaire to 25 American students living in Graham hall. I chose 5 most famous Japanese English words which more than 99% Japanese people think is real English from the list above and I asked them.

Front glass

Back mirror




From the questionnaire, I got interesting result.

22 people understood the "front glass" is "windshield" and 3 people couldnt.

21 people understood the "back mirror" is "rear-view mirror" and 4 people couldn t.

Only 5 people understood "handle" is "steering wheel" and 20 people couldnt.

Only 5 people understood "klaxon" is "horn" and 20 people couldnt.

18 people understood "winker" is "turning light" and 7 people couldnt.

In my opinion, "front glass" and "back mirror" are totally different from real English but they can guess possibly. However, I think they cant guess the "horn" from "klaxon". So many people answered "traction" or "stop sign ". In Japan, "klaxon" is a trade mark of "horn".

The funniest thing was "handle". Many people said "There is a handle on the motorbike but not in the car". So they answered "door handle " or "trans mission". I think 100% people in Japan think that "steering wheel" is called "handle" in the U.S. According to the Oxford English dictionary and the American Heritage dictionary, the meaning of "handle" is that the part of thing which is made to be grasped by the hand in using or moving it. So literal translation, Japanese people are not wrong. Thats why Japanese people cant find their mistake. To tell the truth, I called it "handle" until recently. I found the word "steering wheel" when I rent a car with my friend.

4. Over view & How do I accept Japanese English

I had never thought seriously about Japanese English until I started this project. As a preparation, I checked many websites, dictionary, and encyclopedia. I also asked my cousin who works for news paper company to send me a information about Japanese English. And now, in my opinion, Japanese people should use correct English not Japanese English.

When I was in Japan I didnt notice how it is troublesome because Japanese English is a kind of Japanese in that it is used and interpreted only in Japan. According to Kenji Nadoyama, journalist in Ryukyu newspaper, Japanese English is just the English word coined in Japan, not English at all. The problem is its the era of internationalization now. Many people use English all over the world and also many Japanese people go out of the country and use English. Therefore Japanese people should not use English which is understandable only Japanese people. If Japanese people continue to use it, conversation with foreign people is difficult or doesnt work as I experienced a lot here. When American students were filling in my questionnaire, I also checked their attitudes. It seemed they had trouble to solve it. Then I felt there is no meaning to use Japanese English.

In addition to that, many people insist that Japanese English hinders English education in Japan. English level of Japanese people is the lowest in the Asian countries. According to Yutaka Idemitsu, the president of one of the biggest gas company in Japan, because of the overflow of coinage, children learn wrong English without any question. Besides that, Japanese English problem affects not only the word but also grammar and sentence. I found funny article in the Yomiuri newspaper on December 13th 2000. It says that junior high children in Ibaraki county use physical education textbook which subtitle is "Love Sports". It should be "We Love Sports" or "Lets Love Sports", not "Love Sports". I found one more funny news. In Japan, "global standard" is generally accepted word and every people think it is used all over the world. One article on March 16th 1998 says that the representative of Japanese government spoke "the importance of global standard" at the international symposium on economy. After that, the representative of United States government asked "What is global standard? There is Japanese standard, U.S. standard, and etc but there is no global standard because standard is made by each countrys tradition and climate". Im sure there are many news which is about the failure of Japanese English. These news are the proof that Japanese English doesnt work in international society.

However, some people support Japanese English. They are mainly people who work for music. There are a lot of Japanese English in Japanese songs. For example, the titles "White Love" that Japanese people think the meaning is "pure love" and "Can you celebrate?" that Japanese people think grammatically collect but no object. According to Tetstuya Komuro, one of the most famous music producer in Japan, we can imagine and interpret the meaning many way if we use English. He says we specialize the meaning if we use only Japanese. However, I think his opinion is just making the lyric ambiguous and it is against the real role of word that is making communication easy and correct.

As a custom of Japanese, we Japanese have adopted many foreign things and words. I think this is a good point of Japanese. However, if we dont use it correctly, we cant communicate with people all over the world and we will lose our identity. In addition to that, I think using Japanese English is a kind of blasphemy for English culture because nobody in English culture will be happy if people in non-English culture make strange word in English arbitrarily. So we have to stop using Japanese English and start using English.


World encyclopedia vol. 4, published in 1967, Heibon company

World encyclopedia vol. 9, published in 1968, Heibon company

Imidas 2001, published in 2001, Shuei company

Kenji Nadoyama, editorial "Japanese English" on Ryukyu newspaper, 11, 8, 1999

Editorial "correction in English representation" on Yomiuri newspaper, 12, 13, 2000

Noboru Makino, comment on Mainichi newspaper, 3, 16, 1998

Yutaka Idemitsu, interview on Mainichi newspaper, 12, 29, 2001

Tetsuya Komuro, interview,


Website "Eigonoyokozuki",


E-American Heritage Dictionary

E-Oxford English Dictionary