Monday, May 27, 2013

Japanese-English announcement in the train 

"We will soon be making a brief stop at Den-en-chofu. Passengers changing to the Meguro Line, please transfer at this station."

This is a good example of Japanese-English. It gets the job done but it's somehow not quite right.

In this, two different  words--"change" and "transfer"--are used in the same sentence for the same idea. The same pronouncement in blunt, fire-from-the-hip English would be "Change here for the Meguro Line." But here there is no room for the critical word "please".

To a Japanese ear, however, what seems natural and right to an English speaker sounds as though it is addressed to a crowd chained together at the ankles. It is insistent. It is too short. It is impolite.

But when a foreigner lives in Japan for a while, Japanese-English's languid, inefficient phraseology begins over time to seem somehow right enough, even sweet…

- Rudolpho B.

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