Do you have to speak words borrowed from English as if you're using katakana?

Sorry about the bad wording, but by this I mean:

Say you’re speaking Japanese and you want to say “donut”. Do you have to say it like “ドナト”, or can you say “donut”?

The answer is yes, you use Japanese pronunciation when speaking Japanese.

But donut is ドーナツ


To elaborate on Leebo, yeah you should pronounce it as closely Japanese as possible. Even though the words are borrowed from English, I don’t think the average Japanese person learns what words they come from let alone how they even look or are pronounced in the original language. The use of Katakana effectively turns the word into a Japanese word.


I would caution on guessing with katakana all the time, though, and recommend you try to learn these like any other word. Sometimes things that seem like they’d obviously be loanwords aren’t, and sometimes words that are loanwords have had their meanings shifted over time.

So you could say something like マンション and Japanese people will know that word, but they will assume you mean an apartment building and not a huge house.


If you’re in a ピンチ you can always take a チャンス :slightly_smiling_face:


If you want to be understood by Japanese people, yes, speak loanwords using the Japanese pronunciation.

Just as an English speaker might have trouble recognizing “futon” as it’s pronounced in Japanese, your average Japanese person would probably have a hard time recognizing loanwords with the original English/etc. pronunciation.


I thought it was ドナト for one donut and ドナツ for multiple donuts? (That’s how I’ve seen it)

But anyways, thanks.

Japanese does not have conjugations or different words for singular and plural. Not even in loanwords.


Yeah, they don’t make a distinction between single and plural for anything (with some exceptions that aren’t perfectly equivalent to English plurals). 1 donut is 一個のドーナツ

If you can find ドナト in a dictionary, post it for us.

This is kind of what I mean…

ピンチ is pretty close, in this case, to being what you mean, a touch situation. But it doesn’t ever mean the action of grasping something with two fingers, which some people might guess on a whim.

And チャンス is more like “a good opportunity” only, and not like it’s meant in your sentence, where “take a chance” is a phrasal verb meaning to try. That’s more like やってみる. Jisho also has this, which is translated as “go for broke” 当たって砕けろ

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Pretty much this, a lot of words are pronounced fairly different, and they aren’t understandable with the English pronunciation.

Good example is allergy, which is アレルギー。 If you try to mimic the English pronunciation, then it isn’t understandable.

Source, have a bad allergy, figured that out pretty quickly last time I was in Japan.

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Japanese people in general find it hilarious when you tell them how McDonald’s is pronounced in American English.

And try talking to someone about virtual reality using your native accent instead of the katakana バーチャルリアリティ.

Yeah, I’m actually struggling sometimes with the reverse. Pronouncing Japanese loanwords the proper way instead of the American way.

I practice 空手 and it sounds pretentious in American English to pronounce it "Ka-ra-tay, instead of ka-ra-tee, so it’s a constant mental battle to force myself to pronounce it correctly.

And for some reason I just can’t get カラオケ correct after a lifetime of saying Kar-ree-oh-kee. Ugh.


Another one in reverse, I’ve found, is that some Japanese cities have to be pronounced the English way in English so you don’t sound like a massive tool, but others aren’t well known enough that it’s fine to say them the Japanese way.


After moving back to the states, I held onto カラオケ for a few years before finally succumbing to the American version.


Yes, you do. Pronouncing coffee like a westerner will get you stares at most cafes, even in the city. Take it from me.

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I find the same with spellings of things. When I see someone writing in english and referring to “nattou” or “bentou” it just looks strange and wrong to me even though they’re technically correct romanizations of the words.

This phenomenon with spoken language is called code switching, and most native bilingual speakers do it naturally. Whether it’s switching from a dialect of English to a standard American style for immigrants, or with folks who speak more than one language, code switching helps to pick the most correct version of the language for the situation. For words that overlap between two or more languages, this means using the variety and pronunciation of the word that most closely aligns with the language you are speaking.

Just like it will sound wrong to English speakers if you say ka-ra-o-ke, it sounds wrong to Japanese speakers if you say kare-ee-oh-key. We have plenty of loan words in English that have become completely assimilated and are used with English pronunciations.

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Also, don’t be this guy:

P.S. No, that’s not standard Italian, he sounds like an idiot.


Yeah, I don’t usually have this problem. I don’t say it like this but some Americans have learned Hiroshima as “Hih-roh-shi-muh”. Which is, obviously, pretty far off.

My mother insists on calling Kyoto, “Kee-yoh-toh”, which drives me up a wall.

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Ben folds said he doesn’t speak Japanese in the very same song so give him a break :stuck_out_tongue:

I think if you want to learn to speak Japanese properly then yes. Otherwise you are just saying things in English and that isn’t Japanese. A lot of languages have overlapping words and Japanese included.

For example in French the word petite (although deriving from French) would sound very strange if you said it with English pronounciation mid-sentence and Japanese is no exception. It just wouldn’t be correct.