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English in Japan

Page history last edited by Alex Hammond 10 years, 9 months ago




English in Japan wasn't prominent until after the end of the official policy of Sakoku, or forced isolation. The subsequent period, known as the Meiji Restoration, lasted from 1868 to 1912, and saw Japan's rapid development and acclimation to western influences. One of the chief influences was the United States of America, and consequently there has been a shift towards integrating english words into everyday speech and writing. In order to express the foreign origin of the words, a separate character set from the standard was used. (See http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/History )





Katakana was first developed, along with hiragana, during the Heian period (794 to 1185), as a derivative form of writing. Each character is taken from different kanji and used to express different sounds, either as vowels or consonants attached to vowels. The original intent was for katakana to be more directly taken from Kanji, and for hiragana to serve as a sort of script.



basic katakana


Each of these characters is linear and angular when compared to hiragana, which is more flowing. This is a part of why foreign words, onomatopoeia, and "strange" words, such as robotic speech, are written in katakana.


The Iroha


Traditionally, a calligrapher and monk named Kukai wrote a poem named the Iroha. This poem uses each phoneme (or unit of sound) of Japanese once.





A less-literal translation is:


"As any beauties go away as flowers fall.

Who can be eternal in this world?

Today, I went through difficulties in the real world,

and enjoyed a bit of happiness that does not last long."


While a literal translation from the same person is:


"As colors smell but fall.

Who are eternal in our world?

Today, I went through deep mountain of existing form,

and saw a shallow dream without being drunken."


This difference between the literal translation to english and the meaning leads to some difficulties in real-world applications.


Examples in "Modern" Japan





Also see (http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/Japanese-Dubbing )



Teaching English in Japan


"The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, now in its 23rd year, is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations.... The JET Programme has gained high acclaim both domestically and internationally for its role in advancing mutual understanding and for being one of the world's largest exchange programmes"


The JET is a large-scale program with over 4,400 teachers. More act outside of the program (such as tutors, translators, etc.). The numbers for teachers outside of JET are limited, however, because of their non-official nature.


This is the official line. Of course, the realities vary somewhat, but a good example of the effectiveness of teaching english on a collegiate level in Japan is at http://discussenglish.blogspot.com . The author categorizes responses to english teaching techniques, takes surveys, and in general is quite quantitative in a realm that is usually qualitative.


However, there are multiple problems with teaching english in Japan, including that there is a glut of teachers in some regions, according to http://www.thejapanfaq.com/FAQ-EFL.html . This means that teachers are earning around minimum wage, which is liveable but not fortune-making. While it is possible to earn more, it involves freelancing.


















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