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"べんとう"

Translation:a boxed lunch

June 6, 2017

115 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/martin.mk

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


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

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)


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

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/Otum_Doge

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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"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/Michelle83803

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

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/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

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/abstract_anxiety

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


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

I saw another coment talk about this and they said all words that end in an 'o' such as to,po,o,mo,etc... are always acompanied by the 'u' even though its silent.

I jope this helps :3


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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No, not all such words.

Japanese has long and short vowels, meaning they are pronounced for half time or double time. ou means it's a long o, ei means it's a long e. In katakana, this is indicated with a .

Short sounds are indicated with a small "tsu".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/s13579

Some words in Japanese language has long vowels and some of the has short ones at the end of the word. If the word ends with a long お you use an う at the end, if it ends with a long え you use an い to indicate that long wovel. There are no silent う or い.


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/Lux1Love

It isn’t an english word, it’s just used but less known like « sushi »


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It wasn't originally an English word. It is now. Languages borrow from other languages all the time.


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/laszlo914063

Something the stewardess serves you during the flights.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Instead of asking the same question several times in a row, you can either read the existing comments on this page that explain it, or you can Google it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cs4nt14g0

Well i came to the comments looking for an explanation also but most of it is more so discussion. Scrolled for quite a bit before i saw this comment, so i guess I'll just have to Google it...


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

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:

Oxford Dictionaries definition of bento

A lacquered or decorated wooden Japanese lunch box.

1.1 A Japanese-style packed lunch, consisting of such items as rice, vegetables, and sashimi.

Dictionary.com definition of bento:

a meal, usually served in a lacquered or elaborately decorated box that is divided into sections for holding individual portions of food.

Wikipedia article about bento:

Bento (弁当 bentō)[1] 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.[2] 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.

Bento & Co pictures of bento boxes

Article from Coastal Connecticut entitled "Bento Box as Cultural Lunchbox"

I find google image search to always be helpful when trying to understand something I've never seen or heard of before.


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


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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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/laurencrute

Just wondering why isn't it bentou as the English translation. Is it just that English speakers are lazy and dropped the U?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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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".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/x0Ghost0x

Why doesn't it translate to lunchbox?? Some people have no idea what a bento is also english people don't use bentos either that's a Japanese thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Translating べんとう as "lunchbox" is like translating さけ as "liquor". It fails to capture what it really is. So English has borrowed those words into our language.


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

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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I remember that comment. I think I'm the one who gave you that lingot.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RyanMcKeag2

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.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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Because calling it a lunchbox fails to capture what bento really is. It's a uniquely Japanese style of boxed lunch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento

https://en.bentoandco.com/collections/bento-boxes-newest-oldest


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/K-Yennie

I think it’s so that when you can get the basic idea of what a bento is by finding something as similar to it as possible. It’s not that bentos are lunchboxes but that lunchboxes are the closest thing to bentos.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cosimone1

"bento" is not an English word.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Rae.F
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It might not have started off that way, but it is now!

Or do you not consider "restaurant" to be an English word?
https://www.etymonline.com/word/restaurant

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