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Japanese Onomatopoeia

1 Mar

Do you know what “omomatopoeia” means?

I’m a native English speaker, but I’ve never heard that word in English before…and it looks hard to even pronounce!
(Can you read Japanese? The pronunciation of “omomatopoeia” is 「オノマトペ」).

An “onomatopoeia” is, according to the dictionary:

A word, such as ‘cuckoo’ or ‘boom’, formed by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.

In Japanese, it’s 擬声語.

I didn’t know the word in English…but I do know what 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) are. I use them often in Japanese.
Perhaps more than in any other language, 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) are used alot in Japanese.

Even when different languages have 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) for the same meaning, they are usually quite different in different languages.
For example, the 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) for a dog’s bark is
Bow-wow” in English,
but it’s 「ワンワン」 (“Wan-wan“) in Japanese.
In Korean, it’s “Mon-mon“, and it’s “Gaf-gaf” in Russian.

Here are a few more of the countless Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“):

  • 「パクパク」 (Paku-paku)…means “Eating; chewing” (the video-game “Pac-man” comes from this term.),
  • 「ケロケロ」 (Kero-kero)…means “Ribbit” (a frog croaking),
  • 「ブーブー」 (Buu-buu)…means “Oink oink” (a pig’s grunt),
  • 「ニコニコ」 (Niko-niko)…means “Cheerful“,
  • 「ワクワク」 (Waku-waku)…means “Excited“,
  • 「ドキドキ」 (Doki-doki)…means “Excited“,
  • 「ジロジロ」 (Jiro-jiro)…means “Stare at someone“,
  • 「ドンドン」 (Don-don)…means “the beating of drum“,
  • 団々」 (Dan-dan)…means “Gradually“,
  • 「ベタベタ」 (Beta-beta)…means “Sticky“,
  • 別々」 (Betsu-betsu)…means “Seperately“,
  • 「ガラガラ」 (Gara-gara)…means “Clattering“,
  • 「ギリギリ」 (Giri-giri)…means “Just barely“,
  • 「グルグル」 (Guru-guru)…means “Spinning; revolving“,
  • 色々」 (Iro-iro)…means “Various“, and
  • 「ペラペラ」 (Pera-pera)…means “Fluent; talkative“.

There are many more Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“). They are used alot in casual Japanese.

Do you know any Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“)? What are some in you native language?

Oscars for Japan

1 Mar

At last week’s Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, USA, two Japanese movies won “Oscar” awards.

「おくりびと」 (“Departures“) won the Best Foreign Language Film award.

「おくりびと」 movie flyer

「おくりびと」 movie flyer

「おくりびと」 (“Departures“) is the story of a musician who loses his job when the orchestra closes and reluctantly takes a job as a mortician.

Director Yojiro Takita accepted the Oscar with a short speech in English:

“I am here because of films. This is a new ‘departure’ for me. And I will, we will, be back. I hope.”

In addition to the Oscar award from Hollywood, the film also won the “Best Film” award at Japan’s Academy Awards ceremony this year, as well as an award at the Montreal Film Festival in Canada.

The other Japanese film to win an Oscar last week was 「つみきの家」 (“The House Of Blocks“).



This is a twelve-minute hand-drawn animation about an old man who fights to save his home from the rising sea caused by global-warming.

The film won an Oscar for “Best Animated Short Film“.

Director Kunio Kato, who works for “Robot Communications“, accepted his award by saying:

“…Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto!”