I have recently discovered an interesting little curiosity about the English language most of us have either never noticed or just haven’t given much thought to. It has to do with the English spelling and pronunciation of place names in different countries. When we talk about places in Germany, Italy or Greece, native English speakers tend to use names that have historically been translated into English. Sometimes the names were borrowed from Italian or French names. Names like Cologne, Naples, Vienna, Venice, Munich, Athens and Rhodes are all obviously English or translations into English. However, when discussing places with French, Portuguese or Spanish names such as Avignon, Nice, Salamanca, Sao Paulo or Madrid, the tendency is to keep spelling and pronunciation more or less consistent with the host language in question. English Conversation students at the Smith’s School of English in Kotoen スミス英会話 甲東園 are aware that the name Paris cannot have the ‘S’ pronounced in French, but at least English spelling is consistent.
When we study the map of Japan, we find two important facts worthy of note. Firstly, the Hepburn Romanized Transliteration is usually used to write place names in ‘English’, similar to how people’s names are written in passports. With only a rudimentary understanding of Japanese hiragana pronunciation, it is actually easy to learn place names in Japan with surprisingly accurate pronunciation, even when alphabetized with Hepburn.
The map shown is a good place to start learning the names of the major regions in Japan. Everyone already knows O-ki-na-wa!
Smith’s School of English in Kotoen 月謝制 Real Monthly Tuition English Conversation School