Engrish…The Good, The Bad, And The Downright Hilarious

‘Engrish’ is the affectionate/hateful term used to describe the hybrid language that bridges the gap between English and Japanese here in Japan. In the Engrish language, the absence of ‘th’, ‘l’ and ‘v’ sounds means words like zese (these), rion (lion) and bideo (video) exist to confuse native English speakers. In addition, Engrish is teeming with bizarre sentences where verbs/nouns/adjectives etc can be found in any given order, on any given day of the week.

Engrish is the bane of my existence in Japan…it has infiltrated every part of Japanese society, from stationery, to clothing and billboard signage…and of course, the schools…

My school, Omiya Chugakko, is no exception. This was made abundantly clear today as I marked the 3rd Year English exams and fell into a pit of despair at the frequent appearance of Engrish. As it seems I am failing at teaching Japanese kids English, I thought I might try my hand at teaching you some Engrish…here are some examples I prepared earlier:

3rd Year
Masuda Sensei: ‘I have lived here since twenty-three’
Carla Sensei: ‘I have lived here since two thousand and three’
Students: ‘I have lived here since two thousand-three’

Semi Fail.

2nd Year
Carla Sensei: ‘This is my cat. We call her Abby.’
Omori Sensei: ‘What does she call it?’
Students: ‘She calls it Abby’


1st Year
Carla Sensei: ‘a-a-ant’
Kurosawa Sensei: ‘au’au’aunt’
Students: ‘au-au-aunt’

Epic Fail.

In these instances I take a deep breath and remind myself that my Japanese probably sounds infinitely worse than the kids’ English…those in glass houses right? In any case, as ALT’s we are rather powerless to correct our JTE’s and therefore have to grin and bare the situation in the Japanese way.

It’s not all bad though and sometimes the empire strikes back! Engrish makes for some very entertaining moments in class when it isn’t cringe worthy…

1st Year
Kurosawa Sensei: ‘Which dog is mine?’
Student (in Japanese): ‘When are we ever going to use a sentence like that?’

Semi win.

3rd Year Advanced English
Carla Sensei: ‘Lets talk about music. Sekine, do you play a musical instrument?’
Sekine: ‘Yes I do, I play guitar. Ijima, do you play an instrument?’
Ijima (comic genius, just tuning into the conversation): ‘I like curry rice!’
Everyone (including Carla Sensei): giggles.
Carla Sensei: ‘Ijima, do you like music?’
Ijima (high from the victory his previous joke): ‘I like curry rice!’


2nd Year
Carla Sensei: ‘Please write a question to ask the baseball player’
90% of Students: ‘How many balls do you have?

Epic Win.

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