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Gairaigo other than English words

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Imported words in Japanese

Gairaigo are loan words or imported words into Japanese of foreign origin. Many of them come from English and Chinese but there are some words from other European languages too.

In Japanese these words are usually written in the katakana phonetic script, but some have Kanji readings attached to them which are often known as 'ateji'.

In this blog for language learners, one of the Japanese teachers at JOI, Maki Igarashi introduces some gairaigo that are not from English.

Please read the blog and listen to the Japanese video. Igarashi sensei reads the blog herself so you can listen to fluent Japanese and improve your listening skills.

Gairaigo other than English words










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






Gairaigo other than English words

There are many words in the Japanese language that are taken from foreign languages, and the generic term that we use for these words is 'Gairaigo' (or imported words). When speaking of 'Gairaigo' there is a strong image of English words like teeburu (table) or suteeki (steak), but there are many 'Gairaigo' that come other languages.

In the middle of the 16th century, trade between Japan and Portugal began and words like tabako (tobacco), pan (bread),kappa (raincoat),botan (button), kabocha (pumpkin), tempura and others like this were born during this time. The fact that the word Tempura is not Japanese is a little surprising, isn't it?

As we went into the 18th century, along with the western learning the Dutch language was introduced to Japan. Words like kaban (bag),gomu (rubber), penki (paint), pinsetto (tweezers) came about. The 'ponszu' looks like a Japanese word at first glance, but the word “pons” in the Dutch learning means the juice from citrus fruits and the word 'su' (meaning vinegar) was added to create this word.

In the middles of the 19th century, due to the opening of the country, a lot of words were imported from America, England, Germany, and France. From Germany came medical terms like gaaze (gauze), wakuchin (vaccine) and karute (patient's chart) and from France came culinary related words like korokke (croquette), piiman (green peppers) and guratan (gratin).

The origin of about 80% of imported words is from English, but it is good to know that there are words from a variety of languages.

総称(そうしょう) general term, generic name

貿易(ぼうえき) trade; foreign trade; commerce

学問(がくもん) study; learning

導入(どうにゅう) introduce, import

由来(ゆらい) origin


Hajimemashite, everyone . My name is Maki Igarashi.
Although I'm originally from Hokkaido, I live in Hiroshima because of my husband's work transfer. Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan. Winter is very cold and snowy, but Hokkaido's natural scenery is very beautiful, and we have a lot of delicious food. Here in Hiroshima, on Miya-jima Island, you can see Itsukushima Shrine, a world cultural heritage site. If you come to Japan, please visit these great places.

I'd like to see you smile at least once in every class. The lessons will be, well, fun! Prepare well, and review well! :o)
Don't get caught up thinking Japanese is a difficult language, enjoy studying and learning !

Try to use your newly learned vocabulary and phrases all the time in the lessons. Looking forward to meeting you all in class !

Start 3 Trial FlexLessons for only $9 !

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