Engrish in Japan

Image: Flickr / Ali San

Image: Flickr / Ali San

Engrish in Japan

Yes, you read the title correctly, Engrish. It is a term used in Japan which refers to how the Japanese use English incorrectly pertaining to pronunciation and grammar.

I was completely shocked by how poor the grammar and spelling was in major magazines, on t-shirts, and in various texts. I thought, jeez does anyone spell check or ask a native speaker? Well that was their business I thought, that was until I had to start thinking about my little one starting school.

Engrish in Japan, japanese english learning, japan ell

Asia has the worst reputation for English language skill in the world.  I was not new to this fact, but what to do now that I have to throw my child into their school system.

Engrish in the School System

As I go around town, there are tons of English language schools for children. My husband tells me that this generation of parents are determined to have their children speak English fluently.  However, the problem remains the same, few native speakers are teaching English.  I have heard from some native speakers that they have been forced to use the “Japanese” pronunciation of English in their teachings, so what to do?

I am a native English speaker and I definitely cannot have my child learning to say Apperu instead of Apple!

I am looking for suggestions on this one.  Seriously.  My son starts preschool in April and it seems like an arduous task to have to unteach Engrish once he gets home.

What would you do?




  1. says

    You could probably incorporate both English and Engrish. It would be like learning two languages at once. The Engrish is spoken at school, and English is spoken at home. Children are very adaptable and can absorb different dialects. Hope this helps.

  2. says

    That's great you are raising bilingual kids! Check out Bilingual Monkeys- he's an American Dad raising Japanese-English bilinguals in Japan and he has given lots of thought on to how to make his kids fluent English speakers. Maybe he has some good tips! He also just guest posted this article with 29 tips on raising bilingual kids, born out of his own experience- I thought it was really helpful: http://www.incultureparent.com/2013/01/29-tips-fo… Good luck! And as long as you make sure they can pronounce "election" all right, you are have nothing to worry about- lol! A Japanese friend told me a funny story about that Japanese pronunciation mistake :)

  3. says

    I would really think about seeking out an English school for your child. Too learn something incorrectly is sometimes worse than not knowing it at all. Another aspect you may want to think about deeply is how how influential the school will be in comparison with your teachings if he is learning Engrish all day. I doubt you can combat 6 to 8 hours of mistaught English every day.

  4. says

    Really interesting post Tara. I can definitely see your concern, especially if some schools don't even want to acknowledge that what they're teaching isn't proper English. I do think it's important to learn it right if you expect your child to have a career that requires English and especially if you plan on moving back to an English speaking country in the future. On the other side though, for our family there is some cultural relevance in speaking Spanglish (a mix of Spanish and English), so I understand how it could be easier just to get along since everyone is speaking the same "Engrish" there. Hoping you find a school that can meet your expectations. If nothing else, homeschooling might be a possibility?