Monkey park

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Alexander Bazes sent in the following photograph of a sign taken at a monkey park in Arashiyama (western Kyoto), Japan:

Romanization: Osaru dake jya nai monkii paaku. Tokai ni inai tori ya shika mo sagashitemiyō

Translation on sign: The monkey park is not only a monkey. The bird and the deer also look for.

Better translation: There aren't just monkeys in the Monkey Park. Keep an eye out for birds and deer too!

Literal / awkward translation: [This] monkey park is not just [for] monkeys. Let's try to look also for birds and deer, which aren't in the city!

Readers of Language Log are familiar with Chinglish, but have been less exposed to Jinglish (also called Japlish, Janglish, or Engrish). My impression from travelling in the two countries is that Chinglish is much more pervasive in China than is Jinglish in Japan. While less prevalent than Chinglish, Jinglish has its own charm, of which this sign is a good instance. Moreover, it seems to me that Chinglish is often the result of people who really don't know much English at all simply relying on dictionaries and translation software, whereas Jinglish is generally the product of Japanese whimsy on the part of individuals who know a fair amount of English without being fully proficient in it, plus interference from Japanese grammar and syntax.

In any event, East Asia offers plentiful material for the study of more exotic varieties of English, and I shall continue to provide interesting examples as I discover them.


  1. phspaelti said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 2:27 am

    One nit-pick: 'jy' is not part of any known Romanization scheme. In Hepburn-type Romanization じゃ would be 'ja'.

  2. scav said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 4:14 am

    Interesting. Japanese has aru, iru and desu, English just has "is" for the copula and "there is" for "aru" and "iru" – possibly the right choice and construction of "there aren't only monkeys" wasn't obvious.

    And there I have plumbed the depths of my knowledge of Japanese. I would have guessed ja nai as the informal negative of aru rather than iru, making monkeys inanimate objects, but since the distinction doesn't exist in English, it wouldn't have made my attempt at translation any worse :)

  3. mollymooly said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 5:48 am

    I, and I suspect most anglophones, could work out the intended meaning from the supplied text and the context of the photo. The same is true for many instances of Xglish. The answer to the common question, "why didn't they hire a professional translator?" is often, "they know their translation is imperfect, but they expect/hope that most anglophones will make allowances and get the jist". An interesting question is how much success ESLs have in degarbling such Xglish.

  4. Nick Lamb said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 7:23 am

    Mollymooly, the difficulty is that without either a professional translator, or at least a fluent English user to check the work, there is a great risk something offensive, useless or outright dangerous will be communicated instead of what was intended.

    Also keep in mind that most of us reading LL are above-average when it comes to our ability to puzzle out the intended meaning of an utterance in English. I hesitate only briefly when considering whether I would enjoy "Rice and Fungus" from the local Chinese takeaway, but (this is a university city) a foreign student whose English is barely adequate to meet the generous admissions criteria may fall at this hurdle.

    It turns out none of the staff at the takeaway are native English speakers, they all immigrated as adults, interactions with customers are handled by the most proficient English speaker but she's not confident enough reading English to argue for a correction when the manager (who speaks almost no English at all) translates something badly in a new menu. For "Rice and Fungus" the worst case is that they miss out on a sale to someone who can't guess what that is. But when they write "Free order over £25" instead of "Free with orders over £25" of course this leads to pointless arguments with drunken customers.

  5. Faldone said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 8:34 am

    Several years ago a Japanese journalist at a nuclear power convention was quoted on NPR as saying, "Nuclear weapons are very much interested in Japan." My extremely limited knowledge of Japanese grammar led me to believe that the way he was translating from his native Japanese was roughly "Nuclear weapons (topic) there is very much interest in Japan." Or, "Concerning nuclear weapons there is very much interest in Japan."

  6. Mark Dunan said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 10:40 am

    I've been to this park! Arashiyama is one of my favorite parts of Kyoto. Make sure to try the yatsuhashi (cinnamon-like confection)-flavored soft ice cream!

    One more thing that I think is in the background with this sign is the fact that the name of the park, "Monkey Park", is just katakana-ized English. So a Japanese speaker is probably going to start out by thinking "Monkii paaku… saru no kouen," mentally translating these English words, which are reasonably well-known, into Japanese. This leads into the "response" from the park, which is that the monkii paaku doesn't just have saru (monkeys).

    Shifting gears for a moment, as a multi-year resident of Japan, I don't think I've ever heard the term "Jinglish" before — Japlish and Engrish, but never Jinglish.

    "Chinglish" for China makes sense as it captures the "Chin-" of China plus the "-nglish" of English, with the n doing double duty and the i too, phonetically. But "Jinglish" is basically just "English" with a J at the beginning. Wouldn't a word that better balances elements of "Japan" and "English", like "Japlish", sound better?

  7. mollymooly said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    @Nick Lamb: I agree with you; I was postulating the existence of an expectation/hope, but not endorsing it. The situation is a particular instance of a more general paradox: the little you know may often be enough, but in order to know this in any given instance, you need to know more than a little.

  8. Sissyphus said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

    Japlish sounds like a scandanavian dialect to me, for some reason. How about 'nipponglish'?

  9. Circe said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    "Re: nuclear-waepons-interetsted-in-Japan": I was recently registering for a conference in Japan. The registration server was going to have a down time at a later date, and I was reassuringly (and technically, correctly) notified that during this time "you will be inaccessible to the server."

  10. Rube said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

    "Japlish" sounds like something out of a John Wayne movie to me.

    "We need to get info from this prisoner! Anybody know any Japlish?"

  11. James Iry said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

    Or we can take the low road: Engrish.

  12. henry said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    The form ja nai is the informal negative of desu, the copula. The informal negative of aru is nai, of iru is inai.
    Japanese relativizes simply by preposing the relative clause to its head. So osaru dake ja nai 'It's not just monkeys" is acting as a relative clause to Monkey Park.

  13. David Eddyshaw said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 4:24 pm


    "ja nai" is the negative of "da", the plain-style copula (= polite "ja arimasen")
    The copula doesn't distinguish animate/inanimate, unlike the verbs expressing existence/location.

    The Japanese construction here isn't existential; rather it's an instance of the fact that the copula in Japanese is often used in a topic/comment construction.

    A corny example is that you could say in a restaurant

    僕は鰻だ boku wa unagi da

    to mean "As for me, it's the eel", though in an appropriate context (!) it could indeed mean "I am an eel" …

  14. David Harmon said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

    I was struck by "The present height is…". My own reflexive response was "What, it changes?" (I infer that Japanese has a shared word or phrase for "at the current time" and "at the current location".)

  15. Hamish said,

    December 2, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

    Nope, it indeed says 'the current height is …. 109m'.

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