Six: Classroom Teaching Idea using Loanwords

20 Sep

I have just recently had an article published in “The Language Teacher” journal, published by JALT, in the MyShare teaching ideas section. The article outlines how to use English loanwords found in the Japanese linguistic landscape as a teaching resource in the classroom. The activity involves students photographing the loanwords they find and uploading them to a class Flickr site for later use in the classroom. I have done this activity in many of my classes and it always leads to interesting results and helps the students to become a little more aware of the English which surrounds them in Japan.

Here is a link to the website of the journal:


Five: JALTCALL Presentation References

1 Jun

Here is the “Further Reading’ slide from my JALTCALL presentation (June 3rd 2012) about:

A Digital Photography Exploration of English Inscriptions in the Japanese Linguistic Landscape.

I highly recommend making these 4 books part of your collection if you are interested in transfer in language learning, with a particular focus on the Japanese context.


Four: A Highly Recommended Book about Loanwords in Japanese

8 May


I really recommend this book as an essential read for anyone interested in the linguistic phenomenon of borrowing arising from language contact. The particular focus is on loanwords that have come into the Japanese language, with an analysis of the historical, phonological, morphological, semantic and orthographic processes involved as the words are incorporated and integrated into Japanese. The book ends with a chapter overviewing attitudes towards the loanwords as they exist in Japanese society and culture. It is a thoroughly interesting and intricately researched book which not only gives in-depth data about various linguistic aspects of loanword integration, but also provides a useful literature review of previous studies existing in both English and Japanese  bodies of literature.

The one, fairly major, drawback is the steep price of the book if it is intended for personal use.

Here is a link to the details on the site:

Mark Irwin. Loanwords in Japanese (Amazon jp)

Three: English Today Article: Unlocking the encoded English vocabulary in the Japanese language

15 Mar

I wrote an article for the English Today journal (click the above image for the abstract and access details) entitled:

Unlocking the encoded English vocabulary in the Japanese language

It outlines how a basic knowledge of the katakana script can be extremely useful for unlocking a huge amount of English found in the Japanese language. I feel that an important point raised in the article is that the 2 scripts of (1) romaji and (2) the English alphabet are often confused. These are 2 distinct ways of transcribing English words in the Japanese language and it is important not to confuse them. The article gives details of this along with examples.

Two: A Highly Recommended Book about English in Japanese

4 Feb

Built-in Lexicon of English Loanwords

This is a highly recommended book about the loanwords that exist in the Japanese language. Daulton argues convincingly that English loanwords in Japanese should be viewed as a built-in lexicon for Japanese learners of English and as such should be considered for inclusion in pedagogical materials (he gives an overview of such materials at the end of the book). He draws together a range of empirical studies conducted by himself and others to show that there is a high level of correlation between the loanwords found in Japanese (e.g. in newspapers and loanword dictionaries) and the high-frequency words in the English language. Indeed, he finds that about half of the high-frequency words (word families) of English correspond to words found in the bank of loanwords from English in the Japanese language.

I particularly enjoy his discussion, and ultimate rejection, of arguments made against conceptualising loanwords as a useful linguistic resource. He highlights several studies (and I will discuss these in later posts) which take an overtly negative view of loanwords in Japanese and points out problems in their ideological viewpoint and methodological approach.

This book is an essential read and acts as a great reference source of not only empirical data relating to the use of English loanwords in English classes in Japan, but also of a wide variety of other projects, papers and commentaries which discuss this fascinating sociolinguistic area.

(Click on the above image to go to the webpage to find out more about the book)

One: My Interest in English in Japanese

17 Jan

I have, for a very long time, been interested in the incorporation of English-based vocabulary into the Japanese language. I am fascinated about how Japanese has absorbed and adapted thousands of English-based words into its lexicon and how these words have become a fully-functioning part of Japanese communicative strategies.

I am referring specifically here to the English-based words which have been incorporporated into Japanese through the use of the katakana script. Although the katakana script is not exclusively used for words of foreign origin (other uses include onomatopoeia, stressed words, technical words such as the names of plants etc), the primary use of this script is to indeed represent words which are non-Japanese and non-Chinese, such as words from Dutch, Portuguese, German, French and English.

Foreign words written in katakana can be found in places such as: advertising posters, clothes, food packaging, newspapers, magazines, building names, shop signs, computer products and official documents. Indeed, because thousands of foreign words, especially English-based ones, have been incorporated into the full workings of the Japanese language, there is in effect no area of Japanese society where these words will not appear.

Everyday, as I live and work in Japan, I am surrounded by these words and I love them. I love the creative ways the Japanese language has absorbed these words for their own purposes and I love thinking about how the words have been adapted to suit the local needs of the Japanese population. In this way, I fervently oppose the ethnocentric views (found in newspaper opinion columns and academic journals alike) that these words taken from other languages, primarily English, are ‘devaluing‘ Japanese and will lead to a ruining of some abstract concept of what the Japanese language should be. I also intensely disagree with the opinions that these words are harmful to Japanese learners of English. Whilst there are obstacles involved in incorporating them into English language learning pedagogies,  there is a huge potential for these words to be a powerful linguistic resource for these learners.