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Japanese Language Stuff

There are a variety of interesting things about the Japanese language that may not fit into previous categories. Plus it is easier to start listing more points of interest, while allowing the reader to rummage though the ideas and make their own conclusions about where a concept may fit or not for them.

Use of English - Loan words from other languages are all over Japan. Particularly interesting is the Japanese apparent fascination with English, which seems to be everywhere. Studying English is mandatory in junior high school and high school, but most Japanese do not remember much after school. Much of the English on products or signs has more of an aesthetic value than an informational value. At times the English may not make any sense to a native English speaker, or the Japanese, or to anyone for that matter. Here are some examples of the more humorous Japanese English.

Silence - The Japanese are often more comfortable with silence in conversation that their counterparts from the West. Long pauses in a conversation can signal someone is thinking about what was said. Similarly there is less of a need to fill up long periods of silence with chitchat. Westerners are more sensitive to "uncomfortable silences" as was adroitly pointed out in the movie Pulp Fiction.

Plurals - Japanese grammar does not use plurals, which can be confusing to the listener if not paying attention. For example, the questions "Where is the child?" and "Where are the children?" would be the same in Japanese.

Counting words - One of the more complicated things to keep straight in Japan are the different counting words that need to be used when referring to a number of objects. For example, in English, if you are referring to two people, two pens, or two pieces of paper, you would use the same word "two" for all of these. In Japanese this is not the case though. The numerical counting word is modified depending on the thing or things it is counting. In the example above it would be necessary to use the people counter for the first, the round-cylindrical-thing counter for the second, and the flat-thin-thing for the third.