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Growing Up 1/2 Japanese In San Francisco: Japanglish

Growing up in the heart of cosmopolitan San Francisco, it was easy for my mother to infuse her culture into me. Here, Japanese culture was ubiquitous.  I had Japanese doctors, dentists, abacus classes, and grocery stores. Every Saturday morning, I attended Japanese school with full-Japanese students. I hated it. I was at a disadvantage with only one Japanese-speaking parent, so I quit.

After I quit in elementary school, I started speaking fluent “Japanglish” —  a wild concoction of Japanese words thrown in with English words. Basically, I said whatever word came first. For those who know Japanese, I would say things like “Yuck. Sore, daikirai!” I.e. “Yuck. I hate that.” Mixing languages can be drop-dead hilarious, and Engrish.com specializes in discovering the quirks.


Source: The Awesomer

In high school, I decided to study Japanese, advancing to AP Japanese. Even though I was pretty fluent by then, my mother and I still spoke “Japanglish.” This way, my father could be included in 30% of the conversation

My father knew about 8 words in Japanese, and my mother had trouble communicating fluently in English. So our household communication was like a mini diplomatic UN session.

By the age of 4, I played the important role of mediator. I fancied my new role, and so did my family. There are videos of me speaking to my father in English and immediately switching to Japanese with my mother.

I was usually pretty good at living a dual linguistic life. Or so I thought. I grew up saying ““gara…ji,” because that’s how my mother pronounced the word, “garage.” I never thought anything of it. I believed what I was saying was right.

One day, when I was 12, my father randomly decided to tell me how to pronounce the word properly. I was completely floored. I had been saying the wrong word for 12 years. My father loved the way my mother and I pronounced “garage,” so he never bothered to correct us. We all had a huge laugh about it. Even now, when any one of us mentions it, we all start laughing.

Another cute Japanglish word came to fruition through heartthrob, Leonardo Dicaprio. My mother adored him, but she couldn’t pronounce his last name. So we all started calling him “Dicapruno”


Source: Athena LeTrelle

Japanglish has been such a delightful benefit in my life. Thanks mom.

Julie 妙子 (Taeko) Gramlich

Passionate about creating value through her writing, Julie Taeko Gramlich is an aspiring first-time author and a San Francisco native. Her goal is to provide the most useful and insightful book for multiracial Americans, as she encounters more mixed people than ever before in her neighborhood. This book will help mixed individuals develop a wholesome identity based on their accomplishments, internal values, and the three C’s (character, confidence and courage). This is Julie's website http://juliegramlich.com. Please connect with her on Twitter.