Blog 004. (English version)
Soon it will have been 22 years since I moved into London.
Since my English has reached a certain level that enables me to lead everyday life without major problems here in England,
the habit of spending some amount of time a day for studying English as language had faded at some point without realising.
(apart from occasional check when you bump into new vocabularies.)
However, while I was teaching my kids Japanese, there was a very interesting discovery, which could be a good hint for the Japanese to learn English pronunciation…
In addition, I have started writing blog post since the beginning of 2021,
and somehow I decided to write the same content in English as well…
Therefore, I thought it looked like a good opportunity for me to revise my English as well as taking it further to somewhere else.
So, here I am going to write a series of blog post about English language.
And I named it…
“english juice” (Eigo-jiru)
(or I should have named it “englsih gravy” ?…)
I am going to write about my personal view or discovery of English-related matter, as well as sharing my knowledge which could be useful for English learners.
Well, hopefully this will last long…
British English vs American English
While I live in England, I occasionally see people who say that they are not fond of American English.
Well, if you were born or have lived in one place for a while,
I presume what you are normally dealing with will become your standard,
and some kind of local folk guts will be built in your head without noticing?
In my case, I don’t really care about the difference between British English and American English,
however I am a bit allergic to some particular area of American accent, to be honest.
(oops, hope I am not making any enemies…)
Anyway, they are the sound of to and er, or ter and tor.
The bold part of Water, Elevator, Calculator, and Tomato.
For instance, “Water” is pronounced as
ˈwɔːtə in Britain.
or you often hear youngsters pronouncing it without “T”
However, with American accent it is pronounced as
When I hear people (usually men) wearing suits and saying “See you later, alligator!” with American accent, my brain starts to melt…
That flap T sound between two vowels plus finishing with very strong R gives me an impression of
…something very commanding.
…and it makes me feel like
as if I had been shot with tranquilizing gun…
I don’t know the cause of this… it’s something I cannot explain…
Actually, it doesn’t really bother me when I hear the accent with female’s voice, (or musicians singing),
but as soon as I hear the accent (typically male reporter) in some news program, in some movies, or politician giving a speech, I swiftly skip the channel.
(I can’t wear polyester shirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrts!!!)
Again, it’s something I cannot explain…
Anyway, this subject will lead us to nowhere,
so let me feature some examples of well-known differences between British English and American English here.
By the way, it’s good to learn the difference,
however, if you are planning to get a job which involves English conversation in the future,
it could be effective for you to choose and learn one of the vocabularies that will suit your future circumstances.
aubergine🇬🇧 eggplant🇺🇸 courgette🇬🇧 zucchini🇺🇸
rubber🇬🇧 eraser🇺🇸 post code🇬🇧 zip code 🇺🇸
off-license🇬🇧 liquor store🇺🇸 autumn🇬🇧 fall🇺🇸
lift🇬🇧 elevator 🇺🇸 trainers🇬🇧 sneakers🇺🇸
bank holiday🇬🇧 public holiday🇺🇸 football🇬🇧 soccer🇺🇸
I don’t know how things work in America, but I have never heard people using the word “eggplant” in England.
It’s called “aubergine” over here.
The word “zucchini” is also used in Japan with “Katakana”, but not in England.
People use the word “courgette” instead.
And as for the word “soccer” which is also familiar sound for Japanese people, is not used here in England.
The sport which represent the country is called “Football”.
crisps🇬🇧 potato chips🇺🇸 chips🇬🇧 French fries🇺🇸
These two could be confusing for we Japanese or Americans who visit England for the first time …and it might take some time to get used to…
flat🇬🇧 apartment🇺🇸 wardrobe🇬🇧 closet🇺🇸
wage🇬🇧 salary🇺🇸 trousers🇬🇧 pants🇺🇸
tube🇬🇧 subway🇺🇸 takeaway🇬🇧 takeout🇺🇸
queue🇬🇧 line🇺🇸 luggage🇬🇧 baggage 🇺🇸
pharmacy🇬🇧 drugstore🇺🇸 petrol🇬🇧 gas🇺🇸
bloke🇬🇧 guy🇺🇸 shopassistant🇬🇧 salesclerk🇺🇸
As I am listing all these words, I’ve found all Katakana words derive from American English.
I have never heard the words such as “takeaway”, “petrol”, “tube” and “wage”, while I was in Japan.
aeroplane🇬🇧 airplane🇺🇸 motorway🇬🇧 highway🇺🇸
note🇬🇧 bill🇺🇸 primary school🇬🇧 elementary school🇺🇸
post🇬🇧 mail🇺🇸 high street🇬🇧 main street 🇺🇸
holiday🇬🇧 vacation🇺🇸 mobile phone🇬🇧 cell phone🇺🇸
motorbike🇬🇧 motorcycle🇺🇸 plaster🇬🇧 band-aid🇺🇸
rubbish🇬🇧 garbage/trash🇺🇸 biscuit🇬🇧 cookie🇺🇸
There must be lots more, but these are what I can come up with at the moment…
Oops, and one more thing…
ground floor🇬🇧 1st floor🇺🇸
I totally forgot about this…
In England, the ground level is regarded as “zero”, so the 2nd floor in America is equivalent to the 1st floor in England.
Britain / ground floor, 1st floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor…
America / 1st floor, 2nd floor, 3rd floor, 4th floor
Japanese people’s “Katakana-English” pronunciation issue
Now, the trickiest part of learning English (or any other language) for we Japanese people must be “pronunciation”!!!
Besides, you don’t know where to start…
Back in my time of compulsory education in Japan, what I had experienced during my English class was all about learning grammar and comprehension,
such as transforming a sentence from the form of direct speech into the form of indirect speech,
or choosing the right preposition that will fit in with the sentence from a, b, c, or d…
But… I don’t recall learning about pronunciation which is a part of crucial elements for communicating with others at all, to be honest.
Thus, at the end of the day, I believe people usually start learning about “English conversation” individually, while they are in the university or after becoming a member of society.
And at this point, they are going to have to face with the “pronunciation”.
Regarding the best way to learn about English pronunciations,
cutting it short, I would say, “learn them by hearing”
And of course, you would say “I know that you idiot, but how???”
The problem of Japanese people’s English pronunciation is largely due to the existence of “Katakana”!
Nowadays, the usage of “Katakana” has been pretty much mixed up and is being used for anything,
but it was originally used to pronounce and write the things come from outside Japan … the loanwords,
and these loanwords’ original pronunciation were manipulated into the form of “Katakana pronunciation”.
phonetic symbol (keik) katakana pronunciation (ke:ki)
phonetic symbol (bʌkɪt) katakana pronunciation (baketsu)
phonetic symbol (θiːm) katakana pronunciation (te:ma)
phonetic symbol (laɪt) katakana pronunciation (raito)
We use these katakana pronunciations to speak English, hence the problem occurs.
“Now, Konkaz, would you like to read the following seven lines in the next paragraph?”
“Yes. Wansu apon a taimu, howen hiyuuman bi:ingu wazu… “
(Once upon a time, when human being was…”)
You had spent whole your compulsory education period reading or hearing your classmates reading English textbooks with katakana pronunciation…
So unfortunately, it has been glued to your brain…
So, first of all, you need to realise the fact that “Katakana” is fundamentally not appropriate medium to pronounce English language
and doubting the pronunciation of every single alphabet which you were once taught could be a good start point.
Well, I mentioned “learn them by hearing” earlier, so let’s just find and listen to native speaker saying “I don’t know” at some scenes in the movie, for example.
You will probably hear it as “ I don’t know”…
Now this time, concentrate on the word “don’t” , and listen to it 4-5 more times…
Don’t you think it sounds more like “dount” rather than just “don’t”?
Now, let’s check phonetic symbol of “don’t”.
The one underneath the word you normally see…
This is the important one you should care about!!!
However, in fact, I believe lots of us tend to neglect the phonetic symbols,
because we give so much focus to memorize the spelling of the words.
Isn’t it a bit of discovery to find out the word which you thought you had already known has turned out to be pronounced differently?
And there will be lots more to come out, if you look into them further!
So, let’s repeat the following procedure and modify our Katakana pronunciation one by one which have been glued to our heads for a long time!
Listening ➡︎ Suspecting ➡︎
Checking phonetic symbol ➡︎
Realising ➡︎ Practicing
As for the last part “Practicing”, I recommend you carrying out with the method of “Talk to yourself”.
This method is extremely rewarding, however if you do this in public, people will think that you are a mad person.
Thus, you better choose the time and the space…
For instance, do it while you are having a shower, etc.
(By the way, if you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, I have recently published a book called “You can develop your English conversation skill by talking to yourself” <written in Japanese>, so please have a look!)
Finally, up to this point, I have been mentioning about “pronunciation”, however…
I do not want pronunciation issue to become a hindering element for you to have a conversation in English.
The fact is that you will eventually see people from all over the world have their own country’s accent, when they speak English.
And English is now simply used as “international tool” to communicate with others.
So, the most important thing, at the end of the day, is to get your message across to the person you are talking to, and to understand the message of the person you are listening to.
Hence, don’t be too focusing on your pronunciation.
Let’s just drag your “Katakana English” around you and mend it as you go.
This will be a slow and long journey anyway…
Today’s Q …Cow or Cattle?
While I am writing blog post in English, questions (about grammar, idioms, general knowledge, and so on) often arise.
And obviously I need to sort them out in order to finish writing.
Well, I am going to feature one of these here.
This time, it is this…
Which vocabulary am I meant to be using for this?
But how about cattle?
Is it the one that we humans slaughter for our consuming purpose…?
Then, what about beef?
Is bull the one with the horn?
But ox had one too, I remember…
It went on like this in my head…
so I checked them out!
Cattle is… domesticated bovine animals as a group regardless of sex or age.
So, I guess this is the one we should use to describe the animal generally…
Cow is… a mature female of mammals of which male is called bull / female of domestic cattle.
I was right!
Bull is … an adult male cattle, and the one that is not castrated.
Ox is…. an adult castrated bull of the genus Bos.
… makes you sigh, innit!
There is also the one called Bullock … a young castrated bull
Calf is… a domestic young cattle. (under one month old)
Beef is… a cattle that are reared for their meet / the meat from an adult domestic bovine.
Veal is … the meat of young cattle (calves), as opposed to beef from older cattle.
Umm.. it looks like there are lots more, but I think these are good enough…
Anyway, thank you very much for reading till the end,
and let’s keep it up! 👍