I found myself thinking about how to refer to the English language in Japanese.

I realise of course that English originated here in England, and then by colonisation was brought into America, but would that distinction be made in Japanese as in English?

Put simply, should I refer to イギリス語 or アメリカ語, even if the first is the name for the English language?

  • It's not uncommon (though felt weird to me) to hear they refer to Brazilian Portuguese as ブラジル語. Jun 26, 2016 at 3:48
  • @broccoliforest ブラジルポルトガル語 is a mouthful. I've heard ポル語, but never ブラポル語 suggested on Wikipedia.
    – Earthliŋ
    Jun 26, 2016 at 7:34

2 Answers 2


I think these are the basic terms:

They're both types of 英語, just like American English and British English are both types of English.

That doesn't mean no one ever puts it differently. You might find 米語 and 英語 used as short forms to refer to American and British English, for example. Here are some frequency results from the Google Japanese Web N-gram corpus, showing how often people use various terms:

 英語     31945067
 米語     46649
 英国語    814
 米国語    540
 アメリカ英語 57446
 イギリス英語 75223
 アメリカ語  3217
 イギリス語  2185

Unless 英語 is being specifically contrasted with 米語 (to mean BrE and AmE), I think it's usually taken to mean English in general, not just British English. And talking about English in general is more common than singling out a particular dialect group, so 英語 is by far the most common term.

  • This corpus data agrees with my experience on the ground here. I can't recall seeing アメリカ語 or イギリス語 or 英国語 or 米国語, but I definitely see and hear the others. I think ~国語 would take a pretty weird context to come up as in focusing on it being the national language of England or the US respectively (which is accurate only if we mean the term in a sort of sociological sense for the US).
    – virmaior
    May 24, 2015 at 0:34
  • @virmaior I decided to include 米国語 in my search because Wikipedia listed it as an alternative name for アメリカ英語, but I can't really recall seeing it before, either.
    – user1478
    May 24, 2015 at 1:45

We put both British and American English into the same generic term, 英語.

In other words, when we Japanese say 英語, we don't distinguish American English from British English, nor from Singaporean English (a.k.a. Singlish) or from Indian English.

When we have a need to specify any of them, we say "アメリカン・イングリシュ、ブリティッシュ・イングリッシュ、and シンガポール・イングリシュ."

We used to say 米語 and 英国流英語 to distinguish American English from British English. But it sounds too crude, and today's trend, especially among younger generations, seems to be in favor of using "アメリカン・イングリシュ、ブリティッシュ・イングリッシュ、シンガポール・イングリシュ" as it is.

It's like people call アメリカン・コーヒ― 、ヨーロピアン・コーヒー、イタリアン・コーヒー、ターキッシュ・コーヒー today instead of calling them 米国流コーヒー、欧州流コーヒー,イタリヤ式コーヒー and 土耳古風コーヒー. The same thing applies to substitution for 片言英語 with ブロークン・イングリッシュ.

  • 3
    When we have a need to specify any of them, we say "アメリカン・イングリシュ、ブリティッシュ・イングリッシュ、シンガポール・イングリシュ." 日本語において、「アメリカ英語」「イギリス英語」「シンガポール英語」「インド英語」よりも、「アメリカン・イングリシュ、ブリティッシュ・イングリッシュ、シンガポール・イングリシュ」を使うことのほうが一般的だということでしょうか。
    – chocolate
    Jun 26, 2016 at 3:15
  • @Chocolate. I haven't asked every Japanese how they call American and British English in Japanese. But all aquaintances whom I know through English lerners circle and my old colleagues call it "British English " and "Americcan English" without using 米語 and イギリス英語。So does my daughter. Maybe my friends and people around me are too much skewed to western way of thinking and talking, as I worked for a New York-based ad agency for almost 40 years. Jun 26, 2016 at 3:34

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