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Don’t be fooled by Katakana!

Hey guys!

I hope everyone is staying safe during this pandemic. 


I really sympathize with students when it comes to learning English. It’s a difficult language! And what makes it even harder is all of the katakana English words that will throw you off. 


I noticed that my students will try to directly use katakana words during our lessons, and I always have to have the same conversation: 

“That word comes from English, but it doesn’t make sense in English!”


This happens most commonly when talking about clothes. 


洋服, or “western clothing”, is inherently an overseas import. It’s no wonder so many vocabulary for clothing is in katakana. But more often than not, it’s not correct English!


Here are the correct versions of katakana vocabulary:


トップス → We don’t really say “tops” in English. We usually specify, like sweaters or T-shirts!


ニーハイブーツ → This is where it gets confusing. ニーハイブーツ in English is actually “Thigh-high boots” because its a boot that is as “high” as the “thigh”. We do have knee-high boots, but they stop under the knee! So it’s a little different.



(Left are thigh-high boots, right are knee-high boots)


カチューシャ → I believe this comes from Russian! The proper English translation should be “hair band”.


アウター → My students always make this mistake! We never say “outer”, we say “jacket” or “coat”.


ウエストポーチ → If you say “waist pouch” any native speaker will understand, but the word you’re looking for is “fanny pack”! 


リュック → If you say “rucksack” in English, we will picture someone who is carrying a giant bag to go climb Mount Everest. If you’re thinking of the bag we use in our daily lives, then you should say “backpack” instead. 



(Left is rucksack, right is backpack)


ワンピース → We don’t really say “one-piece” in English unless you’re talking about the anime! We use the word “dress”. Depending on the occasion we will add an adjective: “party dress”, “cocktail dress”, “summer dress”.


ワイシャツ → For this, we just say “shirt”.


ストール → We won’t really understand if you say “stole”. You’ll have to say “scarf”!


シュシュ → This one is an onomatopoeia! In English we call this a “scrunchie”.


It can get really confusing because the katakana version will give the opposite impression of the English alternative. When Japanese people use バックパック for example, it has the same impression native speakers have when someone says “rucksack” where we picture someone carrying a large bag — It doesn’t really make sense, considering we say バックパッカー in Japanese!”  


I hope this make things clear for you! But at the end of the day, even if you use the katakana alternative, we will still understand. So don’t worry too much!


Published inNative Teachers

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