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July 06, 2004

Most Japanese Can Do Without "Initiative"

78% of respondents to a poll say they have been embarrassed over some loanwords or abbreviations that they cannot understand, according to the National Institute for the Japanese Language. The poll, taken last autumn, found that older people are far less familiar with loanwords - most of which are borrowed from English. More than half of respondents are against any further increase in loanwords, a policy that has the support of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Asked about the advantages of loanwords, respondents cited ease of communication, freshness and a sense of sophistication. Disadvantages mentioned included possible misunderstandings, the adverse effect on Japanese language traditions, the difficulty of pronunciation and adverse impact on English learning. In its latest report released last week, the institute's loanword committee provided possible Japanese alternatives for 33 loanwords including "initiative," "skill," "stereotype" and "domestic violence," in addition to 109 words covered by two earlier reports. It has given up trying to devise any Japanese alternatives for "online," "database" and "forum," leaving them to be used as they are. (from a Kyodo article)

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