Save Japanese! Part 2 – The Problems of Using Katakana Words and its Countermeasures

The reason why the use of such Katakana words has increased in Japanese is through the process of globalization in the form of the ever-increasing movement of people, goods, services and information across international boundaries. Therefore, there is increased concern regarding the possibility of the negative influence on Japanese from foreign languages among academics and the press.
Here there are four important aspects which might occur (and have already occurred among some people!) if the proportion of Katakana words in the entire Japanese language increases.

– It would be more difficult for elderly people to understand Katakana words, because these words are just unfamiliar for them, hence they are going to have difficulties keeping up with up-to-date information including Katakana words.
– It would be an obstacle to communication among generations.
– It is just different from Kanji characters which you can visually guess the meaning of from the words, but not Katakana words.
– It would not only confuse people by increasingly using Katakana words, but also it would be an obstacle for Japanese people learning English as the Katakana words are called loan words from English (there are, of course, many loan words coming from non-English-speaking countries, for example Germany and France, but I am introducing just the English case here as the Katakana words come from English). The fact is, an English word made into Katakana once can never become an English word again.

To counter this Katakana word phenomenon, the Japanese government and mass media are trying to deal with the problem using Katakana words categorizing depending on the degree of difficulty and familiarity of an individual word.
– For instance, if the foreign word is well known among the people, we can use it as it is. Eg Supootsu (from the English word “sports”), sutoresu (stress), bolantia (volunteer)
– We need to reword a loan word in other Japanese characters if it is not widely adopted in Japanese. The word innobeeshon (innovation), for example, can be put in Kanji 革新 and potensharu (potential) can be rewritten as潜在的な力.
– By using the katakana words which are unfamiliar and untranslatable a commentary needs to be given to explain the meaning of these words – aidentitii (identity), apulikeeshon (application), for instance.

I think such measures would help to control the influx of Katakana words and the existing Katakana words commonly used as Japanese. Of course, the measures dealing with loan words would have to be revised once in a while.


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1 thought on “Save Japanese! Part 2 – The Problems of Using Katakana Words and its Countermeasures”

  1. Interesting article – thanks. 🙂

    Personally, I think languages benefit tremendously from loan words, keeping them alive and thriving. English must be one of the best examples of this (Celtic, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, etc.). Other languages like Dutch also benefit, even after the word is adapted. For example, the French word “cadeau”, meaning gift, is now used, but normally spelt “kado”. I feel that additional words just add to the richness of a language, adding the flow of history to the language.

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