Foreign Electronic Pen Pals
September 25, 2005 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have Japanese pen pals while they don't speak Japanese?

I recently met some Japanese people that I think might be interesting to stay in contact with as sort of electronic pen pals. They speak/read english (studying english literature at university). It might be nice if I could communicate (at least partly in Japanese) but I know nothing about the language. I have access to a university introductory Japanese textbook, I've also used the Google Language Tools to kind of translate english into japanese. Can you think of any other resources (free) that I might find beneficial?

posted by curbstop to Technology (5 answers total)
I've kept in touch with my homestay family for 16 years. Most of my communication has been in English. However, in first year university, I took two semesters of Japanese. For that year or so, I was able to communicate in written Japanese. They would sometimes write short sentences in Japanese and I'd look up words I didn't know. They were my host family, though, so they probably were willing to invest a little more time.

Given this, I think you could probably do self-study. At first, you might find you could only write your name, their names, katakana words (since they often come from English, they are easy to remember), and simple greetings.

I wouldn't recommend using Google or Altavista translation. I find they are helpful if you are desperate to translate something into English, but I think they can make a big mess, especially if you're trying to communicate the other way. I think your best bet is to get a first-year university Japanese textbook and use that as a guide. Your library probably has some good resources, including texts, videos and even software.
posted by acoutu at 1:46 PM on September 25, 2005

MS Word (this may just be the professional version, and it may just be if you have Japanese language settings in Windows) has loaded on it a bunch of set Japanese seasonal/weather greetings.

(Tools->Letters and Mailings->Show Japanese Greetings Toolbar).

Things like "In this time of autumn rains, I am delighted to hear that you are doing well."

Unfortunately, they're in such formal Japanese that you may need a native speaker's help to figure out what they mean, but they do add a nice touch to a letter.
posted by Jeanne at 4:01 PM on September 25, 2005

I occasionally see something on a Japanese person's website that makes me want to email them. I find that the usual thing is to receive an English reply with perfectly understandable grammar and impeccable spelling, that starts with an apology for the quality of their English.

So, the answer's yes. I mean, it'd be great if I could just up and learn Japanese, too, but that's not really in the cards.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:48 PM on September 25, 2005

thanks for the suggestions. i'm pretty sure we could communicate entirely in english perfectly. i just thought it might be polite to make an effort to write a bit in japanese (even if it didn't quite make 100% sense).

thanks for the pointer on the japanese greetings in word.

i think in the future i'll write a sentence in english, the same sentence below translated in japanese by google, and the same sentence below that written how i would best attempt it using the textbook (seems a bit more personal than google/babelfish).

posted by curbstop at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2005

I second the bits & pieces/greetings suggestion. It shows an effort without making things more confusing...

Or, do your English, with your Japanese attempt below, but the virtual translations are insane at times, and more likely to confuse things. I, personally, wouldn't want a letter with three versions of every sentence, thought the machine translations might provide humor...

(Most) Japanese study English from elementary school, so they are often quite comfortable with reading and writing English (though it is a second or third language), and you said they were studying English literature. Might it not seem you underestimate their ability by having multiple attempts to convey each thought to them?
posted by MightyNez at 1:15 AM on September 26, 2005

« Older How can I get rid of my house?   |   Hurrican Rita info for Beaumont TX? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.