Sunday, October 19, 2014
Now, this particular model has been made just for the 7-11 convenience store chain. Why did they design it with English labels only? Maybe they thought that it would look more modern or 'high class' that way?
I suppose at the 7-11 headquarters, it didn't occur to anyone that they might lose *customers* if they couldn't understand how to operate the machine!
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Here is one example of inappropriate use of English. This sign in my sports club originally had no label on it saying "Toilet Room" (not that it would be correct English). It only had the Katakana which said "Resutoru-mu" (Restroom). I saw old men from time to time wandering around the locker room obviously looking for the toilet, but not being able to find it until someone pointed it out to them. Even if they could understand that the Katakana came from English, how would they ever know that it was NOT a place to take a rest! :-)
Finally the management wisened up and added the label in English saying "Toilet Room". Now that was an improvement perhaps, but it still assumed that the club members could read English words. It suppose it just wouldn't have been good form to clearly say in Japanese "トイレ" (From the English "toilet") or お手洗い ("hand washing place") which would have been much clearer, but probably not as elegant.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Kids in their young teens are frequent patrons of fast food joints in Japan, but I wonder if they can understand the language on advertisements that are supposedly targetted to them. The following comes from a Lotteria placemat, (August 2008 version), an advert for an anime broadcast club called "Animax". Note that the application process has three steps, "Step 1, Step 2 & Step 3". This assumes that anyone interested in it would know the word "step" in this context. (I wonder if they pronounce it "suteppu wan" or suteppu ichi"...)
Here are the steps:
Step 1. Register easily on your mobile.
Step 2. Get a discount coupon. -- GET is used here for "receive" rather than the Japanese word "morau".
Step 3. Buy either a chicken or a shake for just ¥100. -- Note the use of OR here instead of "mata wa" -- Saves quite a bit of space.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Many food products and beverages in Japan, particularly snack foods are labelled with large English letters accompanied by smaller wording in Japanese. It's almost as if the Japanese were braille -- just there for those who need special assistance. Take the Häagen-Dazs container on the right. It says "Rum-Raisin" in large letters with kana underneath that is perhaps 40% the height of the English.
As mentioned in my previous posting, however, the words are not the only way to identify the product. Invariably, there is a graphic, as well, that will clue the consumer in even if the English isn't understandable. But can people really tell the flavor by the graphic? My seminar class performed a mini-experiment over the summer vacation (2007), taking graphics of various ice cream and pretzel-stick products ("Pocky") and masked the lettering. They then asked friends and relatives of varying ages to identify the flavor. Not surprisingly, those below 40 were much better at identifying the flavors than older people, although the small sample size (32 people) doesn't allow us to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
We found that there was considerable consistency in the way English was used, but that the degreee to which English was incorporated in the product depended on the product line. It appears that products aimed at younger audiences and those for snack foods tend to sport more English than other products. We made the following observations:
- The name of the product was often in English only. Sometimes it was accompanied by smaller katakana that clued people in who couldn't read the English, but in virtually every case, the illustration clearly depicted the product so that consumers could identify it even if they couldn't read the product name!
- The same principle of English-larger-than-Japanese also applied to other elements such as the flavor and the various special features of the product. The Almond Chocolate illustrated above says "CRISP" in English, but it says "Sakku" twice in various locations.
- "Catch phrases" that are basically decorative but somehow vaguely describe the product or simply its "feeling" are common.
- The illustrated example is notable because it uses the English letter "W" in a uniquely Japanese way. This means "double", here stating that the product is both "crisp" and "crunchy". ("Double" is one of the rare English words that has come into Japanese as a verb. "Daburu" conjugates regularly.)
- The one place that we discovered that Japanese might have true difficulty with the English was with mentioning of flavors. We found many cases where we doubted whether children and early teens or oldsters would be able to understand the meaning of the flavor, and perhaps even the katakana equivalent. For example, there is a good word for "Strawberry" in Japanese, ichigo, but some packages listed the flavor in both English spelling and then this same word in katakana -- sutoroberi- without using the native Japanese word at all. We are now researching "flavors" more deeply. Stand by for a report once the results are in!