Comic: Some Japanese Words are REALLY Difficult

Texan in Tokyo comics living in Japan gaijin mangaka cartoon bubaigawaraI know I made fun of Ryosuke’s “Engrish” in this comic, but I have just as many problems (if not more) with Japanese.

For the life of me, I can’t pronounce the station name “Bubaigawara.” Try it. It’s really hard.

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My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy: The Comic Book

and

My Japanese Husband (still) Thinks I’m Crazy

and

Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

26 Comments on Comic: Some Japanese Words are REALLY Difficult

  1. Eric Janson // 26 November, 2014 at 6:12 pm //

    Great post! But to be honest, I think that Japanese pronunciation is dead- simple compared to other languages. There are few surprises in Japanese pronunciation. (Tim, nice hints, your explanations are really helpful.)
    English on the other hand comprises more exceptions than rule- conformers. And it only has two real vowels – the others are diphthongs. (If you don’t believe me, just try saying an American “a” without moving your mouth or tongue, whereas real vowels require no mouth movement at all.)
    Deutsch? Just try getting any non- native to say “ausgezeichnet!” or “Fussbodenmaschinenverleih”
    Swedish? Even Swedes from Stockholm laugh when they hear someone from Skane say “7,777.”
    Mandarin? Four tones, which I have the devil’s own time hearing, let alone saying! Cantonese – nine tones, I am told. Forget it!
    No Japanese is one of the easiest to say. For the misery, they just throw 40,000 Kanji at you, mix in Hiragana, Katakana and for good measure, roman characters and include so many levels of politeness that foreigners are not expected to learn anything but one form.
    I am convinced that all languages cause an equal amount of misery – it just comes in different forms, which might be pronunciation, cases / declensions, alien grammar.
    The important thing is that you just speak, make as many mistakes as it takes and don’t be embarrassed.

  2. Lol, hehehe. Oh man! You just reminded me that I haven’t been to engrish.com in ages!!! Off I go ;)

  3. Hahaha! I feel the same for Takadanobaba.. and especially wonder how does the lady in the train announcing “Takadanobaba houmen yuki desu” say it all in one breath!!!

  4. What a strange name. I wonder what the kanji are like.分倍河原?
    A new language is definitely muscle training for your mouth!

  5. Man that is a tongue twister. Boobie-wara is a much better name for the station anyways. :P lol.

  6. mychinesebf // 20 November, 2014 at 3:32 am //

    I make fun of my boyfriend all the time for his Engrish too my Chinese is so much worse. I perfected all the things I should never say in public though. :p

    Looking at the word “Bubaigawara” I know I have no hope in pronouncing it correctly either. After trying to pronounce it myself the word only reminds me of the Prince Ali song for Aladdin…

    • It’s funny – I’m totally ok talking to my husband in Japanese, but I get nervous in public, like I’m saying something wrong. Are you the same way with Chinese?

      • mychinesebf // 4 December, 2014 at 1:34 pm //

        I feel the same way. With all the tones and wanting to roll my r’s I freak out. I try to communicate in public, but I have to speak slowly or I get tongue tied. I need practice.

  7. Bubaigawara.(Pron: Boo-Bye-Gah-Wah-Rah) The ra part maybe the hardest part as as you pronounce rah, the sides of your tongue is expanded. When you say the rah part, the front of your tongue should lightly touch the front part of the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth…near where that bump is where your two front teeth are…if you have that bump. It sound almost be making an “L” sound. As you say “L”, the tip of your tongue touches the back of your front teeth.

    That’s why Japanese people have a hard time pronouncing “L” and “R”. Not because they can’t, they just don’t position their tongue on the correct spot of their mouth to make the “L”/”R” sound. I mean trying saying: 汚い or kitanai. I had a hard time until my mother taught me to say it correctly. You don’t pronounce the ki sound, it’s more of a sound effect than the actual ki like key.

    Finally, words like: Fukushima, Fukuoka, oFUro is not pronounced FU. Here is a video. (http://www.japannewbie.com/2009/09/19/hiragana-hu-or-fu/) Keep in mind, Japanese people would say you’re saying Fukushima by saying the word Hukushima. When you say: HU , it’s pronounced “Who”. The best or the closest way to say Fukushima is to place your two front teeth on the tip of your lip. Sort of suck in your lip and then lightly blow air out to make the sound. There really isn’t a sound in Japanese for the letter FU.

    Well, speaking Japanese is the art of manipulating ones mouth. I hope you well and hope Ryosuke (Ryo is hard to say too and it ain’t Rio people) teaches you well. If he starts goofing on you, tell him: Hey, at least I can say Chevrolet!

    • I remember my old Japanese teacher used to get really made when students said “FUkuoka.” He kept saying “no, it’s who-kuoka!!!”
      It took forever to adapt.

      I’m going to see if he can pronounce Chevrolet. That one actually sounds difficult.

  8. LOL! It almost sounded like Bubba Gump Shrimp :D

  9. haha – I can relate!!! I was really bad with all Chinese names as well – so bad that we refer to most of my husband’s friends with their assigned nicknames like ‘The Shy Guy,’ ‘The Jell-O Guy,’ etc. However, once I heard the names of subway stations every day when I lived in Taipei, I remember them all!

    • I’ve started giving my husband’s friends nicknames because a lot of the girls have the same name (why so many “saki”s???), so if I don’t give them nicknames, I can’t keep the stories straight…

  10. Shingo Nakatani // 19 November, 2014 at 10:12 pm //

    As you may know, in Japanese, there are Hayakuchi Kotoba (早口言葉), tongue twister. You can see there in this website (There are more, but just example…) http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/ja.htm

    Such as “Bózu ga byóbu ni józu ni bózu no é o kaita”…

    If you are interested in, you can try all of them… But to be honest, these are difficult to even to Japanese….

    You might ask Ryosuke to try English ones as well (http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/en.htm) for fairnes…

    Good luck…

    Shingo

  11. My tongue almost twisted.. Ya some words.. But i think korean are more difficult huuu

  12. Haha reminds me how long it took for me to learn the staton name “takadanobaba” :D

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