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The Words of Staff

Jiyū Kokumin Sha, a publisher of language reference texts, has released its highly anticipated nominees for Japan’s “Words of the Year.” Read on to learn the 30 terms and phrases that encapsulate 2017 for the Japanese public.

Speaking the Language of Medicine: Egyptian Physician Osama Ibrahim

Egyptian-born Osama Ibrahim came to Japan determined to earn his Japanese medical license and become a practicing ophthalmologist. To do this, however, he first had to overcome the language barrier by mastering Japanese. In this interview, he shares what brought him to Japan and the trials he faced in achieving his dream.

The Language of Zen: Words for a World of ChangeMokutan Angelo

Familiar people and places surround us, but we should recognize that each encounter is different. The first of a series introducing the language of Zen through easy-to-understand manga strips tackles the phrase 一期一会 (ichigo ichie).

Dictionary Pros Pick Their Top New Words for 2016

Two major dictionary publishers have announced their new words of the year for 2016. As the Japanese language continues to evolve, it borrows and coins new terms at a rapid clip—and these, say the publishers, are the ones most likely to stick around long enough to end up in their dictionaries.

Another Golden Year for Kanji

The year 2016 was tumultuous and unpredictable by most people’s standards. But the kanji that best represents the year, as chosen by public vote in a keenly followed annual contest, was one that never goes out of style: 金, pronounced kin or kane and meaning “gold” or “money.”

2016: The Winning Staff

Kamitteru, or “godlike,” topped this year’s finalists to be recognized as the word of the year for 2016. Other selections in the 10-strong finalist pool shed light on the economy, current events, and celebrity romances and scandals that left an impact on Japanese news-watchers—and their vocabularies—over the past year.

The Words of Staff

Once again, the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha has selected the nominees for its “Words of the Year” award. Learn about these 30 terms that help to show how the Japanese saw the year that will soon be finished.

Are Loanwords a Threat to the Japanese Language?Ehab Ahmed Ebeid

One day as I was traveling to work on the train, I overheard a pair of what must have been junior high school students talking to each other in Japanese. “Hey! Your clothes are so nostalgic,” one said to the other, using the loanword nosutarujikku. I could not help but doubt whether such young boys would know anything about nostalgia. Loanwords are seen and heard everywhere in Japan. Their exte…

A Boy Named BonsaiIrmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit

For most of the modern era, the linguistic balance of trade between Japan and the West has been fairly unequal. The transfer of knowledge from the West, accompanied by the assimilation of new vocabulary, was an inherent part of Japan’s modernization. Since the late nineteenth century, countless loanwords from Western languages have become central to Japanese. Compared to these words’ sheer number …

2015: The Winning Staff

On December 1, the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha announced its list of the top 10 words or phrases for its annual “Word of the Year” prize. The grand-prize winners this year came from the realms of baseball and the tourism industry, rather than politics, which had provided many of the 50 nominees released last month.

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