Let’s Be Aware of Engrish in Japan: 4 Most Common Mistakes

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  • In the age of spell check and google, you would think English signs and information would be all correct. After all, a quick internet search or check in an electronic dictionary would save countless people and businesses from embarrassment.

    Sadly, mistakes still commonly occur, often after the mistake in question has gone to print, or has been installed on a very large and expensive sign. Here are a few commonly noticed, habitually misspelled words you can find in Japan.

    1. Smorking (Smoking)

    Why, WHY? There isn’t even an L that could be confused with an R. Is it due to Katakana influence, or just a random misprint in some junior high school textbook a few decades back that can’t be undone. Either way, ask your Japanese friends to spell smoking for a fun party trick. Everyone who adds an R should take a shot.

    2. Bland (Brand)

    This one, I can kind of understand. After all, you know, Rs and Ls are just confusing for us locals. But, the lack of common sense or checking a dictionary has a drastically opposite effect when a business wants to promote BRAND names – expensive, high quality, for BLAND – lacking in flavour, taste, and originality.

    3. Chocorat (Chocolate)

    I love chocolate. I don’t love rats. I am not sure if anyone would love a chocolate rat, but to date I have personally witnessed a grand total of 17 mistakes on menus, signboards, and most sadly, product packaging, all putting off potential sweet-toothed customers.

    4. Bending Machine (Vending Machine)

    Almost as commonly confused as Rs and Ls, are the Bs and Vs. Bolleyvall. Strawverry. The world of English can be so complicated. However, let’s all avoid anything that says bending machine, lest you get a twisted arm, rather than a cold drink.

    The moral of the story is, spell check words you don’t know, and watch out for small mistakes. Hopefully the era of Engrish in Japan will come to an end one day!

    Related Articles:

    How is English Taught in Elementary Schools in Japan?
    How do the Japanese Learn English?
    The History of English Education in Japan and What it Means for the Future