Same as traditional festivals and behaviour reflect the country’s culture, so does language and the words that are chosen to express different things. Just as women used to say, that they “need to powder their nose”, when they wanted to go to the toilet, instead of naming it directly, Japanese too, have an euphemism expressing to “want to wash one’s hands”. These are just some examples on how to analyse a culture by its language.
Another would be by comparing some of the sounds animals make. The sounds animals make? Yes, you heard it right! Some are rather similar to their English equivalent, whereas some you might find rather odd. This diversity shows the unique flavour of the Japanese language. What does this reveal about our relationship with the language in general?
Some of giongo (擬音語) and gitaigo (擬態語) – Japanese onomatopoeia – you might have heard already or known unconsciously. Like pika pika (the sound/expression of something shiny) from Pokemon’s Pikachu, or kero kero (quack quack) from Sanrio’s character Kero Kero Keroppi. Here are some of the most common ones animal sounds:
|animal||Japanese sound||English equivalent|
|Birds||pichu pichu(ぴちゅぴちゅ)||tweet tweet|
|Dogs||wan wan(わんわん)||bow wow|
There are a lot of animals in the Japanese language, that make sounds, while there is no English word for it.
Or would you know the sound a fox makes? To the question of the famous song that went viral “What does the fox say?” Japanese would clearly answer “kon kon” (コンコン). Again, it might take some time to get used to them but once you have heard them often enough, you get a feeling for it and your Japanese vocabulary has preciously improved.