Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo. It will be the fourth Olympics held in Japan following the 1964 Summer Olympics and 1972 and 1998 Winter Olympics.

The vast majority of athletes, coaches, trainers, medical staff, officials and administrators around the world do not understand spoken or written Japanese. The following is a short primer for the non-Japanese-speaking 10 km marathon swimmers who will compete in Tokyo:

Swimming = 水泳 which is pronounced as ‘sui-ei‘ where sui is represented by 水 (which means water) and ei is represented by 泳 (which means swim).

Breaststroke = 平泳ぎ which is pronounced as ‘hira-oyogi‘ where ‘hira‘ is represented by 平 (which means flat) and ‘oyogi‘ is represented by 泳ぎ (which means swimming).

Backstroke = 背泳ぎ which is pronounced as ‘se-oyogi‘ where ‘se‘ is represented 背 (which means back) and ‘oyogi‘ is represented by 泳ぎ (which means swimming).

Long-distance swimming = 遠泳 which is pronounced as ‘en-ei‘ where ‘en‘ is represented by 遠 (which means far or distant) and ‘ei‘ is represented by 泳 (which means swim).

Freestyle = 自由形 which is pronounced as ‘jiyu-gata‘ where ‘jiyu‘ is represented by 自由 (which means free) and ‘gata‘ is represented by 形 (which means style).

Open water swimming = オープン・ウォーター・スイミング (often abbreviated as OWS) which is pronounced as ‘opun-water-suimingu‘ and is a loan word from English.

Marathon swimming = マラソン・スイミング which is pronounced as ‘marason-suimingu‘ and is a loan word from English.

Butterfly = バタフライ which is pronounced as ‘bata-furai‘ and is a loan word from English.

1 km = 一キロ or 1キロ which is pronounced as ‘ichi-kiro‘ where ‘ichi‘ is represented by 一 (which means one) and ‘kiro‘ is represented by キロ (which means kilometer).

10 km = 十キロ or 10キロ which is pronounced as ‘ju-kiro‘ where ‘ju‘ is represented by 十 (which means ten) and ‘kiro‘ is represented by キロ (which means kilometer).

Swimsuit = 水着 which is pronounced as ‘mizu-gi‘ where ‘mizu‘ is represented by 水 (which means water) and ‘gi‘ is represented by 着 (which means clothing).

Other useful words might include:

Delicious = 美味しい which is pronounced as ‘oishii‘ where ‘o’ is represented by 美 (which means beautiful) and ‘ishii‘ is represented by 味しい(which means flavor or taste).

Athlete = 選手 which is pronounced as ‘sen-shu‘ where ‘sen‘ is represented by 選 (which means elect, select, choose, prefer) and ‘shu‘ is represented by 手 (which means hand).

Woman = 女 which is a pictograph of a (young) woman.

Man = 男 which represents a man with strength (力) working in the fields (田).

Left = 左 which represents a hand (屮) that does work (工).

Right = 右 which represents the hand (屮) used to bring food to the mouth (口).

Big = 大 which is a pictograph of a man standing imposingly or big/large.

Small = 小 which is a line (亅) divided into smaller pieces (八).

People = 人 is a pictograph of a person.

Jellyfish = 海月 or 水母 both of which are pronounced ‘kurage‘ where the first character is literally sea (海) + month (月) and the second character is water (水) + mother (母).

Whale = 鯨 which is pronounced ‘kujira‘ where the left side of the character means fish (魚) and the right side of the character (京) refers to quadrillion (i.e., really big),

Shark = 鮫 which is pronounced ‘sa-me‘ where the left side of the character means fish (魚) and the right side of the character (交) refers to sexual intercourse.

Appearance of a dragon walking = 龘 which is pronounced taito (see explanation here).

For information on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics scheduled for July 24th to August 9th 2020, visit here.

Footnote: The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing 2022, the first time a city has hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Beijing 2022 will see a lack of Chinese linguistic knowledge among the majority of participating athletes, coaches, trainers, medical staff, officials and administrators around the world. Hopefully, a similar primer for the non-Chinese-speaking ice swimmers who may compete in the possible 1 km ice swim event held in Beijing will be needed in the future.

For more information on Beijing 2022 scheduled for February 4th – 20th 2022, visit here.

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