Lost in Translation: English in Japan

  • Dwayne Cover Department of Anthropolgy


From billboards to vending machines, mass media to education, English is virtually ubiquitous in Japan. However, for many, Japan is still assumed to be a homogenous, monolingual entity. This paper will begin with a look at the historical background of English in Japan and then move on to the contemporarysetting. Two theories offering contrasting interpretations of the language contact phenomenon will then be presented: the first views English as a hegemonic force colonizing the mental space of the Japanese population; the second claims English has undergone a complex process of domestication and that it is now ‘Japanese English’, created by the Japanese for the Japanese.
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