You Say Romanji

You Say RomanjiOne of us has been worried about romanji (also spelled romaji) this week. To misparaphrase The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, romanji is similar to, but not quite like, English. If romanji were submitted to a duck test, it would look like a duck and walk like a duck…but not talk like a duck.

At the risk of oversimplfying the matter, romanji is the Western characterization of kanji and kana symbols. If you can read a little romanji, you can, for example, order a chicken sandwich in a restaurant (provided, of course, that the menu has romanji characters; if not, plastic food will be your best friend forever).

The problem the Western speaker faces is that you know full well how “chicken sandwich” should be pronounced, but the person on the other side of the counter at your local Tokyo Kentucky Fried Chicken doesn’t hear the words the way you do. You still need to apply the correct pronunciation to the Japanese character set. It’s not complex, until you’re jet-lagged and cranky and just wanting to order a cup of coffee.

Simple communications are made complex by pronunciation errors. We have decided that it is best to stop worrying and learn to love the correct pronunciation. Once you know the correct sounds to apply, then you can translate those sounds into more familiar words. It will soon become easy.