Idioms and other turns of phrase are often taken literally when left to Google Translate to make sense of things. That means translator jobs are safe for now.
For Peter Backhaus's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Some playgrounds are closed due to the pandemic, but outdoors activity is still what most doctors order.
The kanji for "naka" is used in many different ways. A rectagle with a line cutting it in half, the kanji is also one of the easiest to remember.
"Japanese Linguistics" is a broad-spectrum primer on Japanese, covering everything from grammar to the social context of the language, for the undergraduate student or avid polyglot alike.
One of the first things taught in anthropology classes is that presents exchanged in a given society hardly ever come for free. When someone gives another person something, that always entails some sort of obligation. Acts of giving and receiving are hence highly sensitive ...
In the beginning there was the word. More precisely, the prefix. When the Heisei Era officially started, on Jan. 8, 1989, Japan's economy was still merrily bubbling along. That must have been one reason for the popularity of 超 (chō, hyper-). The prefix itself ...
The world is full of smells. Good smells and bad smells, pleasant and unpleasant smells, fragrant and pungent smells. Though the nose is not our most reliable advisor in perception — eyesight is far more important, as is well known — smells clearly have ...
Japanese words you'd think should be written in katakana will sometimes show up in hiragana. There's a cultural reason behind these rare switches.
It's no news that Japanese writing is a complex affair. Apart from the sheer number of characters — 48 each for the hiragana and katakana syllabaries plus an almost open-ended number of kanji — there are also various rules about when to use what.
Everything in life has a negative side to it. This nasty fact has also left its mark on Japanese, in the form of negative prefixes that will turn just everything into its opposite.