Is there a strategy Japanese ELLs can use to spell English words derived from Japanese? received two close votes and was closed by a diamond moderator.

I don't understand why it's viewed as off-topic.

It does mention etymology, but it's asking in a "can I make learning English any easier?" sense, rather than a "let's ask a fascinating but utterly impractical question" sense, which would be the domain of English Language & Usage or Linguistics.SE.

The question also mentions Japanese, but it should be a question that someone who doesn't speak Japanese could answer. In addition, if we attract people who teach English as a second language to Japanese people, or we attract Japanese people who are learning English as a second language, then they could be very capable of answering this question.

2 Answers 2


As I was the moderator who ended up closing the question, I'll explain what happened:

  • I read the question myself, and didn't really feel it was on-topic. I also noted that two other closevotes had been cast. Comments also mentioned that this question might be more on topic on the Japanese SE site.
  • Based on these factors and my own judgement, I felt the question would probably be better received on the Japanese site. It's about the spelling of Japanese words in the English alphabet, but it seemed to be fundamentally about Japanese rather than English. I migrated the question to japanese.stackexchange.
  • Snailplane later informed me that the question had been closed as off topic on the Japanese site, as it wasn't strictly about Japanese since it had the English component as well. This caused the question to be marked as simply closed, instead of migrated. She also notified me that you'd posted a similar (and more in-depth) question on EL&U, which I viewed. As it seemed you'd improved and expanded upon the question there, I decided no action was currently necessary to be taken on the question here on ELL.
  • Looking now at the response to the improved version of the question on EL&U, the general consensus seems to be that this is a very interesting question, but that it doesn't really pertain to english language and usage. That's their call, and I'm still not convinced it belongs on ELL either. What you seem to be asking is "Why do certain native-Japanese speakers learning English spell Japanese loan words differently than they are spelled in English?" That's a complex question involving the history of language and the conversion of those loan words, and I don't think that's in scope for ELL.

That said, the question has 3 reopen votes and if two more are cast it will reopen and I'll be happy to leave it at that. I disagree with your statement "but it should be a question that someone who doesn't speak Japanese could answer"; especially looking at the EL&U version of the question, where you more clearly explain what you're looking for. It seems to me that an understanding of Japanese and how native Japanese speakers convert characters to the English alphabet is very necessary to a proper answer to this question. In short: I hope my explanation is sufficient to explain the process of what happened to the question. You haven't convinced me that this question is appropriate here on ELL to the point where I'm willing to reopen the question myself, but if 2 more reopen votes are cast then I'll take that as the community's disagreement and be content with that.

  • 2
    I'm not convinced questions relating to the Romanization of Japanese scripts are On Topic either. Wikipedia says there that Japanese is normally written in logographic characters borrowed from Chinese (kanji). It also says All Japanese who have attended elementary school since World War II have been taught to read and write romanized Japanese, so it seems to me this is a local matter already addressed by Japanese cultural institutions better than anything we're likely to offer here. Mar 28, 2013 at 16:23
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    I wasn't meaning to ask "why do Japanese people misspell English words derived from Japanese?". I was meaning to say "Japanese people misspell English words derived from Japanese. Are there any rules they can follow to ensure they spell the words correctly? Or do they have to memorize the spellings by rote learning?"
    – Golden Cuy
    Mar 28, 2013 at 22:48

Since my name is on the close vote I'll explain my thoughts on it. You originally posted:

Apart from wasei-eigo words such as "salaryman", are English words that come from Japanese spelt in a way that's consistent with Hepburn romanization?

Smokeratstadium commented:

But there are many variations of the Hepburn system, so how could you even know if they're spelt in a consistent way with it?

Looking at the question again, the reason for closure was incorrect. "Not constructive" would have been more appropriate, as it would be difficult to answer. Whose Hepburn system are we going to use? I'll freely admit that seeing "Japanese" in an English question didn't help my thought process in selecting a close reason.

That being said, it has since been edited. I've added my vote for re-opening.

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    I also voted to reopen, though I am still worried the question may be too broad to answer concisely. It seems like its just asking why spelling errors occur, which can happen when learning any language. You just study the correct rules and try to improve. If the intent is to understand why specific cases, such as "jya" or "tu", occurs, then that should be the question. For example, "Why is "Ninja" written as "Ninjya" by some native Japanese ELLs?" would be much easier to research and answer.
    – user485
    Mar 28, 2013 at 18:58

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