Translating Toyo Keizai: New Words and Wedding Trends in Japan

Kyōyūkon is the new buzzword in Japan. "Shared Wedding"

No matter the country, no matter the culture, words evolve as time slips slowly on. Trends change, people change, and the way people tie the knot changes to reflect the environment. A recent study Marriage Trend Survey (Zekushi Magazine, October 2014) found that among other things a new trend was emerging in the world of weddings, calling for a new word: 共有婚 (Kyōyūkon). “What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?” asks Kyoto University graduate and journalist Yūmi Tokiwa at Tōyō Keizai news (online).

Understandable trend given the times, the kanji used sum up its meaning well: 共 (kyō) Share/Together, 有 (yū) to Be/Have, 婚 (kon) Marriage. Below is my translation the article which appeared in Tōyō Keizai on January 18th, 2015. It can be read in its original Japanese here.

Weddings, What exactly is this recent Kyōyūkon trend?

A decreasing numbers of guests and lower costs.

The wedding, the most important day of your life. Contrary to what one may believe, the movement of the economy does not hold much sway over the cost of a wedding. “Even during the financial crisis of 2008, the cost of weddings did not go down. It’s because Japanese people consider a wedding to be Continue reading

Esperanto: The Phoenix of all Languages

Esperanto, a language developed in the late 1800s by an ophthalmologist in the former Russian Empire, is spoken today by roughly one-million people worldwide.  Hailed by many as the language of world peace and in fact created solely to foster harmony between nations and peoples with different language backgrounds, I find it a perfect fit into this blog–the underlying purpose of which is to connect people through language exploration.  However, Esperanto has no real home, so to speak, as there has yet to be any nation that accepts Esperanto as its official language.  You see, Esperanto has its problems (namely that the use of the Roman alphabet will undoubtedly alienate nations who use otherwise) but the existence and use of a single world language has an undeniable allure.  Unfortunately the ultimate question remains:  Will the birth of Esperanto as a means to world communication lead to the withering and eventual death of our mother tongue forever?

What is Esperanto?  What is the purpose, grammar, challenge, beauty, and future of this unique language?

“Ĝi estas lingvo tre taŭga por internacia komunikado.”
It’s a language that is particularly useful for international communication. Continue reading

Grafting & Language Etiquette

Grafting: Six Trees to One "Basket"
Grafting: Six Trees to One “Basket”

When native English speakers learn Japanese, they learn the word for “I” and “You”.  In Japan it is uncommon to use “You” but native English speakers use it regularly–in English–and are therefore very likely to use it regularly when speaking Japanese (due to the perpetuation of the habit or simply ignorance of the language etiquette of Japan) As a result, the use of the 2nd person pronoun begins to be absorbed by the Japanese people into the Japanese language.  Soon the usage of “You” will be just as common in Japanese as in English

Similarly in Korea where different levels of respectful language govern the manner of speech in each specific situation (mother-daughter, boss-employee, neighbor-golfing partner, etc.), native-English speakers are likely to carry over their pre-established rules of language etiquette.  Native-English speakers are likely to try to show respect based on the choice of words rather than recognize the importance of the verb ending 요(YO) in Korean speech etiquette.  As a result, Western speech etiquette may become absorbed by the Korean language and respectful verb-endings may become a thing of the past.

It is another case of the classic language vs. culture question: How deep is their connection; and can language be separated from culture, at all? Continue reading

Evolution of Language

Language has taken many forms around the world (roughly 5000 forms would actually be a low estimate).  Here, in this blog, we only will dip into four languages: English, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.  Of these four, each in very many ways is similar to the other.  However, the English-Spanish and Korean-Japanese pairs are especially similar.  English is especially similar to Spanish as Korean is especially similar to Japanese.  Grammatically bound by similar rules, containing similar signs of respect within the language, and even words that sounds similar or almost identical are some of the examples of ways that these language pairs are the same. But why? How is it that these languages share these similarities?

Norse Text

A sample of Norse text

Take any language and trace it back.  Discover the meaning and origin behind the words in one language and you will undoubtedly begin to learn a new language.  For none of the most widely spoken languages these days were simply born out of nothing, they evolved.  They were or rather are the elegant product of generations of change taking place as one culture and its people mixed with another culture and its people.  Take for example the romance languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, and Catalan to name a few (there are apparently 47 types of romance languages).   These languages can all trace their origins to one single language: Latin.  That is to say that from one single, established, and by many thinkers standards’ perfect language came 47 entirely different and equally beautiful languages.  To think that today even the language from which all the romance languages evolved from is spoken now by only very few is another mystery in itself:  Why was there any need to create new and different languages when the first did the job just fine?

The simple answer is…well, the first language did not do the job just fine.  Culture and counterculture, most likely, was the driver and catalyst for change in language.  It is human nature to change what was established (as much as we desire stability and ritual).  We will take something and make it “better” even if it only looks better but performs the exact same function.  Every language performs the exact same function: communication.  That’s all there is to it(?)  Why one language developed letters like “Aa, Bb, and Cc” while another developed into “あ, ぶ, and す” is another question for another week entirely but is still worth pondering here.  Even despite commonalities and a single originating language we have arrived at languages that share almost nothing in common with each other except for their basic function.  It’s incredible really and  I am constantly baffled by it.

English on its very own is a crazy mix of languages, cultures, and the effect of time.  Listen to this:  The English language consists of 26 letters but 44 phonemes! (phonemes are distinct sounds that are made in spoken language)  That means that there are 18 sounds that English speakers make but are not even accounted for in the written part of the language! Similarly, the letter “c” in the words “cat”, “watch”, and “face” for example is written the same but pronounced quite differently.  Vowels as well are irregular.  In other languages like Spanish, Thai, or Japanese on the other hand, a vowel is pronounced the same no matter where it is in the word, no matter what letter it is next to. Continue reading