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TBS News Explains Japan Has Fewer COVID-19 Cases Thanks to Japanese Pronunciation

This. Is. A. PEN.

By 2 min read

Amidst the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s relatively good looking numbers have puzzled the world for the past months. Do cluster control and low-testing strategies work? Or could Japan’s mask-culture be the key?

We probably won’t ever know for sure, but new theories pop-up every week.

When serious studies are (badly) dumbed down

The latest theory floating around in Japan is that the Japanese language’s phonetic characteristics determine how much airborne particles we release when speaking. In other words, your speech could play a role in respiratory disease transmission

While research findings comparing English, Chinese, and Japanese are fascinating, blaming one’s language for spreading the coronavirus is a stretch. However, Japanese broadcast station TBS has run with it, airing a demonstration that would make most linguists scream with despair.

Could the difference in pronunciation between languages be the reason the spread of infection has been slow in Japan?

In the video, a Japanese woman repeats the same sentence with a piece of paper clipped in front of her face. First, in Japanese “これはペンです” and then in English, “This is a pen.”  When she speaks Japanese, the paper barely moves an inch, but her explosive English pronunciation just blows it away. 

The clip’s top-right corner reads, “could the difference in pronunciation between languages be the reason the spread of infection has been slow in Japan?”



The demonstration was proof enough to woo the presenters of the show. They appeared immediately convinced that English speakers pronounce the “P” sound as if it is exploding out of their mouths.

The clip has triggered a flood of reactions. Most are counter-response videos proving them wrong. Grab some popcorn and scroll with us through tons of funny tweets for what will inevitably be known as #ThisIsAPenGate.


Who knew English was so powerful?

Japanese folks joined in too


This is a WHAT?

Here come the memes


At least we have something to laugh about during all this mess.

pikotaro apple pen pineapple japan

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