"べんとう"

Translation:a boxed lunch

June 6, 2017

80 Comments
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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Taizpian

For everyone upset about learning words that don't translate well into English - keep in mind that a large part of language learning is learning the culture as well. If you aren't already familliar with what manga, or bento boxes are, you should be after mastering the language. It's just like learning French and being upset they teach you the word croissant instead of calling it a flaky pastry. Don't be discouraged!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/317.oNlYxOpmHnr1

Or make you call it a crescent roll.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HoroTanuki

or just "crescent". Since that's what croissant means in French.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/royalt213

I don't like that they are starting off with words that don't have an English equivalent. I had no idea what "bento" was before reading the comments.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CumberHyarion

It's not so much a word with no English equivalent as a word who's English equivalent is extremely similar, because the English word's origin is the Japanese word.

It's basically like "burrito", "goulash", or indeed "sushi"; originally foreign words that now basically exist as English words describing the foreign dishes.

Where I live there's a ton of Japanese restaurants, and most (probably not all) people would know the word "bento" as a (Japanese) way of serving a meal in a box with many small compartments of different foods. If you don't already know it it's a bit of a pain to get it as an exercise in Duolingo, but it's a pretty good choice as a word a lot of people already know (remembering that the focus at this point of the course is to practice reading and writing a new alphabet, not actually to learn Japanese words).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Agent187

So far I have noticed that hiragana is a syllabary, not an alphabet.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CumberHyarion

True, I wasn't being technical, I should have just said "writing system" or something


[deactivated user]

    A Japanese teacher (teacher of Japanese) told me seven years ago that about 15% of Japanese words are borrowed from other languages--that seemed like a pretty big percentage to me (and I wonder how many words in English have been borrowed). When teaching a language, it makes perfect sense to initially use those borrowed words to instill confidence and construct a foundation for further learning. One small thing more, I have seen red and black lacquered bento boxes for sale in "Sur La Table," a chain of kitchen supply stores (in the USA). I would guess that "bento" and other Japanese words are probably more common in urban areas.


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ly_Mar

    How long ago does it have to have been borrowed to count? Because if we count all the words of French origin in English (plus the spurious loanwords from Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese and and many other languages) I'd estimate ~40%. And that is without counting the technical jargon in many different fields (which mostly comprises Latinate or Greek-derived words, though whether that's borrowing is debatable). Of course, Germanic words appear more in texts because they are among the most commonly used (like “the”, “a”, “of”, ”have”, “be”, “give”, etc.), but just looking at your comment above: language, pretty, percentage, perfect, sense, initial, instill, confidence, construct, foundation, lacquer, supply, probable, common, urban, area, they are all words originally borrowed from French. In fact, even in your naturally written comment which uses Germanic function words disproportionately often, about 16% of the text is borrowed words! (I'm not counting “Sur le Table” of course, that would be cheating!)

    Languages are amazing :)


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cordeyr

    Those aren't quite borrowed words. Many words from English originated from German, but they aren't the same. "the", "and" are very similar to "die" and "und", but only if die and und existed in English would they be borrowed words. For example, fiancée and café, those are borrowed words.

    English people use café as a place to have a coffee, or a snack, but that word in European means coffee. Coffee originated from café (or its roots), but it's not a borrowed word, because when people want a coffee, they say "I want a coffee" instead of "I want a café"


    https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GerjoBakke1

    cordeyr, Let me get something straight here. This isn't completely your fault, it's a common problem. EUROPEAN is not a language or identity and EUROPA is not a country. café is often used in Roman languages (café is used in French, Spanish and Portuguese for the work coffee and café) . A language group found in Southern Europe and Romania. In the German and Nordic languages is just the word for café. And this word was borrowed from French. Now you know better. btw coffee is borrowed from Dutch. "koffie" is borrowed from Ottoman Turkish (kahve). and "kahve" is borrowed from Arabic (قهوة or quawah)


    [deactivated user]

      Okay, that's interesting, Ly_Mar. I know that the reason English often has two words for so many nouns is because it is a blend of languages (Greek, Latin, German, French, AngloSaxon, Spanish, even Quechua)--possibly more than any other language in use. How many words must a person know to be considered competent (as opposed to "fluent") in a language? How many words are in the English language? The Japanese language? I agree; languages are amazing.

      Edit: "The number of words in the English language is: 1,025,109.8. This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor on January 1, 2014. The English Language passed the Million Word threshold on June 10, 2009 at 10:22 a.m. (GMT)." I do not know what a ".8" word is, and I don't know what methodology was employed here.The Oxford English Dictionary has 171,476 words of which 3,000 are 95% of common text. Next, Japanese, according to an internet source has an estimated 80,000 to 160,000 words of which 50,000 may be in common use. One source said it takes 100,000 words to be fluent in a language. I quote a language instructor who said if you can read and understand a newspaper, you are competent. But hey, no need for me to get wrapped around the axle.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SawyerMorg2

      According a source I found (I can't remember, I think it was VSauce, or TedX) said in order to understand 95% of conversations (in the example of Spanish) you need to know 2,500 words!


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoshHerber3

      I think the idea is that they start off with words that you might already be familiar with since they're commonly used in english too and the sound the same, which makes them a good introduction to the language's sounds. It's the same reason you see words like "sombrero" a lot when you start off learning spanish.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MichaelWRh

      It says bento, but I typed bentou as it was spelled and was wrong. I like that it will either take the literal romaji or the english word itself. I.e. Manga or comic.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/GhoulNadir

      It is not supposed to just learn you letters but also words, and the word is bento, like Tokyo.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/frog-cult-leader

      The U is removed in translation. Weird, I know.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      It's not weird if you understand what's going on behind the scenes.

      The long "o" in Japanese is not the pure vowel /o:/ but the diphthong /oʊ/ (and the long "e" is not the pure vowel /e:/ but the diphthong /eɪ/), and when they write things in hiragana they encode that detail. Unlike in katakana where long vowels are just extended with a line ―.

      When transliterating (not translating) into English, we use a very simple system that largely ignores the vowel length, because although vowel length is phonemic in Japanese, it is not in English. A good example of a minimal pair in Japanese between short and long vowel is "hoshi" (star) and "hoshii" (want).


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lewis398990

      This is what i was looking for in this comment section, thank you. Was a little confused at the extra letter, im familiar with the "ou" = "o with a line over it" = "long o" from various words but had no idea bento was one of them!


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alex680427

      But if べんとう is spelled with a long o, then why does duolingo translate it to "bento" with a short o? Shouldn't it be translated as bentou, bentoo or bentō?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      "Bentou/bentō" is nothing more than writing べんとう in rōmaji.

      "Bento" is how we write it in English.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Mothy83903

      This makes a lot of sense! The difference between romaji and english


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/A_Root

      There are several systems for transliterating Japanese words into romaji. The most common is the Hepburn, which is used on most signs in Japan and also here on Duolingo. The others include Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki. Nihon-shiki is essentially Japanese speaker oriented and accounts for long vowels. Using it, 弁当 would be "bentoo". し is written as si and ち as ti. Kunrei-shiki is an updated version of Nihon-shiki that merges some transliterations that are usually pronounced the same in present day Japanese. づ and ず are both "zu" in Kunrei-shiki.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IsolaCiao

      Good information, just a note that long vowels are written with a circumflex using both Nihon-shiki and Kunrei-shiki, so it would be written as bentô.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/A_Root

      Ah I forgot about checking Wikipedia in Japanese. That's really interesting. Both of my Japanese linguistics professors were native speakers from Japan, but I don't know when they moved to the US. I know in Japanese schools though, which romaji system to teach has only recently been standardized, but even then, teachers still have a lot of choice of how to teach it.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IsolaCiao

      I see, actually it seems that with Kunrei-shiki it's the circumflex, but with Nihon-shiki there isn't actually a set standard. From Wikipedia:

      田中舘が示した表には、引く音(長音)の記述も無い。論文内の例文を見ると、長音は、母音の上にマクロン(横線)を付けている。しかし、1936年のフランス語での講演では、“引く音には母音aiueoに∧を付け,または(特に大文字の時は)母音を2つ重ねて書く”と、語っている。

      So the man who created Nihon-shiki didn't specify what to do with long vowels, but he wrote them with a macron in his thesis, then said in a lecture that they should be written with the circumflex, or (especially in the case of writing in upper case letters) double the letter. In my experience, Japanese people tend to use the circumflex, but that might be due to the influence of Kunrei-shiki.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/A_Root

      I did have a mistake, so I changed bentou->bentoo. The way we wrote in my Japanese linguistics classes was to double up the long vowels. That's how I'm used to seeing it in academic papers as well. It seems that there are several ways to write long vowels although I haven't found a complete style guide for either.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/vejtics

      No, the U (う) after a letter ending in O will just lengthen the o (ō).


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/unklethan

      In a lot of the shows I've seen, べんとう just gets translated as "lunch", not necessarily the box. Any insights on the best way to work with this, especially when in a Japanese cultural setting, not an American one?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raztastic

      Bento has a specific meaning unique to Japanese cuisine. Translating bento as "lunch" or "dinner" or "supper" is a contextual anglacism based upon the time of day the bento is eaten, but it is incorrect -- it is as if one said "let's eat tacos" around noon and it was translated into an equivalent word for "lunch" in a language that does not have its own word for "taco".


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NathanDale3

      Bento in Japan is a bit like a meal from a food truck in the States, it's a complete meal in a package for the sake of convenience when you're away from home for the day.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MichaelB5

      Basically 'boxed meal' typically for lunch


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pokerguy365

      I'm confused as to what that last character is doing there, the first three characters make the sound right? Does it modify something?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CumberHyarion

      It's because the o at the end of bento is actually a long o, not a short o. In some romanisations I think you'd write that as bentō. In hiragana the extra う is basically doing the same job as the line over the o in ō, marking where you should say a long vowel instead of a short one. So "to" with a short "o" sound is と, but "tō" with a long "o" sound is とう.

      The rule is that to lengthen the vowel sound of a hiragana character with an "o" or "u" vowel, you follow it with う. For hiragana that have a "e" or "i" vowel sound, you use い, and hiragana with an "a" vowel sound you do actually use あ.

      I believe there are some exceptions where you use え or お, and also some places where the characters look like they meet this rule but are actually pronounced as a separate vowel in a separate syllable.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TylerSmith619678

      Bento has become one of those japanese words that most people know; like sushi for instance.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RamenDutchman

      My parents, grandparents and quite some of my friends have no idea what a bento is, although they all know sushi.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dakimakara

      They meant a lot of people already familiar with other japanese words like neko, manga, sushi, etc


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Pokihaya

      So it's a food type? I am confusion


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HoroTanuki

      Maybe in the US, in Europe most people who don't watch anime have no idea what a "bento" is.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IsolaCiao

      I met a woman in Japan who was the wife of a mayor from either France or Belgium (I forget which, but anyways she only spoke French) and was here on business. She wanted to buy a "bento box" like the one she ate from in Japanese restaurants in her home country. I know that "bento boxes" are a common menu item at Japanese restaurants in the States as well. It's not a common English word, but it is an English word.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jenn707

      I actually watch anime and I don't know what a bento is


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KeithWong9

      ほか弁

      キャラ弁

      松花堂弁当(しょうかどうべんとう)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AntonioSou45770

      What is Bento ?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Uli74530

      Meal in a box with different varieties of food in each compartment. Hope this helps.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/iLuvHam1

      Bento means a wooden lunchbox with carvings in it; typically Japanese


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KeithWong9

      No, that's called 木製彫刻弁当箱(もくせいちょうこくべんとうばこ)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/QuentinHea

      弁当(べんとう) [bentò] (japanese lunchbox) is a word formed by 2 kanjis : - 弁 : braid, valve, pedal (JLPT N1) - 当 : hit, right, appropriate (JLPT N3)


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/polypropylene

      I've seen it typed as bentō so I decided to try it for funsies and it said "pay attention to the accents" instead of you have a typo or just correct and now I'm curious. Can someone explain a little more


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      "Bentō/bentou" is romaji.
      "Bento" is English.

      We're asked to write it in English, not romaji.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KeithWong9

      It tells you that the "ō" with the extra accent is not correct. The only correct word in English is "bento," not bentō/bentou/bentoo. Duolingo treats your answer as a typo and grants you correct marks.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MrFranku

      Should it be Bento べんと or Bentou べんとう??


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      The Japanese word is 弁当, spelled out as べんとう. Romaji is "bentou". But the word as borrowed into English is "bento".

      Japanese has long and short sounds, and they show it in the spelling. It is not べんと with a short お, it is べんとう with a long お. Long お diphthongizes to おう (just like English) and long え diphthongizes to えい (just like English).


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SamSeay1

      Looking at a few Japanese words I notice they end with う which is 'u' right? But I can never hear them say the 'u' sound. is it so short its almost silent? Or having not spoken Japanese can I just not hear it?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      Japanese distinguishes between long and short vowels. The short vowels are the pure monophthongs /o/ and /e/ and the long vowels are diphthongs /oʊ/ and /eɪ/. The vowel in "go/row/know" is a diphthong. The vowel in "stay/race/pay" is a diphthong.

      Hiragana spelling is very close to "spell it exactly how it sounds". So the diphthong /oʊ/ is spelled with う and the diphthong /eɪ/ is spelled with い. Katakana is almost identical, except the long vowels, even the diphthongs, are spelled with a horizontal line.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Baoluoxiong

      Chinese also do kind of bento but its called 盒饭


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raizzzz

      Is there an easy way to remember the changes in characters like these - べ?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FranklinUwU

      so "bento" in spanish is "lonchera" ?


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      Not exactly. "Lunch box" is a broad translation, but "bento" is something culturally specific. Google "traditional bento box" and check out the results.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LadyIvyoftheWood

      I don't think bento is common enough (even my spellchecker doesn't like it) to be considered English... yet. An actual translation would have been very helpful here. I suggest "take-out".


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      "Take-out" is a terrible translation of "bento". Bento is not what you get from the drive-through. It is a particularly Japanese box lunch, or the box itself.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LadyIvyoftheWood

      It's better than the nothing they gave us. I suppose "fancy decorated take-out box" is too much of a mouthful. I just figure it's fancier than a normal take-out box because it comes from the service oriented country of Japan. It is also not always lunch.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/IsolaCiao

      Bento can refer to the food or it can refer to the box. The food can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, from a restaurant, a convenience store, or something homemade. The box can be an expensive lacquer box that might be used in restaurants, a cheap plastic box you buy at the 100 yen store for taking a quick lunch to go from home, or a non-reusable plastic container used at the convenience store.

      We often order takeout at the Japanese school I work at when the kids are on break. I actually ordered a bento last week as takeout. My co-workers ordered things like spaghetti, ramen, and an omelet. Their takeout orders came on regular plates or in bowls. My meal was the "bento" meal, so it came in a bento box. We all ordered takeout, but I was the only one who actually had a bento. I think translating bento into English loses the nuance, because there's no other word that captures all its meanings. Part of learning a new language is learning about the culture.


      https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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      • 3237

      "Bento" does not mean "takeout". It is independent of takeout.

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