Lack of Pronouns in Japanese

Abroad in Japan dropped this video just the other day. Chris, the YouTuber, focuses on why Google Translate tends to fail by using Google Maps reviews.

It shows a lot of great examples of how the topic is usually assumed or not repeated in Japanese. He does some quick breakdown as well. I think this is a good example resource especially for beginners and intermediate learners.


Heh. I actually just watched that one.

The other one that Google Translate trips over, which he kinda passed within shouting range of but didn’t really mention, is that Google Translate is really bad at long strings of kana. It doesn’t know how to parse it.


That makes a lot of sense. Especially if there are dropped particles or it’s just a long word.

I had a Japanese person once reply to me online in the katakana version of their normal Japanese. Another Japanese person pointed out to them that katakana is not automatically English :sweat_smile:

edit: what a typo


Hell, I struggle parsing long strings of only kana. Kanji exist for a reason: helping me figure out where words start and end.


:eyes: I’ll give it a watch.

Edit: Nope, I still don’t like that guy.


And kana exists so that we can tell Chinese and Japanese apart.

I like this way of justifying things. :upside_down_face:


It’s an ok 5-minute video that was made 15 minutes instead.

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love his channel :smiley:

I was just wondering about this yesterday. I was reading a short character profile and it started with a string of N1 kanji so I threw it in google translate. Google ended up using female pronouns in the first sentence then switched to male for the second one :thinking: and when I took the character’s name out of that first sentence google corrected those first few pronouns to male. But then when I took out the period at the end Google omitted pronouns completely.
So I’m assuming because it was just a fragment of a sentence google translated it more accurately (in a vague, pronoun-less way similar to Japanese), but once I put the period back google translate tried to turn it into a grammatically correct sentence so it added pronouns according to the context


Yeah, he gets a bit ranty when it comes to bad translations into English.

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Less ranty and more, let me show the same review 3 times before actually addressing the issues in it.


All the advice on communicating things I’ve seen says “tell them 3 times because they’re stupid” so it’s probably warranted :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


I don’t know if you’re being serious. :eyes:

I guess I agree to some degree, but no one wants to watch a guy who thinks his audience is stupid.

At least no one who comes to that realization.

(I didn’t like him in the first place for some reason. Also don’t wanna derail the thread.)

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I wasn’t quite being serious, but they do say “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you just told them” and it’s solid advice.

He’s got quite a cynical brit sense of humour… not for everyone I guess.


Google translate is quite bad I would suggest to use something like this instead.


I think many of the male Japan vloggers are a little full of themselves, personally. I don’t think they are bad people, I just prefer cuter more earnest people.


I’m gotten into Miku recently:

She does a similar video. I haven’t watched it yet but she is a great teacher… and is actually trying to teach you, so I imagine that it is a little more informative then Abroad in Japan. But I think Abroad in Japan’s Japanese guy is cute… so… I enjoyed the video.


There’s definitely a tendency with a lot of these videos (specifically those made by non-native speakers) to exoticize Japanese and treat most of its characteristics as incredibly difficult to wrap your head around when something like the lack of pronouns really isn’t that shocking of a concept.


Spanish does it, nbd.

But in Spanish the verbs themselves contain information about which person is meant, right?


You make an excellent point. Japanese verbs don’t inflect for person, which is a blessing when you’re learning it, but not when you come across sentences out of context and have no idea how to fill in the gaps.