Bridging languages can be problematic. We’ve all seen Engrish. Things get lost in translation. And as a college student learning Japanese, I find communicating somewhat difficult.

As a result, I’ve been resorting to something my group has coined “Nihonglish,” a portmanteau of nihongo (日本語、meaning Japanese) and, obviously, English. It looks kind of like this:

And I’ve had to communicate quite a lot. I mentioned it before: here in Sapporo, we’re doing a short-term program with a local university. On most weekdays we meet up with various Japanese college students to hang out and speak Japanese with them. It’s a great experience and really good for practice—but definitely hit the language barrier.

Luckily for us, most Japanese kids start learning English in middle school, so most of our college kids are able to understand a bit of English. I also have a habit of gesturing wildly, which usually helps me get my point across. However, my vocabulary is extremely limited. Heck, I don’t even know the word for “to open:”

(As an explanation to those who don’t know Japanese: “Janai” is a common suffix used to make adjectives negative. For example, kirei (clean) turns into kireijanai (not clean))

I’ve even starting doing it while talking to my fellow Americans.

My group has taken it to the point of coming up with our own nihongo slang. For example, a common phrase in Japanese is daijoubu (大丈夫, meaning are you okay? Or, I’m okay.) Except we decided to shorten it to

Or even worse,

Which is all a bit incomprehensible to our conversation partners. But, hey. At least we’re trying. Anyway, even our sensei fell victim to the Nihonglish trap:

 But I feel as though I’ve improved, though only a bit. I’ll keep trying my best!


7 thoughts on “Nihonglish

  1. I used to have this problem a lot with my GF lol. I find that once you are able to define what it is you want to say, you can get the word out of the person without having to resort to Nihonglish. たとえば おれはーあのー部屋に帰るの事はなんて言うの?

    Have you found that your Japanese skill is increasing much faster now that you are in Japan?

  2. Offshoots of “Engrish” = awesome! This reminds me a bit of Spanglish. A lot of people do it simply–I call people “chica” or will sometimes say “no bueno” or “que?!”, etc, but people who REALLY know Spanish integrate it seamlessly with English. “Ustedes son bueno now!” Now being instead of “pronto”. They use whichever is easier.

    Sort of interesting to see how certain cultures and their respective languages mix!

  3. I do the same thing — blending up all my languages, especially when I’m tired!

    Back in the day, I was an ESL teacher and my students also did this, between their languages and English, so I’d get to hear a crazy mix of Japanese/Chinese/Korean/Arabic/Portuguese/Hungarian/English! It was awesome!

  4. Second picture: I think we’ve all been there. All of us who’ve studied another language… is it possible what you were looking for was, ”わたしにくれました”? I’m rusty too, but I think that’s it.

    In fact, I guess I didn’t even recognise the kanji for daijoubu. 😦 But I like your slang for it (well, the first one…) 🙂

    lol at the last picture.

    • Haha, I think that’s the one! My grammar is awful, that’s for sure. I probably sounded awful when I was there– I spoke what was possibly the most broken Japanese ever. Therefore, nihonglish! :/

  5. Pingback: 6 ways to make your study abroad a success | I think in comics.

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