Why Korean and Japanese people can’t speak English, in their own words

KJE 10

RocketNews 24:

Native English teachers who have worked in Korea or Japan have developed very strong opinions about the systematic approach each country takes when teaching English.

What better source of feedback is there than the people who have experienced the process first-hand and now live with the fruits of their studies, or lack thereof?

Do those people identify similar problems in the current system? Has the presence of foreign English teachers in class actually had an impact on their studies? Let’s find out, when Korean and Japanese who are living overseas are asked about their English education.

Our video today comes from the YouTube channel Asian Boss, the same “bosses” who brought us a unique view of the kabe-don earlier this week. However, this time their video attacks a much more serious topic: English education in Japan and Korea. The purpose of the video is to answer, “Why Korean and Japanese students can’t speak English“.

The most popular word of 2014: Heart Emoji

Global Language Monitor‘s annual survey of the English language has determined that the heart (and love) emoticon is in fact the “Top Word of 2014.”

Last year’s winning entry is the first in the survey’s fifteen years that an ideograph has been bestowed the high honor of “Word of the Year.”

Supporting research confirmed that the heart (and love) emoji, and similar variations are sent in billions of messages spanning across the world each day. “Hashtag,” “photo bomb,” and “bae” have also earned spots in the published top fifteen list. In relating news, the phrase, “hands up, don’t shoot,” has been determined to be the “Top Phrase of 2014,” and “Ebola,” is the “Top Name of 2014.”

China bans puns in media and ads

Beyond Chinatown:


Last week, China’s State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (国家广播电影电视总局 / 國家廣播電影電視總局) announced a policy that bans the use of wordplay in media and ads ostensibly to “popularize and standardize the use of the national common language, a heritage of Chinese traditional culture”.  Since Chinese languages, like Mandarin, have a rich linguistic tradition of wordplay based on homophonic puns that, unlike puns in English, are much more ubiquitous and always seem clever and never groan or eye-roll inducing, the edict at first glance seems to be more ridiculous than SAPPRFT’s ban on time travel in TV shows and movies.   It might not be entirely ill-conceived.

The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time explains one example specifically cited by the Chinese version of the FCC as an “indiscriminate use” of language:

[T]he phrase “晋善晋美” was used in ads promoting tourism to Shanxi province, widely seen as the cradle of Chinese culture. The slogan — translated as “Shanxi, a land of splendors”–  was a pun on the Chinese saying, “尽善尽美,” which means perfection. The ads swapped out the character “尽” for a homonym, “晋,” a character often used to represent Shanxi.”


Shanxi Promotional Video:


The slogan was selected in December 2012 by the Shanxi Tourism Bureau after four months of competition and was heavily promoted on CCTV and other media outlets.  In July 2013, it was reported a fourth grade student mistook the tourism slogan for the idiom meaning “perfection”.

The clever phrase was deemed to “rape” the idiom and sullied Chinese culture.   This pun control can be seen as part of the Central Government’s efforts to promote standard Mandarin.

Many are sympathetic to the government’s concern about the irregular and inaccurate use of characters, especially among children, but find it at odds with linguistic appreciation and development.  Yi Ming (亦鸣 / 亦鳴), a contributor to China Art Newspaper (中国艺术报 / 中國藝術報), praises the slogan as a clever use of traditional culture for a commercial purpose and highlights the charm of Chinese characters.

Li Zhiqi (李志起) chairman of marketing group CBCT, linguistic innovation should be encouraged and new idioms created.  An editorial in Xinhua does not believe in a “one size fits all” prohibition.  The author calls for the SAPPRFT to “seriously listen to the reasonable opinions of language scholars and the public” and believes that people need to keep an open mind about language so that it can develop.

The rule naturally echoes efforts by the government to censor online taboo topics, names, and words which Chinese netizens often circumvent by slyly hiding behind puns.  For example, when the government censored the word “harmonious” (和谐 / 和諧, pronounced héxié) online because netizens began using it as a euphemism for censorship (which the government justifies in order to promote a “Socialist Harmonious Society“), “river crab” (河蟹 / 河蟹, pronounced héxiè) was used as a substitute.

Dissident artist Ai Weiwei later visualized the phrase in an installation and invited supporters to feast on river crabs to protest the government’s demolition of his Shanghai studio.



David Moser, academic director for CET Chinese studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, tells The Guardian, “It could just be a small group of people, or even one person, who are conservative, humorless, priggish and arbitrarily purist, so that everyone has to fall in line…But I wonder if this is not a preemptive move, an excuse to crack down for supposed ‘linguistic purity reasons’ on the cute language people use to crack jokes about the leadership or policies. It sounds too convenient.”


Nippon or Nihon? No consensus on the Japanese pronunciation of “Japan”

RocketNews 24:


As any student of Japanese will tell you, its use of Chinese characters known as kanji can be a nightmare at times. And although they can be really useful at deducing the meaning of complex words, they give little in the way of clues as to how one should pronounce them.

Take the kanji for Japan (日本) for example. Even a first grader can tell you what it means, but ask a group of adults how to pronounce it and you might get a mixture of “Nihon” or “Nippon” and maybe even an occasional “Yamato” if one of those people happens to be a smart-ass.

  Why Japan?
Before getting into the Nihon/Nippon issue, let’s figure out why English speakers completely ignore the original name and call the country “Japan,” a name that would mean “Well, bread!” in its native language.

It would seem the culprit behind this variation of the name is Marco Polo during his reported visits to Northern China during the Yuan Dynasty. Although he never actually made it to Japan he heard of the place from those he met in China. At that time the name for Japan was established as the kanji (日本), which in Chinese reads as Rìběn.

However, due to the dialect of that area and time it came out sounding like “Jipen” which was transcribed as “Zipangu” in The Travels of Marco Polo. From there it spread through the linguistic stew of Europe and became the modern “Japan” in English today.

  “Nippon” came first
A long time ago Japan used to be known as “Wa” or “Yamato” and used the kanji 倭. Time passed and the official kanji was changed to 日本 in 640. However, the name Yamato was still used for some time. Around the latter half of the 7th century the official reading of 日本 changed to either “Nippon” or “Jippon.”

It’s believed that the pronunciation of “Nihon” came as a nickname in the Kanto region during the Edo period. People associate that story with the differences between 日本橋 (Nipponbashi) in Osaka and 日本橋 (Nihonbashi) in Tokyo.

  “Nihon” came out on top
Knowing that, it would seem the obvious answer is that “Nippon” is the correct way to pronounce 日本 simply because it was here first. However, a recent survey showed that 61 percent of Japanese people read it as “Nihon” while only 37 percent said “Nippon. The results also showed that “Nihon” was much more prevalent among younger people too. So while it would seem “Nippon” has seniority, “Nihon” has the popular vote.

Naming the country would certainly seem like an appropriate job for the government, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately there is no official document defining the pronunciation of 日本 or 日本国. However, an attempt was made by the Ministry of Education in 1934. They were conducting a major investigation into the national language, a part of which recommended that the country officially be pronounced “Nippon” once and for all. However, the government simply ignored their request.

In 2009, a Member of the Lower House made a slightly more liberal move and submitted a request asking that the national government decide on a unified pronunciation, whether it be “Nippon” or “Nihon.” The government replied that both terms were in wide usage and it saw no reason to take an official side on the matter.

  日本 = ?
You could either applaud the government’s indecision as a way of saying that they had bigger issues to deal with, or you could criticize their “Don’t worry man, it’s cool” attitude. Either way, one thing is certain. The name of this country is simply two or three pictograms that legally could be verbally interpreted any way you want, be it Nihon, Nippon, Jippon, Japan, Hinomoto, Yamato, Wa, or Zipangu. So join us next time when RocketNews24 brings you more news out of Candyland and the rest of Asia.

Source: NHKKotoba ZatsukiGigazine via Naver Matome (Japanese)
Images: Wikipedia, Wikipedia – Theresamerkel,  Nayo148

Here are a few groups that officially use Nippon in their name:

Nippon Housou Kyoukai (NHK)Nippon Television Network Corporation
Nippon Broadcasting Service (NBS)
Nippon Budokan
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Kinki Nippon Tetsudou (Kintestu Corp.)
Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. (Nishitetsu)
Nippon Sports Science Unviersity
Nippon Yuubin (Japan Post

And some groups who prefer to use Nihon:

Nihon University
Nihon Koukuu (JAL)
Nihon Keizai Shimbun (The Nikkei)
Nihon Ryokaku Tetsudou (JR)
Nihon Unisys
Nihon Sumou Kyoukai (Japan Sumo Association)
Nihon Orinpikku Iinkai (Japan Olympic Committee)

*Many of these groups will also use the alternate pronunciation from time to time

Check out this link:

Nippon or Nihon? No consensus on the Japanese pronunciation of “Japan”


How do you define romance? Wonderfully poetic Japanese dictionary takes 91 words


RocketNews 24:

DR 4

What exactly is romance? It’s a seemingly simple term, and one undeniably connected to a set of strong feelings, but does one have to act on them, or can romance exist entirely in the heart of an individual, without any sort of necessary manifestation in words or deeds? Is the word applicable only exclusively to happy relationships, or does that sort of stability preclude the sudden rush of emotion needed for something to be called romantic?

People have been struggling with these questions for years, and today we take a look at three less than poetic attempts at defining the word romance in publisher Sanseido’s Japanese dictionary.

Among Sanseido’s longest sellers is its dictionary, titled Shinmeikaikokujiten, literally the New and Clear Japanese Language Dictionary. Due to the length of the book’s moniker, Shinmeikaikokujiten fans instead call it by the affectionate nickname Shinkai-san.

Wait a minute, the dictionary has its own fans? Indeed it does, as Shinkai-san is well known for its unique, colorful definitions and example sentences. Just take a look at how the book’s fourth edition defines renai, the Japanese word which translates as “romance.”

DR 1

“A situation in which one receives love from a specific member of the opposite sex, wherein the two want to spend time together, without anyone else around, and if possible, to couple physically, and while these desires are usually not fulfilled and causes a great deal of heartache, in the rare times when they are fulfilled, causes great joy.”

While there’s no denying the thoroughness of the definition, that’s not exactly a haiku-like display of economy of language there. Maybe things are more succinct in the fifth edition of Shinkai-san.

“A situation one enters into of receiving love from a specific member of the opposite sex, causing a heightened emotions, wherein the two want to spend time together, without anyone else around, share the same emotional state, and, if possible, wish to achieve a mutual feeling regarding physical matters, all of which drives the individual to despair by being ordinarily unfulfilled, yet in the rare times in which these desires are fulfilled, causes great joy.”

Let’s give Shinkai-san one more chance, though, and take a peek at the seventh and newest edition.

“A situation one enters into of receiving love from a specific member of the opposite sex, deeply believing that he or she would have no regrets sacrificing everything else for the sake of it, and in which one always thinks of their counterpart, wants to spend time together, without anyone else around, and to share a world just for the two of them, and while these desires cause happiness if they can be said to have been fulfilled, makes the individual feel uneasy with the presence of even a little doubt.”

Surprisingly, tracking the changes in the Shinkai-san’s definitions for the term grant a few insights into the evolution of mankind’s concept of romance. Most apparent is that as society continues to expand and become increasingly complex, it makes sense that the definition of romance should, too.

We can also see that as time goes by, romance seems to be becoming a more positive force, as its potential to “cause a great deal of heartache” and “drive the individual to despair” have been softened to the possibility  of merely making one feel “uneasy.”

On the other hand, the newest edition’s definition makes no mention at all of physical matters, a sad development for those whose ideal is to experience stirrings of the heart with the same person that gives them a stirring in the loins.

There is one rock-solid constant to the dictionary’s meaning of romance, in that it specifies that the feeling has to come from one specific person. So remember, guys, if your girlfriend gets upset about your frequent visits to hostess bars or other girls you’re dating on the side, and you’re tempted to try to talk your way out of it by claiming it’s all a part of “romance,” Sanseido doesn’t have your back.

Source: Alfalfa Mosaic

Check out this link:

How do you define romance? Wonderfully poetic Japanese dictionary takes 91 words


Google Translate adds support for four more Asian languages

google translate punjabi

Google Translate added support for nine more languages last week, including four from Asia: Punjabi, Nepali, Maori, and Mongolian.

Punjabi is the ninth most-spoken language in the world, spanning India, Pakistan, and the diaspora. It’s a common language used in Bollywood films. Punjabi is the native tongue of more than 100 million people worldwide.

Nepali has 42 million native speakers, mainly spoken in Nepal and a few Northeast Indian states.

Maori is a language spoken by the minority native population of New Zealand. Mongolian is spoken in, you guessed it, Mongolia.

We tested out Punjabi and Nepali to English translations on a couple websites in Chrome to see if they were any good. For Punjabi, from what we can tell, it’s about the same quality as what you would get translating Chinese to English – far from perfect but manageable. Nepali was less coherent. I had trouble comprehending anything on the page, and many of the words were left untranslated. As users contribute better translations, the quality will likely improve.

In total, Google Translate now supports 80 languages.

Check out this link:

Google Translate adds support for four more Asian languages


10 Asian Words That Should Be In English Language…

1. Gigil (GHEE-GHEEL, Filipino)

Gigil (GHEE-GHEEL, Filipino)

The uncontrollable urge to pinch or squeeze in reaction to cuteness.

Jerry was so gigil, Cristy’s cheeks became sore.

2. Mencolek (men-CHO-lek, Indonesian)

Mencolek (men-CHO-lek, Indonesian)
To tease someone by lightly touching them with one finger.

Hannah could only go as far as mencoleking Darien to express how much she likes him.

3. Boketto (bo-KET-toh, Japanese)

Boketto (bo-KET-toh, Japanese)

To gaze aimlessly.

Do not disturb Tiffany. She’s having a boketto moment.

4. Meibanfa (mey-BAHN-fah, Chinese)

Meibanfa (mey-BAHN-fah, Chinese)

The sense of disappointment and realization that life has its limits.

Noah’s first B in class gave him a meibanfa that lasted for weeks.

5. Manja (MAHN-JAH, Malay)

Manja (MAHN-JAH, Malay)

The childlike, coquettish behavior that women exhibit to gain sympathy and pampering from men.

Becky wields her manja to get what she wants.

6. Epal (EH-puhl, Filipino)

Epal (EH-puhl, Filipino)

The person who butts in on other people’s conversation. Also applies to politicians who do this and this.

Shirley, I love you to death, but please don’t be epal when I’m talking to Joe.

7. Taarradhin (tuh-RAAHD-in, Arabic)

Taarradhin (tuh-RAAHD-in, Arabic)

A happy solution for everyone without having to lose face.

Coming up with a taarradhin is something our politicians can learn.

8. Nunchi (noon-CHEE, Korean)

Nunchi (noon-CHEE, Korean)

The ability to listen and gauge another person’s mood. Also the capacity to know the do’s and don’ts in a given situation.

Benny lacked nunji when he laughed during the funeral.

9. Chai-Pani (CHAY-pah-nee, Hindi)

Chai-Pani (CHAY-pah-nee, Hindi)

Petty bribes given to government officials to get things done.

It is very obvious that chai-pani has become the mayor’s main source of income.

10. Jayus (JAH-yoos, Indonesian)

Jayus (JAH-yoos, Indonesian)

A joke that is so bad and poorly told you cannot help but laugh.

Check out this link:

10 Asian Words That Should Be In English Language…