18 May, 2012

Rechaagi is very good Japanese

Yesterday I walked into a Drugstore. Yes, Aussies, that's what they call them here. It is like an Australian pharmacy, except that it is also the place that you buy household products like cleaners, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, nappies (US=diapers) etc. Larger Drugstores have food and drink as well.

And it is also a good place to buy batteries. But not rechargeable batteries, apparently.

I stood for quite a while examining the batteries, trying to discern if any in the size I required were rechargeable, but largely failed. So I did, what I hate doing in Drugstores, I asked. Usually when I do this they don't have what I want or they have no idea what I'm talking about. This was almost one of the second variety, but turned out to be the first.

Firstly I used the word my dictionary told me was Japanese for "rechargeable battery": niji denki. The shop assistant looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. My back-up was Japanising the English: rechaagi dekiru  (the second bit means "be able to"). She understood perfectly and immediately answered that the batteries I was holding could not be recharged.

It turns out that you can only buy rechargeable batteries at Electric Goods Shops. I think they are a little less entrenched in the culture here than they are in Australia.

But I was amused at how Japanese has this double layer. They have official Japanese words for most imported things and concepts, but they don't always use them and the often don't even know them.

My husband found this at the mechanics. I wish I could remember the word he specially researched when we were at language school. He used it, they didn't understand, but because he was pointing, they countered with a Japanised version of the English word.

Sometimes you think you could just about get by with only English, but then you quickly realise that isn't true. Their language is smattered with Japanised English, but glued together
with truly Japanese words (like dekiru in the above example).

You also need to learn how to put vowels between all adjacent consonants. So Australia becomes Au-su-to-ra-ri-a. Oh yes, and Ls and Rs become the same! I introduced my English Bible Study folk to the concept of Syllables in English. They of course know the concept, Japanese is a syllabic language. However they never thought that English words also have syllables too! They found it hard to figure out which words were four-syllable words in a list. I can understand their perspective after living here for a decade. How many syllables does "Australia" have in English?

You folk who've lived in Japan, can you think of some more examples of Japanese words that have both a Japanese word and a Japanised-English word associated with them?

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