English in Japan

The following is a report in both Japanese and English from one of the participants of the 2012 Sapporo Summer Institute:



 ほとんど、お店の英語の名前、『alphabet’s alphabet』は製品にあまり関係がない。日本人に聞いたら、「英語はかっこいいから」と言う。
そ して日本の歌にもたくさんの英語が入っている。J-Popの音楽にはふつういくつかの英語のフレーズが入っている。日本人の若者はたくさんの違うアメリカとイ ギリスの音楽家の音楽を聞いている。英語がよくわかるわけではないけれど、英語はかっこいいと思っています。会話で英語を使う例も書きましょう。英語はどんどん 日本の文化に入ってきいる。たとえば私が日本で行った新川高校でだれか誕生日があったら、誕生日の歌は日本語ではなくて、英語で歌う。そして生徒は私に「これは英語で何ですか」と質問をたくさんした。私が教えた言葉は何度もリピートした。

Japan’s English
by Rachel S.

The last two times I came to Japan, I do not remember observing how much English is used in store names, on TV, and in their songs. All throughout the month that I was in Japan, I began to take pictures of all the interesting English store names. Quite often, the store name did not relate to the store products whatsoever. For example, a clothing store was named “alphabet’s alphabet.” This really made me wonder what the store owner had in mind when they made up the name. I decided to inquire around and see what Japanese people thought of the English in their store names. When asked if they could read all the English store names and such, the response was “no.” If the many Japanese can’t read or understand the English that is all around, then why is it so popular? The answer to this is that it’s simply considered “cool.” It was then pointed out that there are people from America who wear shirts with Kanji on them yet have no idea what it says. After noticing how much Japan uses English, it got me thinking about whether America does this same thing yet with other languages.

Music also another way that the Japanese seem to connect to America. For example, most J-pop songs have a couple of phrases in English that repeat themselves throughout the song. Not only that, but Japanese teens also listen to many artists from America and England even if they don’t understand what the song means. Not only is there English in their songs but English is also used as a slang in their everyday conversations. For example they say Ok, good, happy birthday and other words in English when there are actual Japanese words for them. Also, when at the school, the students were constantly wanting to know what some words were in English. For example, the first word I taught them was “card board box” and ever since then, they have remembered it. English is very much a part of the Japanese culture.

Not only do the Japanese seem to think that English is “cool,” my host mom was also very shocked when she found out that my Mother actually wanted me to buy her things that were traditional Japanese. Through the conversation, it came out that Japanese people didn’t really own Japanese things in their own homes. It is actually not in style to own traditional Japanese things. Thinking about it, I had noticed a large amount of American flags on clothing but I had never seen anyone wearing the Japan flag on their clothing. It almost seems like American is more than a place, it’s also a fashion. Their songs have English in them, their clothing has English on them, many store names are in English, and it’s all considered “cool.”

I find it amazing that the Japanese are quickly adjusting to other cultures from all over the world when unlike America, the majority of the country does not come from other countries. Over this month I really observed Japan’s use of English even more than I ever have before.

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