Have you ever seen the movie “Lost in Translation”? Although the movie seems to exaggerate certain things about living in Japan, it does offer glimpses of how difficult life could be for someone who doesn’t know the language, not to mention the culture.
There was a time, in Akihabara, when I rode the elevator and was asked, “Dochira made desu ka?” – Where are you getting off? It would have been easier for me to respond had the person asked, “Nan-kai desu ka?” – What floor? “Kai” is the suffix used when counting floors. But in my haste, I answered, “Roku-sai desu.” “Sai” is the suffix used when counting age. Effectively, I told the person that “(I am) six years old.” Gaah. I should have said “Rokkai” instead, which would mean, “sixth floor.” When I realized my mistake I was so embarrassed that I wanted to get off the next floor and just take the stairs, hahaha. 😀
In fairness, there are many signs and instructions written in English, so a tourist in Japan won’t feel so lost as he/she weaves through the city. In train stations, all the station names are also written in “Romaji” or alphabet characters. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts, there are just too many English translations that are so bungled that they end up very confusing. And yes, most of the time, hilarious! That is why sites like Engrish.com never run out of supply.
For instance, consider this:
Ahm, which position are we talking about again?
Or how about this:
Note, it’s not a pencil eraser; it’s a student eraser. 😀
Written in bold font is “WARNING: Stop using it for the cunning by writing rules on it.”
Actually, this is a warning for students to NOT write their kodigo on the eraser. Wow, that’s so cunning indeed.
Here’s another one:
There is no “L” in Japanese language, so this is replaced with “R.” As a result, L’s and the R’s are usually confused and interchanged with each other. The day actually came when I myself began having difficulty saying “wonderful.” I tend to say “wandafuru” instead. Sigh. I’ve been in Japan for too long. 😛
Here’s a trivia quiz for you – can anyone figure out what is the equivalent English word of the following (those who are in Japan are exempted!):