Quiet Mumblings

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ichigo is best!

Japanese is a fabulous language to learn - it takes a lot from Chinese, but also extends it with its own cultural identity. Learning a language as radically different to your own reminds me of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis of Linguistic Determinism, that thought is determined by language. Differences in the way sentences are structured and in the vocabularly that is available to you can make you act differently and sometimes even consider problems in a different way.

It is a big shame therefore that the influence of British imperialism, American media and Western globalisation have over the centuries affected so many languages such as Japanese by replacing old words and expressions with new English ones. My favourite example is the beautiful Japanese word ichigo (いちご or 苺), meaning strawberry. On Japanese drinks and yoghurt containers these days you will almost always find the word ストロベリー or sutoroberii, taken directly from the English word strawberry.

I'm sure some linguists will argue that this has been happening with language throughout history and that it is part of our ever changing world, but the power and influence that English-language culture has over the entire globe must be fairly unprecendented. I would sometimes love to be able to demonstrate to other nations around the world that countries like Britain and America are not the cool and wonderful places you see on your television screens and in your cinemas, but that they have problems like anywhere else, and they are as flawed as anywhere else. Then maybe more people in distant cultures will stop looking towards us, but start appreciating the finer aspects of their world vision that make them unique.

Diversity can only be a good thing IMHO.

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