Coming to Japan, I thought English education would be more advanced. What I found was a little disappointing: people who have studied English for ten years couldn’t form an English sentence. Even as more English speakers in Japan come forward as English teachers or translation experts, it’s easy to hear some really strange (and straightforward) English phrases in Japan.
David Sein’s 日本人のヘンな英語 illustrates in manga form the differences between Japanese people’s English and native English.
I think one reason why it’s hard for Japanese people to speak English is that it’s so direct. For instance, if someone says, “本を見ました,” the meaning could be, “I looked at the book” or “I saw the movie” (or if there are legs coming out of the book, “I watched the book”). 見る, or miru, has several meanings: look, see, or watch. Just picking which meaning to use is hard for Japanese speakers.
Sometimes, English idioms are taken quite literally. In English, “I cut the cheese,” isn’t used literally—someone cuts a piece of cheese with a knife—but it’s usually the image in Japanese people’s heads when this phrase is said. English speakers, however, see it as someone busting a stinky, dark cloud from their butts. In the Lang-8 blog, the blogger also noted how Japanese people are taught some strange English from Japanese words. Several words in Japanese aren’t translated very easily into English because its particular to Japanese culture. いただきます, or itadakimasu (literally “I humbly receive”), is a word said before anyone eats a meal in Japan. The meaning of it is lost in translation, especially in English when a person usually says, “Thanks for the food,” or “Let’s eat!”
David Sein’s 日本人のヘンな英語 is available for 1,050 yen on Amazon.co.jp.