Denki News

August 13, 2006

Engrish (or, “This tastes like Asse!”

Filed under: Japan — icruise @ 10:25 pm


Yes, this is a brand of chocolate called “Asse.” OK, it’s supposely pronounced “Ass-ay” but who are we kidding, right?

Anyone spending any time at all in Japan will come across the phenomenon known as “Engrish” — English that has been mangled in some way by a non-native speaker (sometimes very non-native). This will sometimes take the form of signs, menus, or product instructions that are actually trying to communicate something to non-Japanese people, but in many cases it is actually intended only for a Japanese audience. Things like product names, slogans, and what is called “decorative English” (English whose only purpose is to look nice on a t-shirt, bag or lunch box) are not trying to convey anything to English speakers, and the fact that they often use funny-sounding or grammatically incorrect English is not really that important to most Japanese people. (More after the jump.)

All this use of English in Japan is basically a result of two things. First, Western culture (and by extension, English) are considered “cool” by many people. And secondly, compulsory English education has resulted in a Japanese population that knows quite a bit of English. Most people can’t speak it, but they recognize a large number of words — enough to make English names and slogans popular for Japanese products.

I have conflicting opinions about sharing “Engrish” photos like these. While sites like Engrish.com are hilarious, if you look at enough photos like this it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying “look at the stupid foreigners!” which really isn’t a message that I want to send. This is a phenomenon created by the popularity of English (and a desire to appear cultured and international) combined with the fact that most people can’t speak it (partially due to linguistic differences and partially due to an inept English education system). When looking at these pictures, just ask yourself how well you would do writing in a language you only studied in school. And don’t forget about all of those people tattooing Chinese & Japanese characters that they don’t understand on their bodies…

And so, here is my Flickr set of Engrish photos.

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1 Comment »

  1. Wow, I think that is one of the funniest pictures I’ve ever seen! I can’t believe I haven’t come across that stuff in the stores near me. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out from now on though!!

    Comment by RisingSunofNihon — August 14, 2006 @ 3:56 pm


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