Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week 2: Exploration of Magazines

By Jun and Carolynn

This week, we decided to look for engrish and the usage of katakana in magazines. We read various magazines, such as fashion, entertainment and English magazines. We felt that the magazines tend to use katakana to express things. We saw that it was mostly fashion magazines that used katakana. We wondered why those magazines prefer Katakana to Kanji. We didn't believe that it is because the Katakana is easy to write because the magazines are printed and not hand written. Therefore, we felt that there should be some other reasons for the use of Katakana in place of Kanji. In addition, we also found some engrish in the magazines we looked at. The following paragraphs will provide an explanation of our thoughts and discoveries.

The first magazine we read is called, “Real Design”, which focuses on interior design for offices and information about office supplies. This magazine is targeted toward office people. We believe that this magazine provides monthly updates on the latest products and designs. There are many terms written in Katakana.

For example, the organic cotton is written as “オーガニックコットン”, but there are kanji that can be used for this term, “有機綿 (ゆうきめん)”. We thought that the cotton is similar to soy milk, because the kanji “有機” can be used to describe organic soy milk, and we wondered why these two Kanji cannot be used for the words “organic cotton”.

The people who read this magazine want to be technology savvy, or professional in the topic of office design and are looking for the latest information. Sometimes, the term is from English and has not been translated into Japanese (Kanji), so the katakana will be used to translate from English phonetically into Katakana. As a result, the magazine tends to use a lot of Katakana.

The second magazine is “オリスタOnly star”, which focuses on celebrities, dramas, and movies. This magazine is targeting toward the young people who are interested in the entertainment market.

Those young people do not use Kanji very often and they feel that it is more convenient to use Katakana. They usually type in Katakana when they are sending email to their friends because they feel it is cool to use Katakana. They think that Katakana is closer to English, and they feel they are trendy when using English. Those people are more inclined to understand the English meaning of the Katakana. Therefore, the magazine will use more Katakana in order to attract those young readers.

For example, they use “アートレス”as artist , while they do not use “歌手” which has the same meaning. They even change the hiragana word into katakana, such as “カッコイイ” instead of “かっこいい”. In order to attract the young readers’ attention, katakana is also added after the Kanji words, so those people can better understand the katakana. For instance, in the term “ 厳選(げんせん)ピック”, 厳選(げんせん)means “top-pick”, but they also add ピック(pick) after. We felt that because the kanji term is difficult to understand for young people, katakana is more attractive and easier to read.

The third magazine is called “Hanako”. This magazine is about the beauty and health for women.

The ladies who are concerned about their health, beauty, life quality, and lifestyle are the major readers for this magazine. Those ladies are well educated and are interested in the most recent information about those topics, which is the same as the first magazine’s readers. Therefore, Hanako magazine is more likely to have a lot terms written in Katakana, so those intelligent ladies can understand more easily than other people. The magazine is probably providing those ladies the feeling that they are in higher level of knowledge about those certain topics. For example, they use “ミネラルコスメ”, which means mineral cosmetics, instead of using Kanji, “鉱物(こうぶつ)” for mineral, and “化粧品” (けしょうひん) for cosmetics.

In addition, they use “ソング” (song) alternatively to “歌”, and use “フット” instead of “あし”.

On the other hand, we found some engrish in the magazine, “Aera English”, which teaches Japanese people English.

For example, “The grass is always greener” is odd because it omits some words from the phrase. It is supposed to be “The grass is always greener on the other side”.

According to the Japanese term, the word “隣” is not translated into English. We believe that it is easier to have shorter sentences for Japanese people learning English, because they can easily remember short phrases. In addition, we think that when the lines in an English movie were translated into Japanese, it lost its feeling and some of its implications.

For example, when the hero says,“People are dying out there. I wanna know why”, he is panicking, nervous, or anxious. However, after it is translated into Japanese, there are more words and longer sentences, so it becomes difficult to express the original feeling.

Also, in this article which talks about a wind bell, there is a sentence which is hard to understand and a little bit awkward.
We were surprised that even in the magazine about English there are some Engrish. As a result, Japanese people would learn incorrect English which brings more Engrish.

In conclusion, these magazines represent the current culture and life in Japan, and they have the latest Japanese language. Therefore, it is a good source to use for our Engrish research. After this week’s research, we concluded that more and more Japanese people prefer katakana to Kanji or Hiragana, so in order to meet their needs, those magazines try to use Katakana more often. In addition, Japanese people are more interested in English, so Katakana plays an important role in Japanese language. Even the magazine that tries to teach English to Japanese people has some misleading English phrases. 

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