Engrish.com gets questions all the time about the content of the site. This FAQ was produced in order to address the questions of those not familiar with the Engrish phenomenon.
Concerning the Engrish Phenomenon:
1. What is Engrish?
2. Is Engrish found only in Japan?
3. Why do the Japanese try to use so much English if they can’t do it right?
4. Why can’t they get it right? Don’t Japanese study the English language?
5. Why don’t the Japanese check their English beforehand?
6. Is Engrish real? Those photos are doctored in Photoshop, aren’t they?
7. What are common Engrish mistakes?
8. Are these products on your site targeting Japanese people or westerners living in Japan?
9. Where does the word “Engrish” come from? Are there other words to describe it?
Concerning the Engrish.com Website:
10. When did you start Engrish.com?
11. I saw some of the same pictures from your site on another Engrish copycat site. Who stole from whom?
12. I would like to use some of the pictures on Engrish.com on my blog/site – would you mind?
13. Why don’t you make a site showing examples of Americans using funny Japanese or Chinese characters – such as on tattoos or t-shirts?
14. Your site disgusts me. How can you make fun of others like that? They are only trying their best to use English as a second language.
15. Sure, you make fun of the Japanese, but do you speak their language (or any language other than English)?
16. Why don’t you have information about the most famous Engrish of all – “All Your Base are Belong to Us” video game?
17. Where/how can I submit pictures?
18. Where can I buy some of your Engrish products? I searched everywhere on the net, including Ebay, but cannot find anything!
19. I submitted some Engrish to you a while back but it hasn’t made the site yet- why not?
20. Can I link to Engrish.com?
21. Can we exchange links?
22. I don’t like your commentary – can you take it off the site please?
23. You update every day – will you ever run out of funny Engrish?
Concerning the Engrish Phenomenon:
Q. What is Engrish?
A. Engrish can be simply defined as the humorous English mistakes that appear in Japanese advertising and product design.
Q. Is Engrish found only in Japan?
A. No, Engrish can be found all over the world, but the vast majority of the really funny and creative Engrish is from Japan. The webmaster has seen many examples of Engrish from around the world, but most are not fit for Engrish.com (ie – they are not funny enough). People are invited to send in Engrish from other countries (including the US) – if some really good examples come in, Engrish.com will be happy to post them.
Q. Why do the Japanese try to use so much English if they can’t do it right?
A. Most of the Engrish found on Engrish.com is not an attempt to communicate – English is used as a design element in Japanese products and advertising to give them a modern look and feel (or just to “look cool”). There is often no attempt to try to get it right, nor do the vast majority of the Japanese population (= consumers) ever attempt to read the English design element in question (the girl wearing the “Spread Beaver” shirt for example, had no idea what it said until a foreigner pointed it out to her). There is therefore less emphasis on spell checking and grammatical accuracy (note: the same can be said for the addition of Japanese or Chinese characters to hats, shirts and tattoos found in the US or Europe).
Quite often it is easier to come up with English names than Japanese for a particular product. New products are brought to the marketplace in Japan more than anywhere else in the world and Japanese words and slogans quickly get used up. Japanese graphic designers will often tell you that English is widespread because the Japanese writing script (or scripts) limits their creativity – there are only so many ways to display their language, and only so many different types of fonts to use.
That said, in most instances Japanese companies do get it right and quite often consult a native English speaker for corrections.
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Q. Why can’t they get it right? Don’t Japanese study the English language?
A. The Japanese educational system is one of the best in the world – one of the primary reasons Japan was able build the world’s second largest economy. It is not a perfect system, however – although most Japanese study English for anywhere from 6 to 10 years as a second language, they get little practical use since there are not enough native English speakers to practice with. The fact that the grammatical structure of the two languages is quite different does not help. The Japanese language also does not contain many sounds that you find in English (see below for specific examples).
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Q. Why don’t the Japanese check their English before putting them out into the world?
A. As stated above, many companies DO check their English before placing them on products, within advertising, etc.(these companies get it right). There are just many companies/individuals that either do not care to do so (again, in such cases English is used as facet of design more than a way to communicate), or do not have the resources to check their English – although there are many more native English speakers living in Japan now, they still comprise a very small portion of the overall population.
Q. Is Engrish real? Those photos are doctored in Photoshop, aren’t they?
A. The Engrish contained in the pages of Engrish.com are real and true examples of flawed English. Engrish.com has not touched any of the photos in any way (to enhance their humor or otherwise), except to lower their resolution and to add “www.engrish.com”. The webmaster personally took many of the photos found on the site and can assure you that they are genuine.
If there has been any such editing, it was done by those that forwarded Engrish.com their samples. Engrish.com scrutinizes all photos as much as possible before posting them, but we cannot rule out the possibility (however slight) that they are not genuine. If anyone can prove that a photo that Engrish.com has received from others is not real then it will be immediately removed from the site (or put into a special “fake Engrish” section).
The photo below (“Fuk Mi”) is an example of tampering and was sent to Engrish.com many times. The original name of the restaurant is actually Fu Kim. Although it goes without saying, this picture will never make “Engrish of the Week”.
(Famous Fake Engrish)
A note regarding “fuzzy” pixelation surrounding “suspicious” text: When scaling down the resolution of files for optimal use on the web, particles or ‘fuzzy stuff’ surrounding text with high contrast becomes quite noticeable. This is a natural and common occurrence that happens with real text in actual photographs when lowering their resolution as the pixels migrate to their surroundings.
Q. What are common Engrish mistakes?
A. Regarding the Japanese use of English, common mistakes are most often attributed to the vast differences in their phonetic and grammatical structures as well as how the languages are used.
The most common mistakes due to phonetic differences are as follows:
1. The inability to differentiate between “R” and “L” (the Japanese “R” being closer to the Spanish “R” with a trill sound); samples found within Engrish.com include “Eric Crapton”and the word “Engrish” itself. Other famous examples include the misuse of the word “erection” (instead of “election”).
2. The pronunciation “shi” (or “shee”) vs. “see”. Common mistakes found are variations on “shit” vs. “sit” – there have been a number of reported sightings of “baby-shitter” in place of “baby-sitter”, and you can find one instance of “shituation” in place of “situation” within Engrish.com.
3. Lack of “th” or “v” sounds in Japanese – “th” is often replaced with an “s” sound, while “b” is most often substituted for “v”.
4. The Japanese inability to pronounce various vowel sounds found in the English language. The Japanese language contains only 5 basic vowel sounds: “a” as in “ah”, “i” as in “eee”, “u” pronounced like “ooo”, “e” pronounced like “eh”, and “o” pronounced like “oh”. Such confusion in vowel sounds can lead to examples like “fack you!” in place of “f*ck you”, etc.
Grammatical mistakes vary but there are a few common errors that English teachers in Japan see on a daily basis:
1. Using a noun as a verb with “Let’s” as in: “Let’s beer” or “Let’s Kiosk”
2. Redundant wording such as: “Let’s play with me!”
3. Dispense with connecting words. Example: “I feel Coke”
You must be thoroughly bored by now…. no more examples
Q: Are these products on your site targeting Japanese people or westerners living in Japan?
A: Most of the products you see on Engrish.com are targeting Japanese people in Japan.
Q. Where does the word “Engrish” come from? Are there other words to describe Japanese Engrish?
A. The webmaster of Engrish.com came up with the term “Engrish” to describe flawed English found in Japan and other countries. The most popular alternative word used to describe the phenomenon of Japanese English is “Japlish”. Other terms sent in to Engrish.com include: Janglish, Engelese (or Engalese), Englese, Japanglish, Jinglish and Nihonglish.
Concerning the Engrish.com Website:
Q. When did you start Engrish.com?
A. The website was formed in 1996 and was hosted at various servers including lumine.net. Engrish.com was formally registered in 1999.
Q. I saw some of the same pictures from your site on a copycat site. Who stole from whom?
A. Engrish.com uses only original samples of Engrish either sent in by individuals for use on Engrish.com or collected personally by the webmaster. There are Engrish “copycat” sites out on the internet that have taken content directly from Engrish.com without the approval of the site’s content administrator (some have gone as far as replacing the “www.engrish.com” mark with their own!). Unlike these sites, Engrish.com will never knowingly take any content from another Engrish-themed website.
Q. I would like to use some of the pictures on Engrish.com on my blog / website – would you mind?
A. Engrish.com doesn’t mind if you post a few photos here and there on your blog as long as we receive credit of some kind and a link back to us (please keep the “www.engrish.com” watermark intact).
Engrish.com does object to you creating a whole new “Engrish” themed website using material from Engrish.com however.
Q: Why don’t you showcase examples of Americans/Europeans using funny Japanese or Chinese characters – such as on tattoos or t-shirts?
A: If you do have any funny examples of mistaken Japanese or Chinese used by a westerner, please send them in – I would love to showcase them on the Brog! Otherwise the best place to find the “reverse of Engrish” would be to go over to Hanzismatter and check out their collection of tattoos and clothing filled with mistaken Chinese/Japanese.
Q. Your site disgusts me. How can you make fun of others like that? They are only trying their best to use English as a second language.
A. Please remember that the point of Engrish.com is to have fun with the Engrish phenomenon, not to make fun of (criticize/mock/ridicule) the people who made it. The webmaster has taken great pains not to point out the faults of others or have a discriminatory tone – just to have fun with the results. Engrish.com does its best to stay away from any type of “ha ha – these guys are idiots” lines or insinuations. You will also find that the vast majority of the English examples on Engrish.com were produced by companies – not individuals and that most of the Engrish found within the site is not an attempt to communicate, but are examples of English being used as a design element.
At any rate, if anyone can point out anything in the site that is blatantly racist or otherwise uncool (and Engrish.com agrees with you), we will happily change the content of the site.
Q. Sure, you make fun of the Japanese, but do you speak their language (or any language)?
A. The webmaster of Engrish.com lived in Japan for ten years – three of which were spent as a student learning the language, and the other seven working for companies in various positions (none involved English teaching) which required that he speak, read and write Japanese 80-100% of the time. The webmaster can therefore say with confidence that he is fluent in Japanese, but is by no means a ‘native’ speaker.
Q. Why don’t you have information about the most famous Engrish of all – “All Your Base are Belong to Us” video game?
A. I never thought it was that funny – plus there is enough coverage of that game as is.
Q. Where/how can I submit pictures?
A. Please go here for information on how to submit Engrish photos.
Q. Where can I buy some of your Engrish products? I searched everywhere on the net, including Ebay, but cannot find anything!
A. Engrish.com started selling Engrish products back in November 1, 2002. Original t-shirts and other Engrish-based merchandise are now available for purchase in all native English speaking countries. Check the link at the top of this page.
Q. I submitted some Engrish to you a while back but it hasn’t made the site yet? Why not?
A. There are two basic hurdles to your Engrish submission making the site: #1. So much Engrish – Engrish.com receives quite a bit of Engrish every day and the number of Engrish photos in our archives is reaching staggering proportions. Your Engrish could be waiting in line right now. #2. Humor factor – Engrish.com sorts through the multitude of Engrish to look for only the funniest examples (determined by the webmaster) for inclusion on the site. If your Engrish is not that funny, it may never make the site – sorry.
Q. Can I link to Engrish.com?
A. By all means, spread the word! You don’t have to ask.
Q. Can we exchange links?
A. Engrish.com only links to sites containing original Engrish or related content. If your site does not fit this description, I am sorry – no.
Q. I don’t like your commentary – can you take it off the site please?
A. I realize that my commentary is not for everyone, but a clear majority of the people who write in seem to enjoy it. The commentary will stay, so I would suggest that you ignore it as best you can.
Q. You update every day – will you ever run out of funny Engrish?
A. Rest assured – Engrish.com keeps an archive of enough funny Engrish examples to last many years. There are many new examples sent in every day, so I do not anticipate a shortage.