Deepl and google translate are weak on numbers

When a Japanese friend tries to teach me a katakana word, I keep asking what the Japanese word is :grin:

sometimes they are a bit miffed, saying that this IS a Japanese word… but mostly they get it :sweat_smile:


i categorically refuse to use english loadwords in japanese whenever possible much to my friends confusion


By this logic you should be speaking Anglish, not English.

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See, I used to do this for French, and I can appreciate the sentiment, but when it comes to Japanese, well, two things:

  1. What I naturally end up using instead is kango (i.e. words written in kanji only), but then a lot of those words are just… well, from Chinese, or similar to what exists in Chinese because they actually entered Chinese via Japanese after the Meiji Restoration translations of Western works. The problem? As a native Chinese (and English) speaker, I overuse them, and the thing is, they’re often pretty formal in Japanese.
  2. Japanese is just too far gone for linguistic purism. So many of these words are completely integrated into Japanese, and for that matter, there were even kanji created for concepts like kilograms and millilitres during the Meiji Restoration. This stuff is literally 150 years old, and it’s not going away any time soon.

For French, on the other hand, I usually have plenty of well-established alternatives I can reach for, so being a language purist is actually possible most of the time. Even then though, if I speak exclusively like that, I probably won’t sound my age, so I don’t. I just use fewer Anglicisms and Americanisms in French on average than other young people.

While I see your point (and I mean, English contains probably the most loanwords of any language on Earth, so it’s hardly a bad thing), with all due respect, in this case, it seems like the A->E change is something that happened entirely within English itself (see the first answer in this link):

It’s apparently a matter of spelling-context-based pronunciation changes common in languages like English. And I mean, I’m not surprised that ‘E’ is the native sound because most languages from the same family as English (the Germanic family, which includes English, German, Swedish, Dutch…) call English ‘eng-[something or other]’. On the other hand, we find ‘Ang-’ in French (“anglais”) and Latin (“Anglia”, meaning ‘England’).

EDIT: After some searching and thinking, I’ve just realised you were probably referring to ‘Anglish’, the purist form of English, and not ‘Anglish’, a hypothetically traditional and historically ‘pure’ form of the word ‘English’. Oops. My bad. Sorry. :sweat_smile:


I don’t recommend learning Spanish, then.


Not liking loanwords in Japanese is a matter of personal opinion.

Saying that they “aren’t Japanese words” is weird to me. I guess neither are any of the words from Chinese then.


i have a love and hate relationship with english

however japanese is much more similar to english. dont forget that all onyomi are essentially non-japonic but sinitic wordroots. i dont mind that for japanese, but i do mind idiotic lonewords when you could have made your own word from existing roots

as someone who is fluent in japanese and learning chinese i just hope you make sure you are actually say japanese words and not just chinese words with onyomi pronunciation because after all not all words match. because i do the opposite

there are a lot of alternatives. e.g. 写真機 instead of カメラ. besides for the connotations that the former is a) only used my elderly and me nowadays and b) that it often is used to refer to the old purely chemical camera


Arguably other languages are good at that as well! E.g. do you know what Germans call a cellphone? It’s called Handy (because you hold it in your hand, right). :exploding_head: :woman_facepalming:


i am native german lol.

but i think the word Handy does actually come from the english word handy were a wireless phone is just more handy to use than a wired one, its just that non english german speakers fallaciously infer the Hand-based etymology

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as a physicist i really wished japanese made more new terms like chinese. i really prefer 膠子 over グルーオン

But “handy” is an adjective, and it just makes no sense to turn it into a noun imho :woman_shrugging:

Did a bit of research and there are various rumours around, but nobody knows for sure where the name comes from: (German article) Ein Wort und seine Geschichte: Woher kommt das Handy? - DER SPIEGEL
I must say I like the swabian version (“hen die koi schnur?” - “don’t they have a cord?”) best :grin:

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But 写真機 is from Chinese roots. I suppose you’ll have to invent something like うつ仕掛じかけ or something.

Feel free to make your own if you don’t want to use that one.


If I’m in a pinch in a conversation I do use random Chinese or English words and assume they probably will exist in Japanese, but yes, I’m aware that only some things overlap. I know that there’s still a whole wide world of Japanese words out there for me to discover, but I did pass the N1 in July 2022, so the Japanese lexicon isn’t that new to me… Also, this isn’t my first time learning languages that share a ton of potential false cognates – English and French overlap a ton as well, and I learnt how to weed out usages that can’t just be transplanted from one language to the other back then.

Yes, I know, and 写真機 was the very first example I thought of, but I was thinking about things like katakana adjectives that have been imported from English. They don’t have the same feel, and do indeed tend to be more formal. I’ve literally used 世界化 in an essay and 白板 in conversation, both times with the same Japanese teacher, and both times I was told to use the katakana alternative (グローバル化 and ホワイトボード). For that matter, I’m pretty sure 階段式昇降機 for ‘escalator’ also has a much stiffer (and definitely more old-fashioned) feel to it.

Yeah, I understand the sentiment, and it feels really weird seeing words like メタボロミクス (metabolomics) in Japanese, but in some sense, this is a trend that Japanese started with all its etymological translations of technical terms like ‘oxygen’ becoming 酸素 and ‘monocyte’ becoming 単球. However, I think that at some point, Japanese speakers just decided that using katakana was more convenient than translating, and to some extent, it’s kinda true, especially since Japanese has katakana as a system, whereas in Chinese, you have to either phonetically transcribe stuff or translate it, in both cases using Chinese characters, and since the transcriptions usually don’t make much sense… might as well translate the concepts.


Yeah, I wanted to mention this too. It’s still kango, and even if it weren’t more formal/old-fashioned, this particular word is originally from Chinese. 写真 originally meant ‘portrait’ in Chinese. It can also mean ‘photo’, but usually doesn’t, and I think that’s just a specific usage of the general meaning of ‘a person’s likeness as an image’. It’s just that Japanese decided that adding 機 was a way of turning it into ‘portrait/photo machine’ i.e. ‘camera’. (Completely valid reasoning though. I won’t deny that.)

So my imagined rule doesn’t apply specifically to 写真機 (which literally has origins in Chinese as a whole word thanks to 写真), but for the purposes of my facetious banning of all loanwords, I’m including words that are original to Japan, but are constructed from on’yomi, since on’yomi are borrowed. I’ll even extend that to kokuji because the concept of kanji is borrowed.



thats reminds me of how i made transcriptions of the names of some of my japanese friends into chinese because they just hated hearing their name pronounced with the mandarin readings

yeah i feel like i am getting a slight hang of when a word would not be the same in chinese, still there are some words that i considered as so obvious that didnt exists in chinese or where so academic that people would not understand them in spoken conversation

i have actually never heard that spin of the argument. Usually they argue that it would be more easy to understand japanese for foreigners if they used more katakanaka. still i do not believe this is actually the case either. really the advantage of wordroots is that they give a native speaker the chance to guess the meaning of rare, precise, or technical words they have never heard in context. so for learning its is quite counterproductive to use loanwords

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as i said i do not mind using kango, i consider it as much as a part of japanese and francophone words are part of english. kango is no longer foreign to japanese

i think the difference is that my idea of linguistic purism is based on linguistic principles while your imagined rule is based in traditionalism