The Latin letters A–Z are used in Japan today and they each have a name just like in English. Take the first five Latin letters, A–E. Source: https://jisho.org

A 【エイ】【エー】

B 【ベー】【ビー】

C 【シー】


E 【イー】

It is pretty clear that all except one variant of B (ベー) are from English. I don't actually know if that variant pronunciation is even used.

Surely in my mind the influence of Portuguese and later Dutch merchants and Dutch studies (Rangaku) would mean there was already a need to have Japanese names for those Latin letters, so it is only natural to assume the pronunciation/names of those letter would be based on what the Dutch themselves call them. E.g.,

A 【アー】

B 【ベー】

C 【セー】


E 【エー】

And so on…

What is the history here? How come the English names for the Latin letters are so prevalent in modern day Japan?

  • 2
    Helpful info japantimes.co.jp/life/2018/02/19/language/… Scroll down to the bottom, it discusses the fact that no standard pronunciation was ever officially established. – TutorJack-YouTube Sep 6 '19 at 18:03
  • @JACK Thank you. I see there is a reference to an older way that is in fact closer to how other Europeans countries would pronounce it. There is also a PDF report from NHK on the issue, though it is entirely in Japanese and seem a bit heavy for me to read. – Christer Sep 6 '19 at 18:33
  • I'm not sure how much this answers your question, but the English language is the only foreign language mandatory to learn in schools, and the roman alphabet is more often thought of as the letters for English. – Yosh Sep 7 '19 at 1:44
  • Found evidence that shows English pronunciations of letters were used well before WWII so I deleted my answer. – By137 Sep 7 '19 at 6:42

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