Learning Japanese? Beware these 19 loan words—they’re not what they sound like!

Speakers of certain languages sometimes get a leg-up when learning Japanese. For example, Japanese includes Chinese characters, which means Chinese speakers can often get the gist of a text even if they don’t understand the grammar. Similarly, Korean speakers might find that Japanese grammar is kinda similar to theirs. And we native English speakers get a huge helping hand from the hundreds of English loan words that have been adopted into modern Japanese.

But sometimes, these loan words aren’t really our friends at all. Instead, they’re what’s known as false friends – words that sound similar in two languages yet have a completely different meaning. In co-opting English words into Japanese, sometimes our crafty Nihonjin pals have assigned our words to things that actually mean something totally different. It’s almost like they’re trying to trick us!

Join us for a quick primer on some Japanese loanwords you might have heard before, and what they really mean!

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Testing English “loan words” on people who don’t speak Japanese (Spoiler: they don’t make sense)

YouTuber and full-time Japan fan Sharla is back this week with a brand new video. After bringing us exploding condom ice cream and giving us a peek inside one of Japan’s typical love hotels, she’s currently back in her native Canada and just for kicks decided to try out a few English loan words that appear in the Japanese language on her non-Japanese-speaking friend.

As we’re about to see, despite the majority of these words originally coming from English, once pumped through the Japanese lexicon and read back to a native English speaker they make almost zero sense. The full, laugh-out-loud video after the jump.

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