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5 Japanese Loan words from English that got a completely different Meaning

In Japanese, a lot of English loan words are used that have a rather different meaning than they originally had in English. These can sound misleading to an English speaker and especially when translating these you need to be very careful to avoid misunderstandings. Here we would like to show you a few examples of such false friends.

1. High tension ハイ テンション (Rōmaji: hai tenshon)

High tension is used to describe to mood of someone. A person who is “high tension” is not like the literal translation would suggest someone who is under tension or nervous. It means the opposite. Someone that is high tension in Japanese is in a very good mood. They are overly excited or in high spirits.

2. Pierce ピアス (Rōmaji: piasu)

For an English speaker, pierce would probably suggest a body piercing for example a piercing of the nose. The Japanese term ピアス, however, refers to regular pierced earrings. There also is the Japanese term イヤリング (Iyaringu) that is derived from the English word earring.  An English speaker could misunderstand it as referring to pierced earrings but イヤリング is used for earrings that can be clipped to the ear and do not require a hole. If you ever purchase earrings in Japan, you should be aware of this difference.

3. Talent タレント (Rōmaji: tarento)

For an English speaker タレント sounds like the English word talent. However, in Japanese it means “TV personality.” As these words are rather different in meaning a wrong translation could lead to misunderstandings. If a Japanese person asks you about your favorite タレント don’t make the mistake to talk about your own talents.

4. Diet ダイエット (Rōmaji: daietto)

In English diet, in general, refers to the foods you eat regularly, e.g., you can say “I am on a vegan diet”, to express that you only eat vegan foods. In Japanese, however, ダイエット is only used in the context of weight loss. As a side note the diet drink “diet coke” is called coke zero in Japan.

5. Image イメージ (Rōmaji: imēji)

In English, image can have several meanings; it can refer to a picture but also to the impression or mental image you have of something. The Japanese wordイメージ refers to the latter most of the time. In the context of digital image processing, it can refer to an image file. A phrase that you often see on Japanese product photos for food products is “写真はイメージです”, literally translated it would mean “The photo is an image”, which is somehow stating the obvious. What they are trying to say is that the photo is not equal to the actual product. A correct translation would be “The photo is a sample image.” or “The photo is for illustrative purposes only.”

Were you aware of these false friends? Have you had any misunderstandings because of such loan words before?

At transeuro we employ translators that are experts for translation from Japanese to English so you can rest assured that English load words will be translated correctly. If you are looking for a translation, please contact us through our contact form.

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