comscore Bridge verbal divide among generations | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Bridge verbal divide among generations


    Japanese is flexible enough to describe different things with a wide range of expressions. That is an advantage afforded by the language.

How should the language barriers between generations be lowered? The government’s latest survey has brought a difficult problem into relief.

The Cultural Affairs Agency has released the results of a survey conducted on people age 16 or older regarding the Japanese language. Among other things, the survey focused on expressions frequently used by particular generations.

One example is “kokoro ga oreru,” a phrase meaning “to be disheartened by an obstacle one faces.” The survey found that this expression is used by a considerable 76 percent of respondents in their 20s, and by 18 percent of those in their 70s and older.

“Mega tenni naru” is predominantly used by those in their 50s, with the figure standing at 70 percent. This phrase is said to have originated in cartoons from the 1970s, which used it to indicate astonishment. It may have made a strong impression on these respondents during their childhood.

The phrase is used by 37 percent of the pollees in their teens, according to the survey. They may have picked it up from people in their parents’ generation. The phrase is used by a minimal 21 percent of those in their 70s or older.

It is safe to say that different generations have continued to produce their own words and phrases with which to appropriately express their feelings. Japanese is flexible enough to describe different things with a wide range of expressions. That is an advantage afforded by the language.

Inevitably, there are some differences in the language used by different generations. It should be noted that if the difference is extremely large, it will hinder mutual communication between generations.

More interaction needed

Regarding difficulties in the use of language, a sizable 55 percent of those polled said they do not understand the meanings of words of foreign origin and foreign words, up 16 percentage points from a similar survey conducted in fiscal 2010. The survey pointed to an increasingly prominent trend in which there are many katakana words incomprehensible to people of advanced age.

A noticeable number of elderly people said they do not understand the language used by people of different ages. Undoubtedly, one factor behind this situation is changes in the state of affairs surrounding the media.

Generally, information about such matters as words adapted from foreign languages and newly coined words came to be gradually shared by a wide range of people through newspapers and TV.

In social networking services and other internet media, new information is circulated. This seems to have created a situation in which elderly people cannot possibly keep up with the trends.

The internet offers many conveniences.

However, another aspect specific to the internet is that it can build a language barrier among generations. The culture of the Japanese language is entering a new stage due to the spread of the internet.

In the latest survey, more than 90 percent of the respondents said the ability to communicate is important. This indicates that people, regardless of generation, recognize the importance of making their own language understood to others.

To realize their hope in a changing language environment, efforts should be made to increase opportunities for people in different generations to interact with each other.

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