Learn more “made-in-Japan-English” words to avoid confusion! Lesson 1

While English is one of the most common languages using around the globe, localization might bring new meaning to the same word. While you are very used to Japanese words such as sushi and ramen, Japanese had also developed a system of “wasei-eigo”, which refers to “made-in-Japan-English”. The loan word might look the same as it was in English, however, you might be embarrassed if you think it means the same thing in Japanese! This series will go through the most interesting and commonly used Japanglish phrases in different situations. Let’s take a look at all the essential vocabulary words you need when you are at a bar or restaurant.


1. Konbini コンビニ (Convenience store)

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Your all time favourite — the magical convenience store! The word “konbini” is the abbreviation of “convenience”. Popular convenience stores such as FamilyMart and Seven-Eleven have their own Japanglish names as well : “ファミンマ(Famima)” and “セブン(Sebun)”.


2. Famiresu ファミレス(family restaurant)

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The abbreviation of “family” and “restaurant”. It refers to the restaurants which provides both Japanese and western style all day menu, and kid-friendly service such as kid’s meal and kid’s chair. They are usually spacious and comfortable, and open until late night or 24 hours.


3. Take out/ teikuauto テイクアウト (take away/ to go)

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If you would like to have sushi to go, and you tell the waitress that you would like to take away, she probably would show you a big question mark on her face. The word “take out” in Japanese means to take away food or drink, but not to take a girl out to a date night.


4. Service/ sābisuサービス (free of charge)


If you heard a bartender saying “sābisu” while placing a glass of gin and tonic on your table, that is your lucky day! The word “service” in Japanglish does not refer to customer service, but a service that is free of charge. However, nowadays the word “service” may also be generally used on media to represent paid professional service. Do not hesitate to ask if you find it confusing.


5. Viking/ baikingu バイキング (buffet)

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There are all kinds of buffet in Japan, barbecue, hotpot, fried chicken, dessert…… everything you can imagine. However, you will have to know the right word to look for the right place. The Japanese use “viking” to represent buffet. Perhaps they think having all you can eat/ drink is as barbaric as pirates from Scandinavia.


6. Soft cream/ sofuto kurimu ソフトクリーム (ice cream)

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You might imagine hand cream or other product when you hear the word “soft cream”, yet it refers to “ice cream” in Japan. The word is originated from “soft served ice cream”, as it is frozen into cream at a relatively moderate temperature to create the soft and creamy texture. Meanwhile, the word “ice cream/ aisu kurimu ” (ice cream) or “aisu” (ice) refers to ice cream frozen and refrigerated at a relatively lower temperature.


7. Fried potato/ furaido poteto フライドポテト (French fries)

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Try ordering French fries at a fast-food shop or bar, the staff might not be able to understand unless you tell the correct word “furaido poteto”. Remember to pronounce the word in Japanese way if you want to get things right.


8. Vinyl bag/ biniru bukuro ビニル袋 (plastic bag)

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Vinyl bag is not the special desgined bag for your vintage vinyl record collection, it means plastic bag in Japanese. The word “biniru” is the Japanese pronunciation of vinyl while “fukuro/bukuro” means “bag” in Japanese. You will hear it a lot when shopping at convenience store or take away at restaurant.


9. Pet bottle/ petto botoru ペットボトル (plastic bottle)


What is the use of a “pet bottle”? Is it for keeping our pet inside? In fact, the word “pet” is the abbreviation of the recycling label polyethylene terephthalate, which is usually pronounce as “P-E-T”. Japanese put them together to one word and read as “pet” and create a only-in-Japan-English “pet bottle”.


10. Arbeit/ arubaito アルバイト (part-time job)

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You might often see the word “aruibaito” on the poster outside a restaurant. This is a hiring poster for part-time position, as the word “albeit” is a loan word from German, originally means work. The other vocabulary “part/pato” (パート) also refers to part-time job. The former word usually relates to part-time job for students and freelancers, while the latter refers to part-time work for housewives and seniors.