IMG_4428The standard of English-language in Japan is generally extremely poor (like most people from the North of England that I know). Most people do not speak English at all and those who do speak English and are brave enough to try to use it in communicative contexts often make many errors.

This post is a little collection of ‘English’ I’ve seen in Japan – and this collection does not consist of just some random (drunken) text messages that I have witnessed but public and/or commercial signs or products which someone must have approved.

(1) The bag at the top of this page. I don’t need to explain what is wrong with this wording, right? I don’t know what the message is the writer is trying to convey, who should buy the bag or for what purpose.

(2) Burglar alarm (below). Yes there’s nothing inherently wrong with the phrase ‘Burglar Alarm Button’, until you realise that you are staring at it while you sit on a public toilet. I’ve never heard of a burglar trying to break into a cubicle in a shopping centre and trying to do a runner with your… erm… pants.




(3)  I assume the definition of the word ‘stylish’ was not totally clear to the person who named this food establishment.



(4) The quality of this toilet paper wrapping was not satisfying.



(5) I had a wonderful time eating these crisps made from carefully selected methods.



(6) By ‘Special “kids'” lunch for adults’ they mean what people from Northern England would eat for  breakfast, lunch and dinner (or if you are Northern, breakfast, dinner and tea) which Japanese people, with slightly more sophisticated taste buds, fail to acknowledge as something an adult would choose to eat.



(7) Basic proof reading of this menu may have been useful. We were nearly put off from eating their delicious pancakes by the expectation of being fed bubble wrap.  Although I was encouraged by the fact they don’t use antiseptics in their pancakes.



(8) Can anyone tell me what the hell these people are trying to say? -I’m lost with this one.



(9) Am I the only one here who initially reads the first word of this brand to consist of six letters?



(10) V-for-B or B-for-V errors (and R-for-L and L-for-R errors, below) are probably the most common spelling error you’ll see in Japan. I’ve become so accustomed to these types of errors that I no longer bat an eye lid when someone produces a ban-for-van or erection-for-election error.

This elebator that apparently ‘does not stop’ is located in one of the poshest department stores in Osaka.



(11) I am not sure whether this hoodie should actually say ‘Crimb’ or whether it should say ‘Climb’ (R-for-L error) or ‘Crimp’ (B-for-P error).


These examples of grammar, spelling and ways to convey meaning are not isolated incidents – you see them everywhere in Japan.  As a non-native English speaker and as a linguist whose research focuses on language acquisition, I know language learning is difficult and that errors can be expected but I feel that before your crisp bag, toilet paper wrapping, menu, elevator or shop sign, emergency button, item of clothing or brand name goes into print, it might be useful to flash it at a native speaker for a thumbs up.

9 thoughts on “11 examples of ‘English’ you might find in Japan

  1. Pientä iloa ja hetken hyvämielistä naurua päivääsi. Ja nyt myös meidän, kiitos. Meillä tuli vastaan onsenissa kaksi: Ei valokuvia vessassa, (=bath rooms, oletan tarkoittavan bathing area, kylpylän puolella ja toinen, mikä kertoi altaiden olevan auki kello 25:00 asti.

  2. Hihihihihihhihiih! Mina taalla olen hihitellyt naita itsekseni ja lapset katselee etta onkohan mamilla nyt paa seonnut ihan lopullisesti. Kiitti! Oli aikasen hauska plajays. Enkunopettajana naa jaksaa aina ihmetyttaa ja naurattaa oikein todella!

    • Täällä englannin kielen taso on tosi huono – jopa englannin opettajilla :0 Noi ylläolevat jutut on varmaankin ‘tarkistanut’ tai jopa ‘kääntänyt’ joku paikallinen enkun ope! Aika järkkyä.

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