Post Reply Romaji mixed with English in a sentence
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Posted 8/20/15
I have been slowly learning to understand Japanese over the years from watching anime. I still only read a smidgen of written Japanese, but sometimes I can get the gist of what is being said with my limited understanding without reading the subtext translation.

So, when I see others use the more common Romaji words mixed into a sentence, I can often times understand them for what they mean. However, many times I am unsure if the word I see is just poor English spelling, Romaji, or even misspelled Romaji.

That brings me to my question:
Is there an (semi)official way to identify Romaji when used in an English sentence? e.g. through the use of brackets or punctuation? .. or something that identifies the word or phrase as being from another language?

If it's something established, please post a link for reference.

Thanks!

p.s. I will post this question in the few places (groups and forum) where it may be applicable.
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Posted 11/18/15

Ecchi-Go wrote:

That brings me to my question:
Is there an (semi)official way to identify Romaji when used in an English sentence? e.g. through the use of brackets or punctuation? .. or something that identifies the word or phrase as being from another language?

If it's something established, please post a link for reference.


Funny that I decided to re-visit this page (and site) on a whim.

Just a clarification, but perhaps by your use of the word "ROMAJI", do you actually mean "Katakana"? Because Romaji are basically words that use romanized characters (i.e. the English alphabet) and arabic numerals. The latter are more common, but where romanized characters are used, they are typically Proper nouns, common acronyms (i.e. TV) and the like.

If you mean "katakana", then there are no rules per se. There ARE rules in the transliteration of English to Japanese, but I'm not aware of any sources that are helpful enough. It's a matter of getting a feel for how transliteration happens, and this goes not only for English words that are imported into Japanese, but for all sorts of foreign languages as well.

Some tips, though, if they should help:

1) L's become R's, but in the case of a diminutive R, is usually replaced by a long vowel (i.e. Center becomes "sentaa = センター"; Barbecue becomes "baabekyuu = バーベキュー"). There are some exceptions, like beer is said as "biiru = ビール", so again you have to get a feel for what are the accepted pronunciations.

2) Diphthongs are usually mashups of the vowels that contain them (i.e. Owl becomes "auru = アウル"), but there are some exceptions, like goal becomes "gooru = ゴール".

3) Double vowels get double the mora (i.e. Pool becomes "puuru = プール"; beat becomes "biito = ビート"). Take note that in the last example, "beat" becomes indistinguishable from the homophone "beet", which receives the same transliteration. What's important to note here is that the sound and not the original spelling is important in transliteration.

4) Consonants using the unvoiced "k" sound generally use a glottic "ku", meaning it has a double consonant prior to it (i.e. pack becomes "pakku = パック"; traffic becomes "torafikku = トラフィック". Similarly, the voiced "g" sound utilizes a glottic "gu". (i.e. bag becomes "baggy = バッグ")

5) Consonants ending with a dental t/d sound use a accented "to/do" (i.e. badminton becomes "badominton = バドミントン"). There are some instances where a double consonant comes before it as in 4), and other weird places where a diminutive D becomes a T (i.e. God becomes "gotto = ゴット")

6) Consonant S uses the diminutive "su" (i.e. spice becomes "s(u)pais(u) = スパイス" where the "u" is actually hardly sounded). Despite it being diminutive, you might hear people in the Kansai region pronouncing the "u" quite distinctly.

7) The "de/di" sound varies in use. In general, diminutive forms of the "de" character are used (i.e. disc becomes "d(e)isku = ディスク" but note that the "e" sound is diminished). This phenomenon is similar it "ti" (i.e. tiramisu becomes "t(e)iramisu = ティラミス"). There are some quirky exceptions like digital becomes "dejitaru = デジタル" but you'll just have to get used to it.

8) The "du" sound is another example of using the diminutive form of "de". Duel becomes "d(e)yueru = デュエル" for example. However, this is different from the "Tu" sound which is actually a dental plosive. In these cases, use the "chu" sound (i.e. Tutorial becomes "chuutoriaru = チュートリアル")

9) Plosives have similar rules of using double consonants when they flank a vowel (i.e. pop becomes "poppu = ポップ").

10) Closed consonants like m/n are transliterated with the "n" sound (i.e. bamboo becomes "banbuu = バンブー"; pumpkin becomes "panpukin = パンプキン"). There are some instances where a terminal palatal like "ng" is replaced with "n" instead of a double "ku/gu". I can't think of an example right now, but even in terms of pronunciation, terminal "n" has a sort of palatal sound to it (i.e. Robin is ロビン but kinda sounds like "robi(ng)". There's a whole lesson dedicated to the usage of the consonant "n" that it could take a whole day to explain its many uses)

11) The V consonant utilizes a labial slur on the "u" sound, which is why most transliterations of this consonant will use the ウ character. One popular example is how Virus becomes "uirus(u) = ウィルス" but there are some people who believe "biirasu = ビーラス" or "vairasu = ヴァイラス" are acceptable as well. Note how on the last example, the diacritical mark ( " ) is placed on a ウ character. The origin of the "v" sound from a labial slur of "u" is probably seen in this act of placing the diacritical mark here. In real life, the Japanese pronounce the "v" quite softly, almost as if it really WERE a letter U with a very light vrrr sound to it. Some foreigners even comment that is sounds almost like a "w" sound.

12) The "hu" sound uses "fu" such as hooligan becomes "fuurigan = フーリガン". In fact, you may have noticed that "hu" on the syllabary is replaced by "fu". The japanese F isn't as dental as the western version, so even the Japanese themselves don't really make the distinction as H being a different character from F. In fact, words like "full" sound a lot more like "huuru" when heard by a foreigner.


Hope these 12 tips help. There are a lot more, but these are just some I can think of from the top of my head.

If you have any more questions, feel free to PM me instead. I'm always glad to help out someone learning the language.
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Posted 11/19/15

edsamac wrote:


Ecchi-Go wrote:

That brings me to my question:
Is there an (semi)official way to identify Romaji when used in an English sentence? e.g. through the use of brackets or punctuation? .. or something that identifies the word or phrase as being from another language?

If it's something established, please post a link for reference.


Funny that I decided to re-visit this page (and site) on a whim.

Just a clarification, but perhaps by your use of the word "ROMAJI", do you actually mean "Katakana"? Because Romaji are basically words that use romanized characters (i.e. the English alphabet) and arabic numerals. The latter are more common, but where romanized characters are used, they are typically Proper nouns, common acronyms (i.e. TV) and the like.

If you mean "katakana", then there are no rules per se. There ARE rules in the transliteration of English to Japanese, but I'm not aware of any sources that are helpful enough. It's a matter of getting a feel for how transliteration happens, and this goes not only for English words that are imported into Japanese, but for all sorts of foreign languages as well.


Wow.. great info actually! .Thank you!

I really did mean ROMAJI in this case. Here on CR, and at times on some of the other anime fan sites I visit, English speakers try to "show off" their 1337 (elite) anime watching skills by replacing the English words in their posts with Japanese (in ROMAJI form) that they have learned over time by constant exposure to anime.

It's unfortunate, but true, that there are a large number of very poor spellers out there who would likely have even failed "Hooked on Phonics" courses (which is a method of teaching that uses how things sound to spell as apposed to memorization of correct spelling). When one of these types makes a post, half of their words use "ghetto speak" like: "u" for "you", "sup" for "what's up", "dat" for "that", and "da" for "the". Mix that with some poorly spelled English words, and then throw in some ROMAJI here and there, that is phonetically spelled as apposed to the use of the adopted ROMAJI spelling of Japanese words, and... it's like the holy grail of all but unreadable posts.

There are some out there though who do go through the trouble of learning the recognized correct ROMAJI spelling, and use it in their posts. ROMAJI because 1) Learning Katakana and the other written Japanese forms would be at a whole different level all together .. and 2) Even if Katakana were learned and used, it would be completely lost on 99.5% of the forum readers who can read 0% of the Japanese language. So, while ROMAJI is both a crutch and even a hindrance for someone genuinely learning the language, it's also the only written form that a huge majority of casual English forum readers can even read, regardless if they know the ROMAJI words meaning.

All that being said, I am unsure if there is a "correct" way to use ROMAJI in an English sentence. Should quotes be used around the word? (e.g. ..yes "Senpai", when the first "hanabi" went off, Shojikun jumped out of his skin and we were all like "www") .. or, is it acceptable to just use the ROMAJI mid-sentence without any indication it's special?
(I'm told the "www" is the equivalent of "lol" but am unsure if I used it correctly or not.)

FYI - I sent a Buddy Request, but you've yet to accept or decline it
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Posted 11/22/15 , edited 11/22/15

Ecchi-Go wrote:


Buddy request accepted. I tend to forget about those kind of things, especially since there are still 1000+ pending buddy requests since my time as moderator, hehe.

What you're referring to is actually transliteration. The closest thing I can think of as "rules" for the romanization/transliteration of Japanese words is the hepburn system of romanization, which I covered here. I had another post for this back during the days of the CR Library, but I can't find it at the moment. There are several modifications to the Hepburn system, which include the Revised hepburn and the modified hepburn. There's also the wâpuro variation, which utilizes a romanization system used in word processors for the sake of making things faster (the reason being that the hepburn system uses macrons to denote double vowels). The link I gave you should give a pretty thorough treatment of the basics for romanization, but if you need more info, you can check wikipedia here.

Hope this helps.
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Posted 11/22/15 , edited 11/22/15

Ecchi-Go wrote:

(I'm told the "www" is the equivalent of "lol" but am unsure if I used it correctly or not.)



About that, that comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for laughing, which is actually a truncation of the word "warau" meaning "to laugh". In some publications, especially interviews, you might have seen this > (笑) at the end of a sentence, which indicates that the speaker laughed.

The use of "www" to laugh comes from the wapuro variation of "warau", and is basically what happens when you mash the letter "w" on your keyboard. It's more common to see it as っっw since that is what happens when you keep pressing the "w" key repeatedly while on Japanese text input.

As a trivia, there's a phrase that goes "kusa ga haeru" (草が生える), which literally means "The grass [grows]". It refers to people steadily laughing, since "wwwwwww" kinda looks like grass when you think about it.
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