[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]All of my students that are old enough to write have some kind sort of writing assignment for homework.  Some simply write out a few questions or statements, while others write journals or diaries.  Either way, when they come across a word that they haven’t learned in English yet, they will do one of two things.

1. They look the word up in the dictionary or ask a friend or family member if they know the word. (Good for you!)

2. They just write the word out in romaji (literally “roman letters”). (uh – oh!)

The problem here is they haven’t realized what romaji is yet. So to get to the point, “What is romaji?” It’s a way to write Japanese words using the letters of the English alphabet (Latin script).  So, romaji is not English, it is Japanese!  It is simply now readable by foreigners that cannot read Japanese letters (kanji and kana).[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Roma  (Rome) + ji (letters) = romaji

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]If the word comes from English originally, it should be written in English, not romaji.  Here are some bad examples:

Χ appuru O apple

Χ happii O happy

Χ miruku O milk

There are some cases where romaji is used in regular English. When a word that comes from Japanese culture that is not found in western cultures, or originated in Japan, the word is often not translated into English. Rather, we say the same word (proper pronunciation is not guaranteed!) and spell it out using romaji.  Here are some good examples:

O samurai

O tsunami

O kimono

O karate

So if you or your child is learning English and you come across a word that you’re not sure of, please look it up in the dictionary to find the real English word for it!

Bonus Trivia: There are many types of romaji that have been used, the most popular are based on the Hepburn system. There is currently (to my knowledge) a certified system that is required to be used by the Japanese Education Board.  And the schools usually get it wrong! Here are a few tips for writing romaji so foreigners can speak Japanese closer to the correct pronunciation:

Χ Don’t use these O Use these!

Χ  ti (tirashi) O chi (chirashi)

Χ  tu (Tatuya) O tsu (Tatusya)

Χ  si (susi) O shi (sushi)

Χ  hu (Hukuoka) O (Fukuoka)

– Keith[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Enjoy your learning experience! “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!”