Among Russian speakers, there are some rather strong opinions on loanwords. It is often said that they ruin the beauty of your speech, obscure the meaning of what you're saying and just generally seem inappropriate and unnecessary when you can say the same thing using only words of native origin (plus maybe loanwords that "already became a natural part of the language").

Is there anything similar going on with loanwords in Japanese language? Will using them frequently make you sound like a try-hard that wants to seem "advanced" but just ends up being really silly and awkward? If you're, let's say, writing a fairy tale, is it recommended to avoid loanwords due to their modern, "less human" feel? Any other situations where they are more inappropriate than usual?

I'm sorry if this is off-topic and/or too opinion-based. I just feel like people on here could write some very insightful answers, but if this question gets closed I'll totally understand.

  • I see loanwords from english all the time, like Naisu(Nice), Sankyu(thank you), not to meantion the words that were incorporated to japanese by other cultures, like Koppu (cup) which comes from Copo (portuguese) and so on. I've seen young people using things like naisu more often, though i'm not sure what's society mindset upon this. Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 23:22
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    Relevant anecdata: Court rules against man who sued NHK for using too many loan words
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 0:27
  • By "loanwords", do you mean katakana words? Or do 漢語 count?
    – oals
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 9:28
  • @oals: just katakana words I guess. But if there are people that are displeased with 漢語, that would be interesting to know too...
    – kuchitsu
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 9:36

1 Answer 1


The argument you introduced is something we often hear in Japan, too. But I don't know Russian, and I don't know how strongly Russian people dislike loanwords as compared to Japanese. That said, I think Japanese people are generally tolerant of loanwords.

Unsurprisingly, in samurai dramas and Japanese fairy tales, loanwords are normally not used. We hear 匙 instead of スプーン, 暦 instead of カレンダー, 厠 instead of トイレ, and so on. But this is probably not because loanwords are "soulless"...it's just that they were not used in those days. Haiku generally consist of native Japanese words, too, but I think using katakana words is no longer taboo in modern haiku. Of course it's perfectly fine to use スプーン if you want to write a sequel of Cinderella, for example.

Will using them frequently make you sound like a try-hard that wants to seem "advanced" but just ends up being really silly and awkward?

Yes, there is a word that buzzed recently and describes exactly this: 意識高い系 (lit. "highly conscious folks"). This is a negative-sounding stereotype of someone who tries to act like a "global businessperson" even though they are not capable. Trying to use difficult loanwords is one of the typical characteristics of 意識高い系 people.

To take an example, the following is a real help-wanted ad issued by Rakuten: 楽天の求人がルー語でヤバイ!


Or see this "Greetings from the president" (although apparently this is an intentional joke): 意識高い系社長の挨拶文 カタカナ英語が多すぎて何を言っているかわからないと話題に


A typical response from ordinary Japanese people would be something like "What the hell is this guy saying? He can't even speak in Japanese!" Well, note that these are a bit exaggerated examples. In reality, few people try to use katakana words intentionally because most of us understand that doing so won't make ourselves look intelligent.

Here's a list of words 意識高い系 people tend to use: 意識高い系が使っている用語が話題に…。

  • So it's a pretty good analog for how some English speakers like to pepper their sentences with French phrases to sound smart.
    – rjh
    Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 17:27
  • To think of it, we can't just laugh at it. Some words are a necessity yet difficult to translate. コモディティ and ボトルネック are still translatable, if more handy. But パラダイム and コミット are difficult. It might be desirable to even create new kanji words. A typical example of those untranslatable necessities imo is "interface".
    – user4092
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 8:05

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