Sunday, August 30, 2009

Foreign Words in Japan: "Ara-Fo" and "アラフォー"

Japanese has adopted many foreign words in their language ever since foreign nations began to visit the country.

The most recent foreign word that has become a fad word is "Ara-Fo". The word originated in the English word "Around-Forty" and was shortened to "Ara-Fo". Many foreign words are shortened and simplified. Obviously, shortened words are lots easier to use. However, I should point out that some foreign words sometimes lose the original meaning and are used the way they think they mean or what they want them to mean. Therefore, some words are invented instead of adopted.

What does "Ara-Fo" mean?
It is about women around 40 years of age who are unmarried, have established their career in the field, very confident and independent, and yet they have begun to feel uncertainties in their life. They are reaching the age where "career over marriage" or "marriage over career" is being questioned and for some women it has become the root of psychological issues. It can be an individual problem as well as social issues.
In recent months, "Ara-Fo" has become the theme of TV dramas and the subject of discussions on current issues, current events, and similar News Programs.

For me, it was something I could not relate to in my own life nor my own family life. However, I received an email from my brother a while ago. He wrote that one of his family members has been in "Ara-Fo" stage for a while. This person loves her profession, has enjoyed her freedom, and never considered settling down. The subject of marriage has never drawn her interest in the past.

There are many Japanese made foreign words in the Japanese language. Teaching this type of word is fun and fairy easy. Students are interested in how the words are pronounced, altered, and used in Japanese language. Most of the time, words have the original meaning, only different in pronunciation, and students can relate to them fairly easily.

I am not very fond of freely adopting foreign words in Japanese language without limit. It's because, in my own strong opinion, free use of foreign words corrupts the quality of the language. I think it can be said in any language, not just Japanese language. For example, in Texas there is "Tex-Mex". Texas being the neighboring state of Mexico, people of the two countries have frequent contact with with each other. Those Mexican nationals have started speaking mixed language of Spanish and English over the years. This is called "Tex-Mex" language. For the purist of Spanish language, it has become a very ugly language.

The photo from a TV drama series "Around Forty".



最近 ”アラフォー” と言うはやり(流行)言葉がある。”アラフォー” は いわゆる英語の ”Around Forty" からきたもので、40歳前後の結婚しない女性が強がっていながら、将来に不安や悩みを持ち、結婚しない或は出来ないコンプレックスを感じている年代の女性達を意味する。それは個人的な問題でもあり、また社会的な問題でもあるので最近現代ニュースやらドラマの話題になっている。



日本語を教えているときにこのような日本人が使う外国語にしばしば出会う。これらの言葉を教えることは面白いし比較的やさしいが、俺としてはこの様に”格好いい”と思われているが実際は日本人による どちらかというと時にはデタラメと言うかメチャクチャな外国語の使い方にはあまり賛成できない。どうしてかと言うと、それは俺としては、自由自在に、理由無く、根拠無く、限りなく、外国語を日本語に取り入れることは日本語の質をかなり悪化させると思うからである。


  1. スタバとかブラピ、とかも?あれ、ちょっと違うか・・・!

  2. Although I didn't know スタバ the first time I heard the word, but I knew immediately she meant Starbucks. I was to meet a lady from Japan at Seattle's Coffee a while back, but she drove over to Starbucks. She called to tell me where she ended up, lol...

    Kumiko, we ought to spread the word Su-Ta-Ba (short for Starbucks) here in the States. It would be funny if people here start saying SuTaBa for Starbucks.