Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Engrish and Self
Part of the importance of Engrish for Japanese people is due to the Westernisation of Japan, and idolatry of the West. Relatedly, part of the attractiveness of Engrish is simply that it is not Japanese and thus represents a release from traditional constraints. Things expressed in the English language are thus escapist, cool, modern, free, individual and desirable.
However there is also cultural difference in the attitudes towards language. To the Japanese Engrish "language" is often seen as merely a pattern. Language is image for Japanese people. To Westerners, language is important, animate, self, and meaning itself, but to Japanese it is as Japanese "characters" are to Westerners, merely a form, a plaything, something for children.
"Hello Kitty" and all all the other "characters" or Noh masks, or other disembodied faces that populate the Japanese media are seen or felt as people, animate, important, protectors, (and protected by copyright).
Is the self a narrative, made up of, and constituted by phrases and a name, or is it a collection of images, a picture book, a picture tree, a network of images? Is language (is image) central, and important, or is it external, decoration? In Japan language is a decoration, an other and ignorable (Nakashima, 1999) pleasantry.
Nkakashima, Y. 中島義道. (1999). うるさい日本の私. 新潮社.
This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.