Languages are never static. They change and evolve with people over time. They also interact with other languages, and through an endless cycle of loaning and borrowing of words, ideas and concepts are shared, exchanged and nurtured across national and cultural boundaries.

But the torrential influx of foreign words into the Japanese language in recent years — overwhelmingly, these days, from English — has got linguists and also language policymakers here worried. They say the use of these so-called loanwords, known as gairaigo in Japanese, has happened at such a rate that many Japanese are now unable to fully understand each other. That is because while one may use loanwords just to show off — despite there being plenty of Japanese expressions to convey the same meaning — the other may not understand a word rooted in another language. In other words, communication is being lost — not in translation, but because of no translation.

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