What Meaning?

There is a great TV program about the Japanese language – perhaps I’ve written about it before. The latest episode talked about katakana.

Japanese people were shown katakana words and asked if they understood the meaning. Though many of such katakana words are used by Japanese it appears that they are often not clearly understood at all. Should someone who speaks English understand the meaning of a ‘Japanese’ word more than a Japanese person?

Another interesting point was raised when film titles were discussed. Foreign films always have their titles fairly unaltered, only katakana-ised. This means that words which are not widely used as katakana words are simply converted to katakana style so that people can say the name of the film. Isn’t it strange that a Japanese person might go to see a film and not have a clue what the title actually means. On top of that, if the words are unfamiliar doesn’t that make it harder to remember the title?