I am fluent in Janglish - a hybrid language mixing Japanese and English. Growing up in Tokyo and attending Seisen since kindergarten, I've experienced life as a bilingual student. At home, I speak in Japanese when talking to my parent; at school, I use English when talking to my teachers and friends. Therefore, in my daily life, I experience a "language switch" from Japanese to English and vice versa.
It was during this school year’s first Japanese class, when I came across this topic. As a class, we were discussing the use of Japanese languages and styles, and the conversation shifted to the use of the English language. Ms. Sato, my Japanese teacher asked us, “Isn’t English harder than Japanese?” to which our class simply disagreed. We argued that one reason why we believe Japanese is a lot more challenging is due to the tremendous amount of kanji characters we must memorize. However, Ms. Sato replied, “The reason why you think Japanese is harder is because you can’t fully express what you want to say in Japanese. Isn’t that why you speak using both English and Japanese at the same time?” It was true. We resort to using the language of “Janglish” because we can easily convey what we want to say. I know I always use Janglish because it is convenient and comfortable to use with my peers. This conversation during Japanese class left me pondering: what exactly is Janglish? Why is it a considerably essential language that we, students use in our daily lives?
Janglish is a very unique language as it has the power to combine two very different languages into one. Janglish allows me to blurt out what I'm thinking without having to process my words. For example, I start off a sentence using English, but by the end of that same sentence, I am using Japanese. There are also be times when I substitute just one Japanese word in an English sentence or vice versa. For me, and for many of my bilingual friends, this is normal. In conversations, Janglish is more common and the most, preferred.
My interest in Janglish increased when I talked to my parents about it at the dinner table. At the beginning, they did not know what Janglish was. After defining it for them, I gave some examples of common words that Seisen students use frequently. There are countless number of words that we use daily, and amongst those words I asked my parents what they thought the words, “bims”, “shibs” and “choushiriding" meant. They did not know. To me and many other Seisen students, these words are colloquial, so the definition is obvious, — “bims” is taken from the Japanese word “bimyou" (びみょう）which means mediocre, “shibs” is a shortened slang for Shibuya, and “choushiriders” is a play on the Japanese phrase “調子乗ってる” (choushi notteru) which is used when a person is “full of themselves” — that was not the same case for my parents.
This conversation with my parents made me realize how unique Janglish is. New words and slangs are being made both from inside of Seisen and the international community, and used so frequently that it becomes integrated into our daily lives. It is interesting to see that only we can understand and use these words, and see it spread amongst the whole student body. From this conversation at dinner, the gap between generations and cultures was evident, and at that moment I was proud to have the unique identity as a billingual Janglish speaking student.
It was also interesting to see that the usage of Janglish did not exactly just limit itself to Japanese and English bilingual students, but also to many international students. Amanda W. (12) commented that she frequently speaks in Janglish. She stated that there are some words that are easier to use in Japanese than English like “otsukare” (お疲れ）which she uses towards her teammates when she plays sports. Being a non-Japanese student in Seisen herself, Amanda explains that she only understands short easy Japanese words. However, she states that, “I don’t feel excluded whenever people around me talk in Janglish because I can grasp what the conversation is about from the English words. Because I know various common words in Japanese, I can easily decipher what is being said.” Janglish creates character to even those who do not see themselves as fluent Japanese speakers. The international community generates an environment where language can be used amongst many, allowing for better communication and unity.
Ms. Angelique, who studied Japanese and is fluent in the language, expressed that unlike native Japanese speakers, it takes her more time to process words as she has to always translate the Japanese words into English in her head. On the other hand, she stated that Janglish is not hard to understand and it does not confuse her. When asked about her favorite Janglish word, Ms. Angelique voiced that the word “mendokusai” is her favorite. She explained that since it does not have a direct translation, it is a unique word that is commonly used amongst the student body.
Janglish is a language that is unique and special to students in Seisen. It shapes the “international culture and community” and it is a form of identity for many of the students. It is highly integrated into our lives here at Seisen, and it is completely understandable for students to mix languages when talking. Like me, it is easy to slip into Janglish subconsciously without actually processing what I am saying. However, it is important to be aware of the use of Janglish and the possible exclusion it may cause on those who do not speak Japanese. At the same time, it is crucial to welcome others to the international culture and explain the various words students use - perhaps with the start of a Seisen Janglish Dictionary.