‘Japanese isn’t English’

Japanese isn’t English. This isn’t so obvious as it sounds. This is the starting point for this documentary. In Japanese language, any foreign sounds, such as English sounds, are represented in Japanese alphabets. Japanese writing system, however, fails to capture the difference between ‘L’ sound and ‘R’ sound. Both sounds are represented by the same letter. This defect is well known among people in Japan, but there is another less-known shortcoming of Japanese writing system in capturing English sounds. A Japanese letter, which is a phonetic symbol, consists of a consonant sound and a vowel sound. A pure consonant sound cannot be reproduced in Japanese writing system. 

This is Japan Desk Scotland’s second documentary on ‘English for Japanese’, following ‘Teaching English in Japan – Carolyn Biggs’, and in this Carolyn, who taught English at a primary school and two junior high schools, is joined by Sean Mahoney, who has taught English at Fukushima University since 1997. 


Camera: Fumi Nakabachi
Directed and edited by: Yushin Toda
Produced by Fumi Nakabachi and Yushin Toda, Japan Desk Scotland
14 minutes
In English with English subtitles
© Japan Desk Scotland 2016


You can watch this video on the homepage of Moving Image Archive, National Library of Scotland.

This is a part of Documentary Films Production.

This has been shown:

(1) on Saturday 12 November 2016 at the Japanese Class, Glasgow, Scotland;

(2) on Monday 13 February 2017 at the Japanese Class, Daiwa Sports, Wishow, North Lanarkshire, Scotland;

(3) on Monday 3, Tuesday 4 and Wednesday 5 April 2017 at Department of Japanese Language and Literature, University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania, for the second-year master’s students (Monday 3rd), the first-year and the third-year students on Tuesday 4th and the second-year students on Wednesday 5th;

(4) on Wednesday 26 April 2017 at University of Strathclyde Chaplaincy Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, as part of Japan@Strathclyde 2016/17;

(5) on Thursday 22 June 2017 at the Interfaith Room, University of Glasgow Chaplaincy, Glasgow, Scotland, as part of ‘Inclusive Glasgow – Documentaries’ event. The event was part of the West End Festival;

(6) on Thursday 6 July 2017 at the Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences, Fukushima University, Fukushima, Japan;

(7) on Friday 14 July 2017 at Oshima National College of Maritime Technology, Yamaguchi, Japan;

(8) on Monday 31 July 2017 at the Interfaith Room, University of Glasgow Chaplaincy, Glasgow, Scotland;

(9) on Thursday 21 September 2017 for S1, S2 and S3 pupils at Coltness High School, North Lanarkshire, Scotland, as part of workshops on Japanese language and culture; and

(10) on Thursday 23 May 2019 at St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow, Scotland, as part of an all-day workshop on Japan for a group of S2 pupils.