Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Story about Language and Words

As you know, I am a Japanese born and raised in Tokyo.  My wife is a Chinese born and raised in North-East part of China.  My Chinese is not good for daily life communication.  My wife's Japanese is not as well.  So, English is very important for my wife and I to communicate.  Living in dual language environment for relatively long time, I feel sometimes frustrated that something, some emotion, some symptom, some phenomena, good movie, etc...

I just have written a Japanese Blog Article on "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  I found it difficult to explain what "$50 for Powder Room" means in Japanese.  Some English can never be translated without full understanding on cultural, language, emotional background.  By the time I explain all of necessary setting of the movie, the expression is not as good as original English.

Same thing happens when I try to explain Japanese words in English.  For example, there is a simple and short word "En" in Japanese.  It is extremely difficult to explain the word in proper English.  I turned to Japanese English dictionary and found there are 20 definitions of this short Japanese "En".  "En" can mean "fate", "karma", "connection", "relation", "tie", "bond", etc...  The list continues on and on and listing these English words will not give you understanding of this Japanese at all.  It will confuse you instead.

Trying to give you an idea of the meaning, "En" stands for a concept "relation, connection, or some kind of tie which exists between the people without any given reason beyond the time factor of past, present, and future and over the physical distance.

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Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. language is a strange development - here in the west we tend to have our roots - a lot in Latin, but the Celtic, Nordic languages 'invade' .. with some Old English words taking their root.

I tend to put the etymology (origins of the word) for some of my nouns in my blogs .. I find it interesting.

I thought I'd do one on Latin sometime soon ..

and again .. you wanted to know how the early explorers ate - and what .. I'll do that too in 2010!!

Story telling and communication, especially of traditions and culture between Asian cultures and here, I imagine has been difficult to translate.

Thank you - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, learn to earn 14 said...

Hello Shaw,

Word can make our lives better or worse. They are so needed in our live. They can also make things more complicated as well, when you are going between two or more languages. It can make for problems. Thank you for the good post. It really makes one think of the words that we use all the time. We can chose to use them with wisdom or not.

Have a great day.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Shaw said...

Hi Hilary,

Thank you for your comment. I will continue to talk about languages and posts. Many Japanese expressions and words are from ancient Chinese as modern English from Latin or Celtic, Nordic, etc...

I recognized recently that Vietnamese used to use Chinese Characters before French occupation. Japanese another language uses Chinese Characters as main part of written language.

Thinking goes on and on as I continue to think about language. Let's talk about it when we meet next time.

Thank you again.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Shaw said...

Hi Dan and Deanna,

It is really interesting to think about words and languages. We think in our languages. If we do not say a word, it does not affect anything.

Once we say something. We are slave to what we said.

Also the language and words are very good media to learn about different cultures. I noticed that Japanese are good for describing something static. Instead, English and Chinese are better language for dynamic, etc...

Thank you again for your comment. Happy Holidays!!!

Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link