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Thread: JAPANESE Culture & Language Help

  1. #41
    Inverarity
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magik 13
    -Sensai used as a title for teachers/professors
    It's spelled sensei. (Actually, it's spelled せんせい, but "sensei" is the correct Romanized transcription.)

    Although your notes on honorifics are essentially correct, I'd like to make a comment about Japanese honorifics and the use thereof in fan fiction, largely gleaned from manga and anime. Actually, it's a comment about using "foreign" words in English-translated dialog in general, but it's particularly endemic to Japanese-to-English dialog.

    Writers love "fanboy Japanese" because it sounds so cool and... Japanese. The problem is, unless you are really knowledgeable about Japanese culture (and reading manga does not count), you're going to get it wrong. Especially if you try to pepper your dialog with "-kun" and "-san" and "-sama" and "-chan," etc.

    Yes, Japanese people, when speaking Japanese, use these suffixes in addressing one another. If you are writing dialog in English, however, even if the characters are actually supposed to be speaking Japanese, I would strongly suggest you drop the honorifics and write "normal" English dialog.

    If you write:

    "Good morning, Professor Snape," Jin greeted him in Japanese.
    then we can assume that Jin actually used the correct Japanese title. Maybe what he actually said was "Snape-sensei," or maybe he said "Snape-sama," or maybe he used any one of a dozen other titles of respect used for teachers/mentors, many of which most gaijin have never heard of. The point is, it would have the same significance in Japanese as calling him "Professor Snape" in English. You aren't actually writing the dialog in Japanese, and you're not trying to translate all the slang and idioms you're writing in English, even though the characters would actually be using the Japanese equivalent of those idioms, so there's no need to include the Japanese titles in the dialog either.

    Japanese rules of etiquette are very complex and difficult for foreigners to grasp -- there are subtleties in modes of address that you're not going to get even if you've taken a few semesters of Japanese and are sort of able to understand it. Nothing screams "clueless fanboy" more than having your characters address each other (inappropriately) as "-chan" or some other diminutive or honorific you got from a manga or Google.

    The only place where it's really appropriate to include these words is if the characters are actually speaking English, but deliberately add a Japanese word, like if a Japanese student said (in English): "Good morning, Snape-sensei." (And that would still sound like clueless fanboy dialog, because if the student has learned enough English to say "Good morning," he's probably learned how to use "Mr." or "Professor" or "Sir.") Yeah, sometimes characters might stick a "chan" or "sensei" into their conversation for effect, but generally, not. I've known quite a few Japanese people, and almost never do they use Japanese honorifics when speaking in English (especially to non-Japanese), unless they are being deliberately ironic or making a joke.

    Likewise, if your dialog is in Japanese, you might include the honorific by way of emphasizing its significance, e.g.,

    "Good morning, Snape-sama," the Japanese Second Assistant Undersecretary of Foreign Magical Affairs greeted him, with a deep, respectful bow. Apparently his superiors had informed him of just who this ugly, greasy-haired gaijin represented...
    But otherwise, I would recommend just leaving the fanboy Japanese out of your story.

    (Note, incidentally, that I do not claim to be completely immune to this syndrome myself. I've occasionally used "foreign" words for effect in my stories, and while I try to research their usage pretty thoroughly, I might not have always gotten it right.)

  2. #42
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    I have a late night request. I'm trying to find a wand to make for a character whi is from Japan, and many of these European woods really wouldn't work.

    What I need is a nice long list of Japanese trees. Also, any creatures that the Japanese might use for cores as well would be wonderful!

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  3. #43
    Inverarity
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    Google is your friend. (So is Wikipedia.)

    Cherry, Red Maple, and Willow are the ones that come immediately to mind as trees with cultural significance in Japan.

    There aren't a lot of canonical creatures native to Japan. Somehow a Kappa doesn't really seem like suitable wand fodder, though dragon heartstring would be appropriate.

    There are plenty of magical creatures in Japanese mythology, but you might consider some "mundane" creatures which also frequently have magical powers in Japanese myth. These include bears, badgers, foxes, sharks, turtles, and tigers. Japanese wandmaking techniques might be quite different from those of European wandmakers, so maybe they don't creatures that most wizards think of as magical.

  4. #44
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    Does anyone know that Japanese names for the classes at Hogwarts or know where I could find them? I recall a website where the names of various people and places were listed in other languages, but Japanese was not one of them.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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  5. #45
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    Wow, more than a year since anyone has posted on this thread! That means it's okay to double-post, right?

    How many schools for wizarding children do you think there are in Japan? I look a their population of 127,380,000, twice that of Britain, but then I also consider that traditional Japanese classrooms are quite a bit larger than those in Western countries. In Harry Potter, the classrooms had less than ten students for their single classes, and less than twenty for their double classes.

    Ratios lead us to think than, with Britain's fourty students in a grade, Japan would have eighty students in a grade.

    So what's the verdict: one school or two? Or are their cultural aspects that numbers do not show?

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  6. #46
    Virgil
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    Quote Originally Posted by OliveOil_Med
    So what's the verdict: one school or two? Or are their cultural aspects that numbers do not show?
    I would personally go with just one Japanese school. Hogwarts is actually quite small with its forty students per grade - my school has over four hundred and fifty per grade (but then again, it's not a boarding school). This Japanese school of magic could simply be larger than Hogwarts, or maybe there are separate buildings for a "Lower School" and an "Upper School."

    Unless, of course, rivalry between the two Japanese schools might add to your mastermind plot in some useful manner.

    I'm not an expert on Japanese culture, but that's my half-Knut.

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    Virgil

  7. #47
    Vampite
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    This isn't a question about the Japanese culture, as much as it is a question about writing the language.

    I'm writing a story with a Japanese at the moment, and while she'll usually speak in English, I plan on having her speak a bit of Japanese, mostly for those "Oh, you can speak Japanese? That's so cool! Say something!" questions by her friends.

    So how do you think I should write it? In kanji or romaji? I'm leaning towards romaji, because I don't have a Japanese keyboard and frankly it would be a lot easier to read and to type for me, and it would show up on everyone's computers. But kanji looks more authentic to me. So, thoughts?

    (for those who don't know, kanji is Japanese symbols (example ガ) and romaji is roman letters, as in the ones this message is written in)

  8. #48
    Seventh Year Hufflepuff
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    Well... how important is it for your readers to be able to read it? Very few (if any) of us will be able to read the kanji; however, there's a way around that.

    If you're only planning on having say one or two phrases in the entire story, you could have the conversation go as follows.

    Friend: Say something in Japanese!
    Japanese Girl: Uhh... ok. (kanji kanji)
    Friend: (horrible mispronounciation)
    Japanese Girl: No, it's more like (fixes pronounciation).
    Friend: Ok, what does that mean?
    Japanese Girl: It means (whatever it means).

    Then you have the kanji, and us non-Japanese get the pronounciation and we get the meaning.

    Really though, unless you've really studied Japanese I would have to advise against throwing in the language randomly, particularly kanji. As I recall, the same characters can be pronounced differently and the last thing you want is for something to end up translated completely wrong.
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  9. #49
    Inverarity
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vampite
    (for those who don't know, kanji is Japanese symbols (example ガ) and romaji is roman letters, as in the ones this message is written in)
    That's not kanji, that's katakana. Since you don't even know the basics of Japanese scripts, and since most people can't read them (and their browsers may not even display them correctly), I'd strongly recommend against trying to render words in a non-Latin alphabet.

  10. #50
    Wizengamot Ravenclaw
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    Invararity's right about kanji. The Japanese language uses three different alphabets, as a whole, refered to as kana. The first alphabet is Hiragana, which is different characters representing different sounds (ko, cho, do, go). The second alphabet is katakana, which is the same concept, but used for foreign words (western names are spelled using this alphabet). Then there is kanji, characters representing whole words, based on the Chinese writing system.It is mainly used to japanes for nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

    Then there is also romanji, which is the same Latin letters we use.

    And also like Invararity said, I would recommend only using romanji in your posts from now on, and probably a lot of your writing too. I know it reminds us we are reading about someone from another country, but other than that, it really doesn't do anything for the reader. Most of us don't know how to read in Japanese, and in terms of literacy, the Japanese alphabet is as good as scribbles to us.

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