Thursday, May 28, 2015

Loan Words in Japanese

*Japanese word of the day*

Guess what this word means! As you see, it consists of 3 Kanji characters: 外(がい) + 来(らい) + 語(ご). Perhaps you've learnt each Kanji of it. , which is also read as /soto/, means "outside".
You know the verb 来(く)る /kuru/, "to come", don't you? And the last Kanji , it means "words" or "language". 日本語(にほんご) Japanese, 英語(えいご) English, 中国語(ちゅうごくご) Chinese...

The words came from outside? Yes, 外来語 means "loan words"!

There're many 外来語 in Japanese. Most of them are from English words. Here're some tips to make good use of them to build your vocabulary!

(1) They're written in Katakana

/atarashiku oopun shita kafe de, ranchi setto wo oodaa shita./
I ordered lunch set in the newly opened cafe.

オープン(おーぷん) /o-pun/ open
カフェ(かふぇ) /kafe/ cafe
ランチセット(らんちせっと) /ranchi setto/ lunch set
オーダー(おーだー) /oodaa/ order

I do recommend you to learn Katakana since it is written everywhere!

(2) Just add vowels

In Japanese, consonants aren't pronounced independently.  That's why all sylabbles in Japanese , except 5 vowels あ/a/ い/i/ う/u/ え/e/ お/o/ and ん/n/, are consist of a consonant and a vowel. You'll get it if you see 50 sounds table!

/sumairu wa puraisu resu/
Smile is priceless!

スマイル(すまいる) /sumairu/ smile
プライスレス(ぷらいすれす) /puraisu resu/ priceless

It seems that if the first syllable of the word is sequence of consonants, like "smile" or "price", we tend to add the vowel sound "u". The pronounciation of "s" of "smile" becomes /su/, and "p" of "price" becomes /pu/. Isn't it? :D

Also, when a consonant ends a word, we have to add a vowel to pronounce it. The word "lunch" ends with "ch", but we pronounce it as /ranchi/. Let's see other loan words that end in "ch" or "tch".

ビーチ(びーち)/biichi/ beach
キャッチ(きゃっち) /kyacchi/ catch
コーチ(こーち)/koochi/ coach
スクラッチ(すくらっち)/sukuracchi/ scratch

Now I found that the pronunciation of "ch" wich is at the end of the word is usually changes into チ/chi/ in Japanese.

How about the words ending in "t"?
ポリグロット(ぽりぐろっと)/porigurotto/ polyglot
リスト(りすと)/risuto/ list
ホット(ほっと)/hotto/ hot
カット(かっと)/katto/ cut

And the words ending in "s" or "x"?
サーカス(さーかす)/saakasu/ circus
ミックス(みっくす)/mikkusu/ mix
リラックス(りらっくす)/rirakkusu/ relax
ワックス(わっくす)/wakkusu/ wax

Yeah, there must be some patterns!

The words ending in "l".
コントロール(こんとろーる)/kontorooru/ controll
ルール(るーる)/ruuru/ rule
ショッピングモール(しょっぴんぐもーる)/shoppingu mooru/ shopping mall

The syllable ん/n/ is kind of speciall. It's a consonant without vowels but you can use it at the end of the word.
カン(かん)/kan/ can
トーン(とーん)/toon/ tone

If the original word ends in "ng", it will be ん/n/ or んぐ/ngu/.
バン!(ばん)/ban/ bang!
ピンポン(ぴんぽん)/pinpon/ pingpong
ホンコン(ほんこん)/honkon/ Hongkong
キングコング(きんぐこんぐ)/kingu kongu/ king kong

And "m" inside the word is also pronounced as ん/n/.
ハンバーガー(はんばーがー)/hanbaagaa/ hamburger
コンプレックス(こんぷれっくす)/konpurekkusu/ complex
*In Japanese コンプレックス usually indicates "inferiority complex"
コンピューター(こんぴゅーたー)/konpyuutaa/ computer

How do you pronounce these words as loan words in Japanese?

(1) Princess
(2) Camp
(3) Punch

That's all for today! Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you like this post! Please try the quize and feel free to leave a comment. See you again ; )


  1. Nice post. I found your blog after I decided to start learning Japanese this year and its been a treat so far. I like how you added a Quiz section to this post in particular as it forced me to actually digest what I was reading. Keep up the good work and I hope you add more Quiz sections in the future!

    1. Wow, thank you. I'm glad to hear that you've started to learn Japanese and read my blog. :D Quiz sections! I totally forgot about it. I found that I didn't even write the answer of it. Sure, I will add more Quiz as a recap of the post. Thank you! :)


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