For example, the word サッカー is "soccer" in English, but the romanization "sakkā" bears little resemblance to the original word. Are there any loan words in Japanese that preserve the spelling of the original language when Hepburn romanization is applied?

  • I think you've got a weird idea of something here. Romaji is intended purely as a representation of Japanese, and since kana do a very good job of representing Japanese phonology, romaji aren't going to be any more or less 'accurate' than kana. The reason kana and romaji are both 'inaccurate' (by what I assume your definition is) is that loan words have to be accommodated to Japanese phonology, and since kana can only write Japanese without modification, this is much more obvious than in English (where we can adapt the native spelling). – Sjiveru Nov 27 '13 at 0:23
  • I'm simply looking for words that just so happen to not 'need' the Japanese phonology, but are pronounced and written the same way in either language. – kinbiko Nov 27 '13 at 0:26
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    Why look for accuracy in the first place? I am a Japanese-speaker and I had absolutely no idea what "karate" or "karaoke" meant the first time I heard Americans say those words in English. サッカー, ゲレンデ, etc. are Japanese words when they are written in katakana and used by us in the Japanese context. Besides, if you seek "accuracy", why did you not mention the Chinese words we borrowed? Those are pronounced nowhere near how they are pronounced in Chinese AND those words outnumber the katakana words by a landslide as well. – l'électeur Nov 27 '13 at 0:31
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    At the end of the day both Japanese and the host language of the original word still have their own unique ways of pronouncing/inflecting vowels so the best you'll be able to do is get "close enough" to the original. It'll never be a perfect match. – ssb Nov 27 '13 at 0:34
  • @TokyoNagoya The reason I'm looking for accuracy is just curiosity really. Would be cool if there was some words that a native speaker of say German would understand a Japanese katakana-word without experiencing the confusing you felt when you heard "karate" and "karaoke". I admit my word choice of 'accuracy' may have been a bad one... The reason I didn't mention the Chinese words is that I don't know any Chinese, and that thought never even crossed my mind. – kinbiko Nov 27 '13 at 0:40

Maybe you mean something like this:

バナナ → banana 
ペン  → pen

The pronunciation is never going to be exactly the same in both languages, but I bet these could be understood pronounced with Japanese or English pronunciation.

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  • So. Obvious. Thank you! This is exactly the kind of solution that I was looking for! – kinbiko Nov 27 '13 at 1:22
  • Fixing a romanization, you'll want to look for English words, which (1) either end in N or in a vowel, (2) have no more than two consonants in a row (except for N+[consonant], SH, CH, TT, PP, etc.), (3) use only consonants from your preferred choice of romanization (probably something like BDGHJKMNPRSTWYZ), and (4) are words in Japanese. You'll want to avoid words, which are subjected to vowel shift, so the list is probably pretty short. You'll also have to decide, whether you want to allow something like マンゴー mangō or not. – Earthliŋ Nov 28 '13 at 13:17

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