At the end of my last post I mentioned some phrases that you can use to introduce Japanese things when you don’t know the right word or can’t find a perfect translation in English.

I always tell my students that it is OK to use the Japanese word or name for things that you don’t know the name of in English (especially things like foods or things connected with Japanese culture). You can then try to explain what it is in a simple way.

You can start your explanation by saying something like:

  • It’s hard/difficult to explain, but… (説明しにくいですが…)
  • I don’t know what you would say in English, but… (英語で何と言うかわかりませんが…)

Here is a list of some more phrases you can use to help you in this situation:

  • …is a kind of… (…は…の一種です)
  • …is like/looks like… (…は…のようなもの/…のように見える)
  • …is a Japanese… (…は日本の…)
  • …is a traditional…(…は伝統的な…)
  • …is the Japanese equivalent of… (…は…の日本版/…に当たる日本語)

For example if someone asked you, “What is a zabuton?”, you could say, “I don’t know what you would say in English, but a zabuton looks like a flat cushion.”

Explaining Your Culture
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