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Imported Words

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Japanese language

The Japanese language has three types of 'alphabets' or writing systems; Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji (or Chinese characters). Each have different histories and ways of reading, which is why sometimes Japanese is called one of the hardest languages to learn in the world. But when you learn the's not so difficult!

Katakana is the area that is covered in this week's Japanese language blog by the Japanese teachers at JOI. In this blog, Yatabe sensei explores some of the strange backgrounds of these imported words.

Yatabe sensei also added the illustrations within the video herself – please enjoy the video and art by Kumiko Yatabe ! Watch the video to listen to fluent Japanese and help yourself practice Japanese listening.

Imported Words


By YATABE Kumiko



古い時代に日本に来た言葉は、かなりおもしろくカタカナに変換されているものが多いと思います。coffee を「コーヒー」にしたのはずいぶん大胆です。当時の日本人には「フィ」や「フェ」の発音が難しかったのかもしれません。現代なら「コフィ」や「カフィ」などになったのではないでしょうか。

・radio はラジオですが、今ならレイディオとかラディオになったでしょうか。
・team はチームですが、飲み物のtea はティーです。チーではないです。
・ticket はチケットですが、今ならティケットでしょうね。
・skirt はスカートですが、shirt はシャートではなく、シャツです。
・cake はケーキ。どうして「キ」にしたのでしょうか。
・bucketがバケツになりました。でもracket はラケツではなく、ラケットです。




To listen to this blog, please watch our Youtube video.



古(ふる)い時代(じだい)に日本(にほん)に来(き)た言葉(ことば)は、かなりおもしろくカタカナに変換(へんかん)されているものが多(おお)いと思(おも)います。coffee を「コーヒー」にしたのはずいぶん大胆(だいたん)です。当時(とうじ)の日本人(にほんじん)には「フィ」や「フェ」の発音(はつおん)が難(むずか)しかったのかもしれません。現代(げんだい)なら「コフィ」や「カフィ」などになったのではないでしょうか。

・radio はラジオですが、今(いま)ならレイディオとかラディオになったでしょうか。
・team はチームですが、飲み物(のみもの)のtea はティーです。チーではないです。
・ticket はチケットですが、今(いま)ならティケットでしょうね。
・skirt はスカートですが、shirt はシャートではなく、シャツです。
・cake はケーキ。どうして「キ」にしたのでしょうか。
・bucketがバケツになりました。でもracket はラケツではなく、ラケットです。



Imported Words

Among Japanese learners, there are many people who are not very good at reading Katakana words. The original language for many of these imported words, is English but - are there any rules for converting the Katakana from the original language?

There are many words that came to Japan a long time ago that were converted into Katakana in an interesting way. The conversion of "coffee" into 「コーヒー」 was quite audacious. At the time the pronunciation of the sound "fi" or "fe" was probably quite difficult I imagine. If it was done in modern times, the Katakana would probably been written as 「コフィ」or 「カフィ」.

"Radio" is converted into 「ラジオ」. If it was converted today, it would probably be 「レイディオ」or「ラディオ」.
"Team" is converted into 「チーム」. Whereas the drink, tea is 「ティー」 and not 「チー」
"Ticket" is converted into 「チケット」. If it was converted now it would probably be 「ティケット」.
"Skirt" is converted into 「スカート」, and yet "Shirt" was not converted into 「シャート」but into 「シャツ」.
"Cake" is converted into 「ケーキ」. I wonder why they wrote it as 「 キ」.
"Bucket" became 「バケツ」. But "Racket" is not converted into 「ラケツ」but into 「ラケット」.

It doesn't seem as though there are any strict rules. The first way of writing and pronunciation of each of these words, by the first person to have introduced them, seems to have taken root. Japanese people nowadays can pronounce the sounds 「フィ」 and 「ティ」but coffee is still pronounced as コーヒー and team is チーム without any change.

I guess you think, "Why are these words written in this way??" and that you do not quite accept the logic, but... just take it with a pinch of salt.

カタカナ言葉(ことば)katakana word, foreign word

外来語(がいらいご)imported word

元(もと)の original


変換(へんかん)する convert, transform



ずいぶん quite


当時(とうじ)at that time


厳密(げんみつ)strict, rigorous

定着(ていちゃく)する establish, take root

~のまま without changing...

納得(なっとく)する fully understand, accept the logic

大目(おおめ)に見(み)る pass over, go easy on


Konnichiwa. My name is Kumiko Yatabe. I live in Saitama, just North of Tokyo.

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