A U.K. company named Johnson Banks has come with an ingenious way to include English pronunciation in Japanese katakana characters. The company has dubbed this new font cleverly as “Phonetikana,” where each katakana character featured a few English letters to help English speakers say the word properly.
The company started incorporating the new font in simple words like “banana” and “tomato” but also showed what longer phrases such as the “sound of something spinning” would look like. The first simple example that company showed is the katakana characters for Uniqlo versus the new Phonetikana.
It’s a really brilliant idea, and I’m sure it will be incredibly helpful for so many people who are trying to learn Japanese.
The name Michael
Uniqlo in Phonetikana
Doki Doki =the sound of my heart beating
Kuru Kuru=sound of something spinning
Toppu banana=top banana
Biggu Appuru=big apple
Everyone loves Engrish, and everyone enjoys lampooning the machines that create it and the silly humans who wear it.
Is it as funny when the tables are turned? What happens when non-Japanese deck themselves out in clothing with unintelligible characters on it, only to have the true meaning outed on the web for all to see?
▼”Soft Freeze” . . . while I peacefully slice my pink slime . . .
▼”Bride Hunting” . . . how ’bout it, babe?
▼”Beware of Perverts! Dangerous People Afoot!”
▼”Red Forest” . . . when “Bride Hunting” isn’t doing the job . . .
▼”Giant Penis” . . . sample my Large Root?
▼”I am a stupid American.”
▼”I am Japanese.”
▼”My life is hell.”
▼Trendiest “Loose Panties” VS New Face “Tight Panties” . . . Hey, Engrish belongs to US!!!
▼”What else but Louis Vuitton?”
▼”Full-On Wear and Tear” . . . from a man beaten down by life.
▼”Flamboyant Delight” . . . true ballerz rock the Green Car with Jiyuseki non-reserved tickets.
▼”Pay this jerk” with Adidas on his bum!
▼An “Oh-Crap-We’re-Pregnant Marriage” (Japanese answer to “shotgun marriage”)
Ariana Grande is a rising star that many are calling a “mini-Mariah Carey.”
Launching onto the world stage after an incredibly successful run on the Nickelodeon show, Victorious, she is quickly gaining fans around the world with her solo music career. She has quite the following in Japan too, with her most recent album, My Everything, peaking at #3 on the weekly Oricon Music charts. And while Japan can’t get enough of her songs and her extremely long hair (extensions), there is something else that her Japanese fans are talking about these days: Ariana Grande is learning hiragana.
Though she has a reputation of being a diva, there is only one word that Japanese fans use to describe her: KAWAIIIIIIIIIII (CUUUUUUTE)
And having been to Japan many times herself, Ariana Grande is very familiar with the concept of “kawaii.” In fact she’s quite fond of Japan, proudly claiming on Japanese TV that she loves edamame, tofu and the eclectic Japanese singer, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. And Ariana Grande is making sure her fans know that her love of Japan extends beyond her screaming Arianators. Her recent Instagram post conclusively separates her from all the other young female singers from America.
ARIANA IS STUDYING JAPANESE!!! Countless news outlets and fans have written about how she is studying Japanese since that pictured was posted. She seems dedicated to her studies as well, having downloaded a Japanese keyboard on her phone.
But, whether she is seriously studying Japanese during her busy schedule or just taking a swing at learning hiragana, her Japanese fans can’t get enough of it.
Ariana Grande has definitely captured the hearts of her Japanese fans, and she assures them that she will be back in Japan soon.
Who knows how far Ariana’s foray into the Japanese language will go. Perhaps she will surprise her fans with a homemade handwritten sign professing her love for Japan at her next concert.
▼”I love Japan!”
We’ve talked before about handy Japanese words and phrases we wish we could toss around in English. This kind of linguistic jealousy doesn’t flow in just one direction, though. Japanese businesspeople regularly make use of a number of English phrases, either because they’re more concise, precise, or just sound cooler to their ears than their Japanese counterparts.
Sometimes, though, knowing English isn’t enough to understand these loanwords, since their pronunciations can get pretty garbled in the transition from English to Japanese speakers. Feeling confident in your ability to translate English translated into Japanese back into English? Read on and see how many you can decipher.
As a quick primer on how the pronunciation of English loanwords gets corrupted, it’s important to remember two things about the Japanese language. First, there are a handful of sounds that just don’t exist in Japanese, most famously “l,” but also “v,” “si,” “du,” and “th,” to name a few.
Second, with a few exceptions such as “cha,” “tsu,” and “shi,” and combinations with “n,” you can’t have two consecutive consonants in a single syllable, meaning that each consonant always comes with a vowel sound attached to it. Combined with the complete lack of certain sounds we mentioned above, this is why, for example, technology giant Apple gets pronounced “Appuru” in Japanese (the double ‘p’ indicates a delay a fraction of a second long before the second syllable, in case you were wondering).
Okay, no more hints. It’s time to get this quiz started!
Starting off with an easy one, this is “agree.” For example, when asked his opinion regarding an offer, your Japanese coworker might give his stance as agurii. Sadly, this one can cause confusion amongst lower-level Japanese English speakers as “agree,” “ugly,” and even “angry” all sound remarkably similar to their ears.
If whoever’s calling the shots is ready to agurii, he’ll probably let his counterparts know that he’s ready to komitto, or “commit” to the project. Once again, the double consonant here denotes a pause a fraction of a second long before that particular syllable. Try tokomitto that rule to memory, ne.
Of course, a cornerstone of Japanese workplace harmony is making sure everyone in the organization is on the same page, which is why business deals tend to take longer here than in many Western countries. Odds are, even if the person you spoke to in the meeting seemed enthusiastic about your offer, before he can komitto he’ll have to go back to his office and make sure there’s a konsensasu (“consensus”) among the rest of his coworkers.
Of course, no matter how good the proposal sounds, it’s always necessary to make sure your business dealings are all above-board. To that end, you’ll want to research any relevant regyureeshon, or “regulations” (which loses its terminal “S” because Japanese vocabulary doesn’t differentiate between singular and plural nouns).
Of course, just reading and familiarizing yourself with the regyureeshon isn’t enough. You’ll also need to check the items of the contract against them to make sure everything is in a state of konpuraiansu (“compliance”). Why is compliance written in Japanese with an “n” and not an “m”? Like we said, all Japanese consonants except “n” come with a vowel attached, so if they’d used an “m” , or rather a “mu“, the already vowel-packed word would have ended up being komupuraiansu. Yikes.
6. besuto efooto
Finally, if everything checks out, once you sign the contract and it’s time to get to work, it’s imperative that every member of the team give his or her besuto efooto/best effort.
After all, in the modern, competitive marketplace, that’s the only way to succeed in business, or bijinesu, as the Japanese call it.
Heard any other borrowed business words in office Japanese? Let us know in the comments section below!
Yes, I know octopi have eight tentacles not six, but Tako of Takos Japanese has five. It’s the same cartoon logic that makes the Simpson family all have eight fingers. And yes, I know the name should probably read “Tako’s Japanese.” Really though, let’s not get bogged down in talk of appendages and apostrophes right now.
Today we’re here to look at a new Japanese study app released by Spain-based Giant Soul Interactive. A lot of Japanese study apps found online are either fun but limited in content or deep but boring and stodgy. Learn Japanese with Tako (recently changed from “Takos Japanese”) aims to strike a happy balance of a fun way to learn the language that’s also rich in content. Let’s find out if they succeed.
■ Brings the cute
In Learn Japanese with Tako you assume the role of the titular Tako, a young octopus studying the ways of reading and writing Japanese. You are aided by a wise old octopus in the ways of properly writing in the three language sets hiragana, katakana, and kanji.
The animated menus and practice areas are all brightly colored and downright cute, which really goes a long way to help you forget that you’re essentially doing handwriting and reading drills. More than just an added frill, the entertaining style of it helps keep you focused on the task at hand.
■ Handwriting Practice
It starts by teaching the hiragana alphabet and uses Latin characters as references. First, Sensei demonstrates the proper stroke order and direction of the characters on a white board which you can follow along.
A common weakness of these kinds of apps is in the handwriting recognition. In an old kanji study app I would sometimes have to write something as simple as the number “2” 20 times before it could register as anything other than “N.” Learn Japanese with Tako, however, seems to understand our handwriting with a good degree of leniency.
It’s not too loose though. I got marked down as not learning my あs (Japanese equivalent of the letter “A”) because my loop at the bottom right was hanging a little too low and it pissed-off Sensei octopus. However, rather than the confusing mess of the “2=N” fiasco, this app let me understand what it was about my あ that led to the problem and allowed me to correct it accordingly. As a result I’d like to think my handwriting is now just a little bit prettier.
After learning the basic writing and reading of the characters you are given a mini-game to review. They all focus on memorizing the characters in different ways. For example, my weak point has always been remembering the correct pronunciation of kanji despite knowing the meanings. This means I’d benefit from the Izakaya mini-game the most.
In this game we have to serve the various sea creatures their order label in kanji as they call out for them phonetically. Like all the games it’s timed which adds a good level of challenge and pressure. There’s also a whack-a-mole game requiring even faster matching of character and pronunciations. Even more advanced students of Japanese might find themselves scrambling with basic words on this one.
Other games include an arcade machine where you have to memorize the order of flashing kanji with their English meanings. There’s also a baseball game which requires speedy handwriting skills. They’re all pretty fun and simple games that you can play whenever you have a minute or two.
■ Room for more
Learn Japanese with Tako starts with hiragana then moves into katakana and beginner kanji. As of this writing it offered up to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N5 level but they plan to roll out N4 in the coming months. That should be more than enough content for those just starting out learning the language but for people further along it only serves as a nice brush-up program for the moment.
Also, although the games are fun and well designed, it remains to be seen what replay value they have, especially for people just starting out. Learning Japanese can be a long haul and the games will have to be addictive enough to sustain that journey. To address this concern, Giant Soul say there are currently working on expanding the types of mini-games based on user-feedback.
Overall though, Takos Japanese is a very well designed study app both in terms of presentation and educational value, and it has a solid, sleek interface. Another great feature is that in addition to English,the app is available in Spanish, Korean, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German.
▼ Why not switch the language setting and learn two languages at once!
For anyone starting out in Japanese it would be a great tool well worth its 400-yen (US$3.40) asking price the Japanese app store (prices may vary according to region). For those further along, you might want to wait until if they add the higher level kanji. Hopefully they can soon!
Takos Japanese is available from
When her latest film Man From Reno won the top prize at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival this summer, Ayako Fujitani was initially confused. “Dave [Boyle, the director,] told me, ‘We won!’ and I said, ‘For what?’” she remembers. She laughs. “I had forgotten it was a competition! The project had come such a long way from the [initial] Kickstarter [fundraising campaign]. We had such a tough time even finishing the movie, and we were super happy to even get in the L.A. Film Festival. So when we won, we were super shocked and surprised, in a good way.”
This is the second time the hapa actress (born to Japanese aikido master Miyako Fujitani and American action star Steven Seagal) has worked with Boyle, the first experience being in his 2012 black- and-white indie romance Daylight Savings, in which she had a supporting role as Goh Nakamura’s ex- girlfriend. After that wrapped, Boyle was working on a crime film that started out as a pair of simultaneous mystery stories with vastly different protagonists, a Japanese writer and an elderly sheriff. The sheriff character, who’d eventually be played by Pepe Serna, came from an unproduced screenplay Boyle had written previously, but the Japanese writer Aki was a new addition and written with Fujitani in mind.
“I think she has a unique cerebral soulfulness about her that was perfect for the part of Aki,” says Boyle. “While the sheriff’s storyline is more of a traditional police procedural, Aki’s is a bit more emotional and character driven. She is the classic amateur sleuth, but she has secrets of her own that make her darker than your average heroine.”
“Aki is a very successful Japanese mystery novel writer who’s not happy about her success for some reason,” explains Fujitani of her bilingual character. “She runs away from her book tour to San Francisco — and runs into a real mystery.”
During post-screening Q&As during the film’s festival run, Fujitani remembers Boyle joking that after she got involved, the Aki character suddenly became super dark. “Before, the character didn’t feel too much regret or sadness,” says Fujitani. “But if she was happy, no one would really care about what she goes through.”
“[Once] we realized how game Ayako would be to push the character further and further into the darkness, she made all three of us [Boyle and co-writers Joel Clark and Michael Lerman] braver as writers to make the character rougher around the edges. Her fearlessness gave us confidence,” says Boyle.
Though Fujitani wouldn’t describe herself as the type of actress who practices method acting, it was difficult for her to get Aki out of her head. Part of the reason was because they shot many of the film’s foreboding scenes in a hotel room in San Francisco, which was right next door to the actual hotel room where Fujitani stayed during the weeks they were filming in the city. “When you’re basically on the set in the same hotel room the whole time, it’s almost impossible to forget the character,” she says. “It helped my acting a lot, to get into the maze of this world, but I felt like I had no way out.” She laughs.
“So after I finished the movie, it was like, I need to go to Hawaii or something!”
A relaxing vacation wasn’t in the cards, however, because Fujitani, also a filmmaker herself, has been working on numerous projects that take her back and forth between the U.S., Japan and Korea. Her short film The Doors, shot entirely on an iPhone 5 without any special lenses, recently played at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas. (It was originally made for the Olleh International Smartphone Film Festival in South Korea.) She also co-wrote a four-episode short film series, A Rose Reborn, a collaboration between acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook and the Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna, which stars Daniel Wu and Jack Huston. She is currently developing another Korean short film, a dark comedy that follows a nervous, picky, routine-driven businessman.
“She’s very confident and has a great eye and ear for unusual characters and interesting dialogue,” says Boyle of Fujitani’s work as a writer and director. In fact, he often relied on Fujitani’s instincts when it came to the Japanese-language scenes in Man from Reno, which also stars actors Kazuki Kitamura, Yasuyo Shiba, Hiroshi Watanabe and Tetsuo Kuramochi. “We worked with a lot of great translators during the scriptwriting process to make sure the Japanese version would be up to snuff, but a couple of days before we started shooting, Ayako and I did a last brush up that did amazing things for the movie,” says Boyle. “Having her ear at our disposal was huge.”
Man from Reno, which has also won awards at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and Wichita’s Tallgrass International Film Festival, has a theatrical release planned for next spring. Next up, Fujitani is off to shoot a film with Japanese director Takashi Miike, known for bloody cult films such as Ichi the Killer, Audition and 13 Assassins. “After I had been in Korea for a while, I visited Japan, and as soon as I arrived and turned on my Japanese cell phone — which is never on when I’m in another country — I get a call from Miike’s producer,” says Fujitani of the role she seemed fated to get. A fan of Miike’s work, Fujitani said yes before she even read the script. She plays a nurse in a medical drama about doctors from Nagasaki, Japan, going to Kenya. “This is a departure for him,” she says. “It is definitely not one of the horror, crazy-in-a-good-way films that Miike is known for.”
Learning a foreign language is hard. Even if you master all the vocabulary and grammar, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll ever achieve a native-like accent. For Japanese learners of English, differentiating between the “l” and “r” sounds and pronouncing the “th” sound correctly can be tricky them no matter how many years they’ve been practicing.
But have you ever wondered what it’s like the other way around? What sounds do we English speakers make that sound strange when we speak Japanese? Well it turns out the sound that we mess up the most is one you might not have expected: “fu”.
Now you might be thinking: The “fu” sound? What’s so hard about that? I pronounce it fine all the time. Like when I slept on a futon at Mt. Fuji in fuyu (winter) and woke up feeling futsukayoi (hungover).
Well if you’re pronouncing those words with an “f” sound like we have in English, thenyou’re actually saying them all wrong. To find out the reason why, we have to have a quick linguistics lesson.
▼ Yes there will be a test. No you haven’t studied. You haven’t even shown up to class all semester. Also you’re in your underwear and falling from a skyscraper.
The English “f” sound is, in phonetic terms, a “voiceless labiodental fricative.” Don’t worry, by the end of this article you’ll be a master of that phrase and more and will totally impress all of your friends, I swear.
Basically what that long phrase means is, the “f” sound, like most sounds humans can make, has three components that come together to make it up. First, it’s “voiceless.”That means it doesn’t vibrate your vocal cords when you say it. To feel what a “voicedlabiodental fricative” feels like, hold your fingers to your throat and make the “v” sound. You should feel a lot of vibration, but nothing when you make the “f” sound.
Second, it’s a “labiodental.” That means it’s pronounced using your lips (labio) andteeth (dental). There’s a bunch of different places sounds can be made: your lips (“p”), your teeth (“t”), at different points on your tongue (“l”), in your throat (“h”), or a combination of them.
Lastly, it’s a “fricative.” This means the sound is made by the “friction” of air coming through a gap, in this case the small opening between your lips and teeth. Some other fricatives are the “s” sound, a fricative between your teeth, and the “th” sound, a fricative between your teeth and tongue.
Putting it all together, we now know that the English “f” sound is a “voiceless labiodental fricative,” meaning your vocal cords don’t vibrate, it’s pronounced using your lips and teeth, and by pushing air through the gap they make.
So what does this have to do with Japanese pronunciation? Well now we have thetools to clearly see where the pronunciation has gone wrong. The English “f” may be a “voiceless labiodental fricative” but the Japanese “f” is a “voiceless bilabial fricative” – one component different.
Since the Japanese “f” is a “bilabial” instead of a “labiodental,” that means it’s pronounced using both your lips, no teeth necessary. Instead of touching your teeth to your lip and spitting out air like you just slammed your finger with a hammer, instead bring your lips together like you’re blowing out a candle (no need to stick them out like you’re kissing), then try to say “fu” without moving your lips or teeth or anything at all.
▼ I’m learning Japanese!
If you did it correctly, then you should have made a beautiful “fu” sound. If you’re still having trouble though, then let the knowledgeable Sayuri-san guide you to enlightenment.
If you’ve seen a Japanese syllabary chart like one below, you may well have noticed that ha, hi, he, and ho are all written with an “h”. Weirdly, though, only “fu” – despite being in the same column as the characters beginning with “h” – is written with an “f” when Roman characters are used.
Weird, right? So if the Japanese “f” sound is different from the English “f” sound, why do we even use the letter “f” to write it in the first place? Well the answer is: because it’s close enough. It could be written with the letter “h” too (a “voiceless glottal fricative” – only one component different just like “f”), and sometimes it is. Just be thankful it’s not written with the technically correct International Phonetic Alphabet symbol: ɸ. You’d have to copy/paste that badboy into your textbox every time you want to write about how you ate fugu (blowfish) and feel perfectly futsuu (normal).
▼ You also might inadvertently open a gate to Phyrexia if you use that symbol, so stick with the “f.”
Since the Japanese “voiceless bilabial fricative” (see, I told you that you’d get these by the end!) is actually quite rare among languages, the “f” pronunciation problem unfortunately goes both ways – it hinders Japanese speakers trying to learn English too, and so “f” can come out sounding more like “h”, leading to mix-ups between words like “food” and “hood,” “furry” and “hurry,” or the ever-dangerous “heart and “fart.”
Of course, in the end, perfect pronunciation isn’t what’s important about speaking a language. It’s about having a solid vocabulary, a good grasp of the grammar, cultural knowledge, and most importantly the confidence to actually speak, even if you have a horribly broken accent.