Thursday, 13 May 2010

Japanese and English

Here in Bibury we have Japanese people visiting on most days of the year.  The Japanese love the Cotswolds, and in particular Bibury.  Some say it is because Emperor Hirohito came here when a Prince during the first half of the last century, and on his return home became a fervent advocate of the area.  Other people say that a very famous Japanese artist [no one knows his name] came to Bibury in the 1970s and that the area formed the basis for much of his work from then on.

Accordingly, I have made a little effort to learn a little Japanese.  I can do the basic greetings, the numbers and a few other fairly simple things.  It has been tough going as English and Japanese do not have any words in common, or so I thought.  I have had to learn each word very slowly.  Yesterday, a Japanese gentleman bought a little tub of local ice cream.  The ice cream is fantastic and produced on a farm near Northleach, around six miles away from Bibury.  It comes in small tubs with a small plastic spoon secreted under the lid.  When I placed the tub of ice cream on the counter I could tell that the chap was wondering if there was a spoon available so I launched into a ham fisted attempt in Japanese to explain where it was:  'Asoko des spoon'.  Or 'there is spoon'.  Much to my amazement he understood what I meant and then went on to explain in near perfect English that the Japanese use the same words as we do for a 'spoon' and a 'fork'.  I was over joyed by the fact that here were two words that I did not have to learn.  I asked him if we share the same words for chop stick. We don't.

Incidentally, I was told this morning that the symbolic bird of Tokyo is a kingfisher, where apparently they are in abundance.  We have several of these beautiful birds on the river in front of the shop.  Maybe that's another reason why the Japanese like it here so much.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Actually the Japanese share thousands of words with English. These are all "loan words" - words that were borrowed for words that either didn't exist in their language for foreign objects (e.g. banana, coffee, hip-hop, camera, etc.) or because they think the words sound cool (e.g. miruku tii - milk tea). Spoon (supoon) and fork (foruku) are introduced items and therefore use an English word. They even have a different writing system for borrowed words, called katakana - it is basically a totally different alphabet for witing non-Japanese origin words!

    Many of their English loan words are very difficult to pick out as their pronunciation is so different, for example, pasukon = personal computer (pasu = persu = person = personal / kon = com = computer).

    Interestingly, we do the same with their language. For example, "sake" we total mispronounce and our mis-treatment of "harry karry" is laughable (should be harikiri").