This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Engrish" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (April 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this message) The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with Japan and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this section, discuss the issue on the talk page, or create a new section, as appropriate. (March 2023) (Learn how and when to remove this message) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Engrish text on a Japanese t-shirt as a form of decoration

Engrish is a slang term for the inaccurate, poorly translated, nonsensical or ungrammatical use of the English language by native speakers of other languages.[1] The word itself relates to Japanese speakers' tendency to struggle to pronounce the English /l/ and /r/ distinctly arising from the fact Japanese has only one liquid phoneme (usually romanized r), but its definition encompasses many more errors. Terms such as Japanglish, Japlish, Jinglish, or Janglish are more specific to Japanese Engrish.[2] The related Japanese term wasei-eigo (和製英語: 'Japanese-made English') refers to pseudo-anglicisms that have entered everyday Japanese.

The term Engrish first appears in the 1940s (suggestive of a mispronunciation of English) but it was not until the 1980s that it began to be used as a byname for defective Asian English.[2] While the term may refer to spoken English, it often describes written English. In Japan, it is common to add English text to items for decorative and fashion purposes (see Cool). Such text is often added to create a cosmopolitan feeling rather than to be read by native English speakers, and so may often be meaningless or grammatically incorrect. Engrish can be found in many places, including signs, menus, and advertisements. The words are frequently humorous to speakers of English.

Japanese Engrish / Japanglish

Japanese and English have significantly different grammar: Japanese word order, the frequent omission of subjects in Japanese, the absence of articles, a near-complete absence of consonant clusters, and difficulties in distinguishing /l/ and /r/, or /θ/ and /s/ sounds, all contribute to substantial problems using Standard English effectively.[3] Japanese people have tended to score comparatively poorly on international tests of English.[4]

Further, English is frequently used in Japan (and elsewhere) for aesthetic rather than functional purposes;[5] i.e., for Japanese consumption, not for English speakers per se, as a way of appearing "smart, sophisticated and modern", in much the same way as Japanese and similar writing scripts are used in Western fashion.[6] Such decorative English is not meant to be read and understood by native English speakers, so emphasis is not placed on coherence or accuracy.[7]

The Japanese language also makes extensive use of loanwords, especially from English in recent decades, and these words are transliterated into a Japanese form of pronunciation using the katakana syllabary. Japanese speakers may thus only be familiar with the Japanese pronunciation or Japanese meaning, rather than its original pronunciation or meaning. This is particularly the case when the source English word contains sounds or sound clusters which have no equivalent in katakana. For example, the jazz fusion band Casiopea (est. 1976) has its name based on "Cassiopeia": neither the double s nor the three-vowel -eia would fit the katakana format. For a more recent example: Sega's Mega Drive is spelled in katakana as メガドライブ, hence it is pronounced as Mega Doraibu; the console was renamed for the market of the United States of America as Sega Genesis.

In popular culture

Engrish has been featured occasionally in South Park, an American animated TV show by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. One example is the song "Let's Fighting Love", used in the episode "Good Times with Weapons", which parodies the poorly translated opening theme sequences sometimes shown in anime. Parker and Stone's feature-length film Team America: World Police (2004) also features Engrish when the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is depicted singing the song "I'm so Ronery".[8]

Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a parody of the drama series Elizabeth R, where they portrayed the cast riding motor-scooters and speaking Engrish, thus changing the title to "Erizabeth L".[9]

In the 1983 film A Christmas Story, the Parker family goes to a Chinese restaurant for their Christmas dinner, and are serenaded by the waitstaff with Engrish Christmas carols, such as "Deck the harrs wis boughs of horry, fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra" and "Jingre berrs, jingre berrs, jingre arr the way, oh what fun it is to ride in one-horse open sreigh!"

The British fashion brand Superdry, which takes inspiration from Japanese clothing styles, has established a style of placing meaningless Japanese text such as 'Sunglasses company' and 'membership certificate' on clothing sold in Britain.[10] The company explained to a Japanese television news programme that most translations were done using simple automatic translation programs such as Babel Fish, without attempting to make the texts accurate.[11]


See also


  1. ^ Ziemba, Christine N. (December 5, 2004). "Translate at your own risk". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b Lambert, James (2018). "A multitude of 'lishes': The nomenclature of hybridity". English World-Wide. 39 (1): 12. doi:10.1075/eww.00001.lam.
  3. ^ Dougill, John (2008). "Japan and English as an alien language" (PDF). English Today. 24 (1): 18–22. doi:10.1017/S0266078408000059. S2CID 145471291. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-17. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  4. ^ Kowner, Rotem (2003). "Japanese Miscommunication with Foreigners: In Search for Valid Accounts and Effective Remedies" (PDF). Jahrbuch des Deutschen Instituts für Japanstudien. 15: 117–151. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-08-01.
  5. ^ Ikeshima, Jayne Hildebrand (July 2005). "Some perspectives on the phenomenon of "Engrish"" (PDF). Keio Journal of International Studies. 15: 185–198. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-07-22.
  6. ^ Dougill, John (1987). "English as a decorative language". English Today. 3 (4): 33–35. doi:10.1017/S0266078400003126. S2CID 145079203.
  7. ^ Melin, Tracy; Rey, Nina (2005). "Emphasizing Foreign Language Use to International Marketing Students: A Situational Exercise That Mimics Real-World Challenges". Global Business Languages. 10: 13–25. there is often no attempt to try to get it right, nor do the vast majority of the Japanese population ever attempt to read the English design element in question. There is therefore less emphasis on spelling and grammatical accuracy.
  8. ^ Stuever, Hank (October 15, 2004). "Puppet Government 'South Park' Creators' Left Jab at Jingoism May Backfire". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2019-05-06. Retrieved 16 September 2011. The North Korean dictator speaks in the voice of 'South Park's' Eric Cartman, ... only with an Engrish accent. 'I'm so ronery,' Kim confesses in a pitiful ballad to himself, which explains his evil-doing—he just needs to be ruvved.
  9. ^ Monty Python's Flying Circus, Series 3 Episode 3 of 13, Features The Money Programme, Erizabeth L, Dead Bishop, Jungle Restaurant and The Argument Skit, 2 November 1972
  10. ^ "Superdry". Unmissable Japan. Retrieved 2 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Superdry: Popular UK Fashion Brand Uses Gibberish Japanese". Japan Probe. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.