Today’s test: suppose you’re reading a Japanese company’s marketing collateral in English and you come across these terms. Would you know what they mean to a Japanese native who speaks English?
- Cost down
- Back mirror
- Free market
- Baby car
- Body check
- Morning call
Many terms originating in English are used in current everyday Japanese. But there are also some English-like terms “invented” in Japan. They’re constructed like common English terms, and they use English words, but may not make sense to non-Japanese speakers of English.
Westerners call these terms “Janglish” (Japanese + English), and while they’re as commonly used as “Spanglish” terms in the Southwestern U.S., Janglish terms are pervasive enough to appear in formal business communications.
Where does Janglish come from?
Some terms are intuitive substitutions for English terms that are less accessible to Japanese users whose English vocabulary is not as rich with nuance. Since Janglish users are rarely native English speakers, it doesn’t matter whether these substitutions make sense to Westerners.
Others were invented by company marketers seeking to make an impact with Japanese buyers. Linguistic accuracy was hardly a priority, as long as the terms stuck with Japanese users.
Occasionally, Janglish terms emerge due to a simple translation error that no one caught before the term became widespread.
How does Janglish affect English translation?
Professionals are always tracking traditional and emerging Janglish terms to ensure their Japanese/English translations make sense.
However, if the work is done by a non-professional translator – or a machine translation whose engines are not current with Japanese culture – you may want to review the translation carefully before publishing it.
For the samples listed above, read the hint below first and let’s see if you can figure out what they mean:
|Cost down||Great for bargain hunters.||Cost reduction|
|Back mirror||Pretty important when you’re behind the wheel.||Rearview mirror|
|Free market||Not the economic policy, but definitely a place for capitalists.||Flea market|
|Hotchkiss||The flagship product of the E. H. Hotchkiss Company, first appearing in Japan in the early 20th century.||Stapler|
|Baby car||Assume the baby has a chauffeur, not a driver’s license||Stroller, baby buggy|
|Body check||You’ll hear this at the airport, not a hockey game.||Security check|
|Morning call||In case you distrust your alarm clock.||Wake-up call|
How well did you do?