Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Transliteration of 先輩, "senpai" or "sempai"? Sounds like the set-up for a Googlefight!


Ainu said...

Stupid thing to fight about

Jonas said...

I know that you can’t really translate Russian words into western spelling so there is a good number of ways to spell something. Isn’t it basically the same with Japanese words? So basically both ways to spell it are ”correct”.

Jacke said...

Yes, you are both correct.

I just thought it would be fun to know which was more used.

Sho Fukamachi said...

yfrer, senpai, of course?!

who the hell writes "sempai"? there is no "mu" in there at all.

せんぱい - that thing that looks like an "n" is, in fact, an "n"

Jacke said...

True, but in the past it has been transliterated as "sempai" (see Traditional Hepburn).

Personally I prefer "senpai".

Sho Fukamachi said...

Interesting article, thanks!

So that's why people write it like that. Personally, I never learnt "traditional hepburn" and to me it just looks wrong. "M" and "n" are quite distinct in english, and I never heard an "m" sound in native japanese "senpai".

I would say that "modified" hepburn would be better written as "corrected" hepburn as that m is just weird and there's no reason I can think of for it to be there.

It's interesting to note the various romanisation techniques. I generally only deal with them in two contexts - place names which have romanised signs, and word processing entry (i am still absolutely hopeless at typing on japanese keyboard). So I tend to "think" in word processing romanisation, except for place names, which look right with the line over the top (which I have no idea how to type), just from seeing them so much.

Anyway, apart from those two uses, I tend to strongly dislike romanisation, it's nothing but a crutch and is usually actually more difficult to understand than the japanese characters because you lose all sense of visual structure. For example writing "no" in instead of の - the japanese character becomes hardwired into your brain as that all-purpose, every-useful symbol of possession or inclusion, whereas the english is just two meaningless letters with a misleading conflict with english meaning.

It is definitely better to just bite the bullet and learn the kana. Not that anyone should take language study tips from me, lol

Ainu said...

I could use a book that describes the transliteration systems fully and clearly.

Because now I just use the form I like. Mixing them.