Education About Asia: Online Archives

Borrowing Words: Using Loanwords to Teach About Japan

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By Linda Menton

Loanwords—words adopted from other languages—are an important feature of the Japanese language. Indeed, Japanese probably has more loanwords than any other major language. This is not a new phenomenon. Loanwords have been an important part of the Japanese language for centuries. In ancient times, most loanwords came from China and Korea. Then, beginning in the sixteenth century, as Japan began to interact with merchants and missionaries from the West, loanwords from European languages began to enter the Japanese language. Today, most loanwords assimilated into Japanese, about 80 percent of them, come from English.1