50 Nuances de Grey: une traduction marathon 6

Language of the Week: Japanese

Konnichiwa ! (hello)

As you may already be aware, Japanese is the official language of Japan, meaning that it is the native language of over 125 million people. In Japanese, “Japan” is written using two characters “日本 ” meaning land of the rising sun.

Japanese actually borrows many words from other languages such as English, Portuguese and German.

For example:

In English, we often shorten the word television to TV, which in Japanese is テレビ pronounced as [terebi]

The word “bread” in Portuguese is pão and in Japanese is パン  pronounced as [pan].

Lastly, the german word for worker is Arbeit and in Japanese is アルバイト pronounced as [arubaito].

There are quite a few different writing systems in Japanese; Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji and Romaji. Hiragana comes from a version of cursive Chinese calligraphy. It is what native Japanese students are first taught how to write in school. Kanji is considered to be most difficult to learn and is essentially the same as Chinese characters and is able to convey complicated and lengthy phrases short and precise. Katakana is derived from Kanji and are most often used by Japanese comic book (called manga) artists to show that the speaker is a foreigner. Lastly, Romaji is the Latin or in other words English alphabet used to transcribe Japanese.

I hope that didn’t scare you away from learning Japanese, an advantage for students studying Japanese is that the words do not have genders and a word is written in the same way no matter if it’s singular or plural.

Of course, I am never one to miss out on a joke, the Japanese like to tell jokes in the form of a story, and not short two-liners. Here is a shortened version of a very famous story by Manjū Kowai:


A few friends are sitting around having some drinks. One of them asks the rest what they’re most scared of. One says spiders, another says slugs, the guy next to him snakes and so on…
Finally, one of them admits it’s manjū cakes that scare him the most. So, as a practical joke, his friends go off to get heaps of manju cakes and lock him in a room with them. After a while, they open the door – only to see that he’s actually eaten all of them! “Hey!” shouts one of the friends, “I thought you said you were terrified of manjū! You liar! So come on, tell us the truth now! What is it that you’re really frightened of?” “Well,” says the man thinking for a while, “Funny you ask that, but at this very moment, I think I’m really scared of a nice cup of tea….”

さようなら (sayounara) bye !


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