Translation:Are you a foreigner?

June 17, 2017

This discussion is locked.


"Nobody in Japan would say 外国人 , except a school teacher. Foreigners are simply 外人. Though technically 外人 could mean anyone from far away, and not necessarily from a foreign country."

Long story short: Japanese kid said 外国人 rather than 外人 when speaking to herself about me, even though she didn't think I'd know what she was saying anyway. ^^

—Long version—
When I went travelling in Japan for a month, the only time I heard either was when I was walking down a random street. It was a main road not all that far from tourist areas, but far enough that tourists would almost certainly catch a bus rather than be walking there, and there weren't many pedestrians about.

There was a Japanese elementary school kid walking on her own the opposite way to me on the same side of the street. I had barely even noticed she was there and was just plodding along minding my own business. As we got near she suddenly noticed me, slowed down slightly and started staring at me, and then said「がいこくじん」in a soft but very clear voice.

She said it from only about 8 feet away, at regular speaking volume, and with her head still turned completely towards me when she said it. Her expression was as though she had just encountered something very unexpected and rare. It seemed she was simply speaking to herself out loud, to express her amazement to herself. It was clear she hadn't even considered that there could be any possibility I might know the word she was saying (or, more likely, even of any chance I'd know any Japanese whatsoever).

I think she was expecting I'd continue on walking straight past her—that I'd completely ignore having heard anything since she was speaking in Japanese. However, I responded by turning my face towards her and giving a gentle smile whilst carrying on walking.

She then went a little red with embarrassment, maybe at having spoken to herself loud enough that it got a response, or maybe for having said such an odd thing towards someone whom she assumed had then smiled politely back not understanding that she'd said such a thing. She then quickly scurried on after that. Was pretty amusing. ^^

I originally posted this a year ago. But the person I replied to has now deleted their comment, resulting in my comment vanishing along with it. As my tale apparently received a lot of likes, I'm un-vanishing it by copy-pasting it from the hidden realm of deleted post data back into this new comment. ^^


But the person I replied to has now deleted their comment, resulting in my comment vanishing along with it

I really hate it when people do that, thanks for reposting it, was a sweet read.


Wow, that's an interesting story..


"copy-pasting it from the hidden realm of deleted post data"

How did you gain access to such a wondrous realm?


Going through the millions of messages duo sends to your email maybe


The problem with that theory is that you don't have any email notifications for the comments that existed in the discussion before you started following it, and you don't receive email notifications for any of your own comments in that discussion either...

I only started following this sentence discussion by replying to that other person's comment...

Therefore I don't have emails either for my own comment or for the person's comment I replied to...

And yet I was still able to copy-paste both comments back from this other realm I mentioned. :P

However, I don't think it would be a good idea to explain how to access something like that, especially not on here. It's got nothing to do with hacking or anything devious though. In fact these deleted posts are even automatically sent to everyone's browsers each time they come to this discussion, but this stuff is just not displayed on the page. Even now, two and a half years after it got deleted, people who look in that hidden place can still view the deleted original comment, my reply, and each of the five replies I got. ^^


i do not see a reason not to explain this. :D so for anyone interested, you simply open the webside in html and see every comment, deleted or not. the deleted ones are simply marked as hidden. this is most often the case with things you "delete" in the internet, it is especially true for chat-devices.


i do not know why it doesn't show my comment, so possibly it whill show it twice now, if so, i am sorry for this... but i do not see, why not to explain it. you can simply open the webpage in html and see any deleted comment, as they are simply marked as hidden. this is most often the case with "deleted" things in the internet, and especially true for chat-devices.


That's really sweet :)


Nice story but you're wrong when you say nobody says gaikokujin. I've lived in Tokyo for over a year and if you're ever doing anything with the government, jobs or any other official type things in city hall, hospitals, banks, whatever, they almost all exclusively use 外国人 (gaikokujin). Also, foreigners are exotic creatures to them lol and many young Japanese like teens or young adults will use gaijin san instead of just gaijin. Gaijin is pretty common though and not necessarily an insult but definitely informal.


Nice story but you're wrong when you say nobody says gaikokujin.

The point of my story was exactly what you've said. ^^

It wasn't me who said "nobody says gaikokujin". It was what the user who I replied to had said. He deleted his comment several months afterwards, and when a person deletes their comment it deletes all its replies along with it. So my reply which contained my story got deleted too.

The quoted paragraph at the top of my comment is a full copy-paste of that user's deleted comment. All the text underneath that is a full copy-paste of my reply to him (except I also added that footnote in grey coloured text at the bottom).

So the very point I was making to that user by posting that story of my experience was that he was wrong when he said "nobody says gaikokujin".

In regards the rest of your reply, I already share the same understanding and I agree with everything you said. Although I've not lived in Japan, I have been learning Japanese for a very very long time. But that is still nice interesting information to have in this discussion for people newer to Japanese anyway. Thanks for adding it. ^^


Oh ok I see now, yeah, that makes a lot more sense that you pasted his comment because I didn't understand why you were saying nobody says it but then said a little girl said it


More than once I had Japanese teenagers and kids stopping suddenly on the street and staring at me when they see me... It is like they saw a polar bear on the street


Really nice story :)


Yeah I've heard that some Japanese people can be quite xenophobic. I plan to visit Japan one day & would be happy to discuss where I'm from with the locals if I was asked politely.


So what is the difference here between がいじん and がいごくじん?


がいじん means foreign looking and can be mildly offensive, がいごくじん means a genuine foreign person and is safer to use by the Japanese natives. If you are a foreigner you can use either to describe yourself.


Sorry, i put unnecessary " on the こ.


I was always told that がいじん meant outsider and since Japanese society and language places a lot of importance on social status and groups it's a big insult almost like saying "you don't belong in this country." But it can be a slur against foreigners or maybe just a more vulgar way of speaking if you're only talking among Japanese people. 外国人 however is totally normal. It sometimes becomes 外国人さん if they're being extra polite.


外。look like a guy with a back pack... Like a foreigner


This is how i like to remember kanji too! "Tokyo" reminds me of two little tourists holding maps


Is it pronunced gaikokujin or gaigokujin?


The former one - がいこくじん


The kanji 国 meaning country has a pronunciation こく(koku), but in some cases the initial consonant can be softened to ご depending what comes before it. It's still the same word and you'd even say it's still the same reading of the kanji (most of them have several entirely different readings, also based on context), it's more of a quirk of pronunciation as the words flow more naturally one way or the other.


Ah that explains the gaikoku (foreigner) and chuugoku (China)


I think gaikoku would mean something like "foreign land". "Foreigner" would be gaikokujin :)


Apparently, it can't be "Am I a foreigner?"
All of the sarcasm that I've heard in anime has been nothing but lies.




It's funny to come across all these sentences talking about "foreigners".

In British English, at least, the word "foreigner" has pretty much been phased out. It would be considered rude to refer to someone as a "foreigner". You might call someone an "immigrant", or - if they were just here on holiday - a "tourist" or perhaps an "overseas visitor".

I would be interested in hearing whether the perception of the word is different in other English-speaking countries.


Is this rude?

Using the noun "foreigner" in English usually involves xenophobic sentiments. Is that the same for gaigokujin?


外国人 is not at all.rude. But if you want a more polite version, 外国の方(かた)


gaijin is the rude one


It's a case of values dissonances. The word itself isn't a slur, but then again, everything considered...


Similar to "haole" in Hawaii. It is used to describe a white person (although it's true meaning is any foreigner): "We met the haole store owner (not the Japanese one)." But it can be explicitly derogatory: "That haole tourist (who jumped in the water right in front of you while catching an awesome shore break on your bodyboard)." It's all in the context.


What about ihoujin?


異邦人(いほうじん)sounds rather old-fashioned and has the image of being opposite to 邦人(ほうじん), referring to a Japanese person. It also seems to be used in Christianity and Judaism to refer to someone, who is not a believer in said religion but a "wrong/bad religion".


In Christianity/Judaism, it would translate into more of the word "gentile". But thats the bible in Japanese.


外 —— "outside"
国 —— "country"
人 —— "human/people"

Therefore 外国人 means "people outside (your) country" or just "foreigner".

But the word 外人 is translated to "outside people" which means "outsider" and it can sound rude sometimes.


Whether it's simple 外人, or standard 外国人, or elaborate 外国人の方, I find neither of them offensive. I am a person from outside = 外人 and I will never ever even closely look like Japanese, neither I would really try to look one, or try to fit it by say, dyeing my hair black or deep brown, or doing the whole Japanese etiquette thing. I mean, I don't do rude things, just like I don't do them at home, but I don't follow special dinner etiquette rules and i. e. don't eat that piece of cake with a special desert fork. So I will hardly follow such Japanese etiquette of holding a teacup properly either. It's not a foreigner thing, it's not being rude at all either, it's just being me. I value individuality much more than collectiveness, if collectiveness leads to things like every one having to look the same (like a student was forced to dye her naturally brown hair to black, every four days they made her dye it... so she looks same as the rest of her class). I'm an individual and proud to be one, 外人 pride lol because the word is not rude at all, c'mon, smile and don't be offended


Exactly i dont find any of the terms offensive. I really dont care what people use unless they are trying tonbe offen. However being married to Japanese i do follow Japanese culture and etiquette, mostly bc i like it. Ive never felt like an outside person either, im just obviously different from Japanese bc im not.

[deactivated user]

    Depending on the situation, could 外国人 refer to a Japanese person (like if a Japanese guy is in a different country) or is there a different word that should be used? アメリカに私が外国人です


    Does Japanese have a word to describe non-ethnic Japanese citizens.



    e.g. アメリカ系日本人、中国系日本人


    When is 国 pronounced as goku and when is it pronounced as koku? I've encountered both without explanation as to any hard and fast rule and was just curious.


    There is no hard and fast rule to Rendaku,

    From the Intro 1 Tips & Notes:

    So why isn't it ちゅうこく?This is due to a phenomenon known as "rendaku" or "sequential voicing." Syllables that come later in a word are sometimes voiced and marked with a dakuten. This is often rather unpredictable, so rendaku words should be memorized individually.


    I put "Are you from overseas?" and it was rejected. Where I come from saying foreigner can sound a little bit offensive. Would this be accepted?


    "Foreigner" is slightly derogatory if you ask me. I prefer "from another country."

    外人 is offensive. The 漢字 means "outside person," whereas 外国人 is polite and means "outside country person."


    From who's perspective is it offensive? From a Japanese perspective "外国人" or because they used the English word "foreign"?


    Why is 外 not pronounced そと here?


    Almost all kanji have at least two different readings depending on the context it is used in.
    Kun-yomi (meaning-readings) are native Japanese pronunciations attached to a kanji. You will see these most often when a kanji is by itself (and when part of a person's name). The kun-yomi for 外 is そと and is the noun "outside".
    On-yomi (sound-readings) are Sino-Japanese pronunciations; readings based on their original adopted Chinese sounds. You will see these often when a kanji is in a compound word such as 外国人, がい is the on-yomi reading for 外

    The other kanji in that word also have different readings
    国 is read くに meaning "country" when by itself, and has the on-yomi こく
    人 is read ひと meaning "person" by itself, and has a few different on-yomi, the one being used here is じん used to describe nationality

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