March 8, 2009

It’s official: we’re all really cool

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:11 am by Jane

partytime

Well, at least in Japan we are.  A survey ranks foreign languages in terms of coolness.  The results are:

English – 64.8%
French – 13.0%
Italian – 5.1%
German – 5.1%
Spanish – 2.0%
Latin – 2.0%
Arabic – 1.4%
Chinese – 1.4%
Korean – 1.0%
Thai – 1.0%
Russian – 1.0%
Portuguese – 0.7%
Other – 1.4%

I can personally attest to the fact that English speakers such as yours truly are considered to be way cool in Japan (undeservedly so in my case), and I’m not surprised by the French ranking – French cuisine is extremely popular here – but I’m a little puzzled by the poor showing of German, because the Japanese have been lovers of all things Teutonic since way back … and no, not for the reasons you might think.  It was in fact a German man who first introduced modern Western medicine to Japan in 1823, and his own half-Japanese daughter went on to become the first female doctor in Japan.  He is still revered here, although little known elsewhere in the world.  There is even a museum dedicated to him in Nagasaki, and a university that bears his name.  Such was his influence upon medicine in Japan that until recently, all medical notes were written in German (much to my frustration whenever I tried to sneak a peek at my files) although nowadays most young doctors write them in English, because of the far stronger influence of American culture.  Perhaps that is the reason for the lack of interest in German language – the fact that it is so strongly associated with medical and technical terminology, rather than popular culture. 

Anyway, I love being cool.

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4 Comments »

  1. Petra said,

    I knew about the strong prevalence of German in medicine in Japan. Also I assume that any cultured Japanese can sing the “Ode an die Freude” (Ode to Joy) with the original German text.

    Interestingly enough I met my friend and her friends in Japan basically because they all studied German as an additional foreign language besides English. I very often had German TV stuff (PAL) converted to the Japanese NTSC system so that I could send them these tapes (no, we did not do DVDs way back then).

    I had the impression that these young women just loved the language for its own sake. None of them used it in their professions. It was just fun – or simply really, really cool.

  2. Karen said,

    I saw a tee shirt recently that I’ve been really tempted to order. The front proclaims “I used to be cool”. I sent the page to my daughter. She shot back “You still are.” Made my day. I know I’m not, but it was sweet of her to say I was.

  3. Miko said,

    Yes, the Japanese love and appreciate German music. I do actually know a few young women in Kobe who major/ed in German at school, but I assumed it was because of the prevalence of German or Swiss companies that make their headquarters here. Kobe and Germany go waaaaay back. There is even a German school for expat kids, that was established in 1909.

  4. Miko said,

    Ha ha, that’s cool and very sweet that she said that! The Sonbeam thinks I’m a dinosaur. I don’t really mind, a lot of people out there think that dinosaurs are cool. (Just not people I want to hang out with, unfortunately.)


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