Sunday, April 06, 2008

"English Train Announcements (In Japan) - Why?"

In newer trains in Tokyo, they have bilingual (Japanese & English) displays over the doors on the inside of the train, as well as bilingual displays on the outside of the train (on the front, rear, and sides), not to mention bilingual signs on the station platforms. Great stuff - the long-term citizens of the country get to see their own language, and hapless tourists and businesspeople get an International language more widely recognized than Japanese.

What's not so great is the horrible audio; recorded announcements relentlessly assaulting everyone's ears before and after every station. What's wrong with English language announcements on Tokyo trains?

- First off, they are unneeded. "Shinjuku" in Japanese is also "Shinjuku" in English, "Nakano" in Japanese is "Nakano" in English... except when you get some mono-linguist who can't speak the local language to say it - like they have done for the JR announcements - and they pronounce it "NaKAno". Grrrrrr..!

- Bad education! When people ride a train every day, week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year, and every time, their ears and minds are assaulted with the very same badly pronounced station names - I wouldn't be surprised if children here start calling Yotsuya "YoTSUya" like the bloody announcement on JR trains! And even if it's not bad education, it's disgusting to listen to! It's sound pollution! Yamete kudasai yo!

- The English parts of the announcements, although said with an irritatingly hard and twangy voice, are at least pronounced correctly (with an American accent). BUT - they are said at one-third speed, as though an over-eager kindergarten teacher is trying too hard to super-pronounce every single word, and to leave miles of space between each word for easy comprehension. I think even if English was my seventh and most poorly understood language, that way of "speaking" the language would still be highly irritating to listen to! Kanben shite kure yo!

- The audio assault English announcements (unneeded & unwanted) are played louder than the Japanese announcements!! Why??? Is it some kind of mental torture cleverly devised to ease crowding a little by getting people to walk or cycle to work, rather than face the horrible sound waves broadcast on the trains?

- In one of the announcements (about smoking, or babies or something), it sounds as though the woman badly needs to clear her throat... and you stand there on the train - involuntarily clearing your throat - and you think "Over time, millions - millions of people are going to hear the announcement and they couldn't be bothered to rerecord a bad spot?!? Incredible!! Astounding!! Outrageous!! Unforgivable!! And - oh so amazingly irritating!!! Grrrrrrrrrr!!!!!"

And... that's basically it. I realize the announcements are intended to be helpful, but they're really not needed (or wanted), and if they must be there, it sure would be nice if they could turn the volume down on them and rerecord them in a more natural sounding way. But really - they're not needed! They really aren't! Even tourists would rather take in the ambiance of a foreign country - enhanced by listening to cool Japanese announcements. Who is happy with those profoundly irritating English announcements? Maybe one person out of 333,333 - or less! Arigata-meiwaku desu!

Rant over....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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