Things Japanese people say about English

There’s a large and thriving community of English speakers learning Japanese, in which they swap tips and trivia amongst themselves as they seek to improve their Japanese skills.

The corollary is that there’s a large and thriving community of Japanese speakers swapping tips and trivia about English, and I’ve found a bunch on Twitter. So, what are they talking about?

There’s practical advice on what they teach you in school vs. the real world:
“Today, an American let me know that saying ‘Do you understand?’ after explaining something is rude and it’s best not to use it.

You should say, ‘Does it make sense?’

‘Make sense’ is commonly used by native speakers and means ‘wakatta’.

Even though Japanese has a ton of English loanwords, it’s still confusing going between the two languages:

“In Japanese, this food is called an ‘American dog’, right?

In English, it’s called a ‘corn dog’.
“Japanese-made English that native speakers didn’t understand recently…

× manshon (mansion)
? Apartment/Condominium
? “Mansion” means daiteitaku…

× ankett (N.B. from “enquête”)
? Questionnaire

× skinship
? Physical contact

× manikyua (manicure)
? Nail polish

× pet boteru (PET bottle)
? Plastic bottle

× danbooru (dan-board)
? Cardboard

There are a lot of tips on English idioms:
“✅ dime?means 10 cent coin”

Some interesting neologisms:

(Note that “OK Boomer” was explained in a widely viewed Japanese TV show clip in December 2019.)

Of course, there’s also a lot of surprising things about American (or other Western) cultures.

Sending in a resume for a job application
“Differences in resumes between Japan and America

🇯🇵 Many handwritten
🇺🇸 Handwritten is no good

🇯🇵 Portrait attached
🇺🇸 Submitting a portrait is illegal

🇯🇵 Write your age / birth date
🇺🇸 Listing your age is illegal

🇯🇵 Write your gender
🇺🇸 Listing your gender is illegal

🇯🇵 Write whether you’re married/unmarried/number of children
🇺🇸 Confirming marriage status or children is illegal

Culturally, the thinking is that appearances, age, gender have nothing to do with work (at least officially…)

Americans really like to return stuff, apparently:
“The most surprising thing about living in America is ‘Return Culture’.

For example, you bought creamy ice cream but you didn’t feel that it was creamy enough so after you eat it you return it.

You used the shampoo but didn’t like the smell, so you return it.

This is common for Americans.

As for the store, they don’t investigate it, but just immediately return your money or exchange the item.

There’s no guarantee that you won’t be misled a bit:
“‘Oh my god!’ is something that I’ve never heard native speakers say.

The native speakers around me say ‘Oh my gash!
“Americans really love unicorns. So I was wondering, why are unicorns often combined with rainbows?

My American friend heard this question and gave me the shocking answer, ‘Isn’t it obvious? It’s because rainbows are unicorn poop.’

Rainbows are unicorn poop!?

Seeing the reverse side of the language-learning experience has been fun and enlightening, but also a bit intimidating: there’s a huge corpus of idioms, slang, and other bits of language that native speakers know through osmosis. And as a language learner, you can’t get there by just reading language-advice tweets, no matter how helpful they are.

If you have any similar interesting things to share, please do! The comments below are open, and I’m also on Mastodon: and Twitter: @ericrjiang.

Disclaimer: I don’t really know these Twitter users on a personal level and displaying their tweets here doesn’t represent an endorsement.

Edit: Thanks to /u/thatfool who corrected the origin of anke-to.

Leave a Reply