Translation:a boxed lunch
115 Comments This discussion is locked.
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!
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).
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.
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 :)
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"
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)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
When people ask the same question over and over, the good answers get buried and impossible to find. Links that have been posted in this thread:
A lacquered or decorated wooden Japanese lunch box.
1.1 A Japanese-style packed lunch, consisting of such items as rice, vegetables, and sashimi.
a meal, usually served in a lacquered or elaborately decorated box that is divided into sections for holding individual portions of food.
Bento (弁当 bentō) is a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice or noodles, fish or meat, with pickled and cooked vegetables, in a box. Containers range from mass-produced disposables to hand-crafted lacquerware. Bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋 bentō-ya), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves.
I find google image search to always be helpful when trying to understand something I've never seen or heard of before.
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.
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.
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).
No, it has nothing to do with laziness. It's because English spelling rules and Japanese spelling rules are very different. In Japanese, everything is spelled exactly how it sounds. "Bento" has a long /o:/ at the end, which is pronounced as the diphthong /oʊ/ and therefore spelled べんとう because Japanese has long/short vowel distinction (ほしい means "want" and ほし means "star"). English does not have long/short vowel distinction. We naturally pronounce the long /o:/ at the end as a diphthong. We don't need to show it in the spelling. And if we did, we would be likely to read it as "ben-too".
I know what you're trying to say, but さけ is actually "liquor" in general, and "sake" has been incorrectly borrowed into English to mean 日本酒 (nihonshu), so I think that's not the best example. I would think more of "sushi", "sumo", or "karaoke" as good examples of Japanese words we've borrowed.
Part of learning a language is learning its culture, and I think calling べんとう a "lunchbox" completely loses the nuance and brings up misunderstanding about what the word actually means. I've explained here why "bento" is not just a "lunchbox": https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/22959783?comment_id=36939232 and there are many other comments in this thread for those interested in understanding more about this word.
So why does this not say Lunchbox after translation like all the other words... This seems to be the only word so far that when first introduced shows the picture of a Lunchbox, asks you to find Lunchbox, then proceeds to only give "Bento" as the "Translation".. You might want to correct that.
Because calling it a lunchbox fails to capture what bento really is. It's a uniquely Japanese style of boxed lunch.