Alumni American Culture IEC Activities International Student Life Vocabulary

University of Nagasaki Students at IEC@DVC! (+ Words English Borrowed from Japanese)

June 29, 2017

Every year in the fall and spring, IEC@DVC has the pleasure of hosting Japanese students from the University of Nagasaki. This year’s spring students had a wonderful time! We are looking at some of the highlights of this experience and then celebrating our Japanese students by learning some words English borrowed from Japanese.

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Activities: Bay Area, SF, and Lake Tahoe

The activities calendar for our University of Nagasaki students was packed with activities. Students went ice skating, took day trips to San Francisco, biked across the Golden Gate Bridge, visited SF museums, enjoyed ice cream float socials, went bowling, attended a chocolate festival, took a tour of Alcatraz, saw a Sacramento Kings basketball game, volunteered at a local elementary school . . . it was a busy and fun month! When students were not in the classroom or exploring the Bay Area, they were practicing English with their host families.

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Fun at Alcatraz!

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Some of our students with their teacher, Sally, in beautiful Golden Gate Park.

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Hooray for day trips to San Francisco!

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

The IEC@DVC classroom

Students were able to practice their English every day in the IEC@DVC classroom. In just one month, students improved their English (especially their speaking skills!). They gave excellent presentations about parts of Japanese culture, such as how to fold origami and how to sit and bow in Japanese. It was wonderful to see the students presenting confidently in English.

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Pictured: One of our University of Nagasaki students giving a presentation about a part of Japanese culture. Well done!

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Pictured: A student giving a presentation about the art of origami. Fascinating!

Here are some of the wonderful comments our students gave us about their experience as an IEC@DVC student:

“Speaking skill is the most difficult skill, I think. In my university, there are many kinds of classes, such as English discussion class, English communication class. I can speak English there, but it is just a class.”

“I was so nervous. The first time, I couldn’t speak much. However, last time is much better than then.

“After I spent almost a month here, I can listen more clearly than a month ago.”

“I really feel that my speaking skill is improving. When I was in Japan, I didn’t have the opportunity to talk English only. I think this experience is very important for me.”

“In Japan, I learned about English as a study and exam. But in America, I learned about English as a language.”

It’s incredible to see the improvement our students make in just one month. We were pleased to see their confidence and English skills grow, and we were very pleased to have them as students!

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

To celebrate our wonderful students, we are looking at some of the words that English “borrowed” from Japanese. Thanks to our lovely students for spending a month with us at IEC@DVC, and thanks to the Japanese language for these great words and concepts!


Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Emoji seems like a language of its own, but we have the Japanese language and culture to thank for this term and for this fun way of communicating: emojis were first used by Japanese computer coders in the 1990s.



Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Photographers use this term, which is for the blurry* filters applied to photos. In the picture below, you can see how the lights in the distance are not clear. It’s a great photography effect! Do you use bokeh filters for social media?

*blurry = not clear


Western futons (sofas that change into beds) are slightly different than Japanese futons, but the word is originally from Japanese. In the United States, you can find stores that sells only futons. Americans love them!


English speakers are very familiar with the haiku poem, which is originally Japanese. The haiku follows a strict format: three lines with five, seven, and five syllables. This type of poetry is taught to children in elementary school and used by adults and professional poets.

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Here is one for IEC@DVC:

From around the world
College-bound with lots to learn
We are IEC


A typhoon is a cyclone* that is over the water. Scary! Technically, typhoons only exist in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, which connects California to Japan.

*cyclone = strong winds that make a circle. It is also called a hurricane. 


For many years, English had four words to describe the basic tastes of food: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. But something was missing: umami! Umami is the Japanese word for another basic taste we experience with food. In English, a similar word is “savory,” but English speakers choose to use the word “umami” instead. Slowly cooked stews, cheeses, cured meats (like bacon), and even mushrooms have umami.


Another umami flavor? Tomatoes!


The word “zen” was originally used for a form of Buddhism in Japan and China: in Zen Buddhism, one tries to reach enlightenment through meditation. Today, “zen” is also used in English as a synonym for the word “calm.”

Example: He was very zen during the meeting. 

Example: I have to find my inner zen during this stressful time in my life. 

Words English Borrowed from Japanese

Thank you again to our spring students for a wonderful month of memories and English learning. We are excited to meet our new group of students from the University of Nagasaki when they arrive in August. We have a fun month full of classroom and Bay Area activities planned!

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