Tokyo Cosplish school offers "cute English"

TOKYO Mon Mar 10, 2008 4:05pm GMT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - For a GR8 opportunity to brush up your Moeng, visit Japan's first Cosplish course.

A Japanese entrepreneur has set up a language school targeting fans of "cos-play", or "costume-play", which involves dressing up as a favourite character from "manga" comic books or animation movie characters.

Teachers at the school wear fantasy costumes and give lessons in "Cosplish" -- a mix of English and "cos-play" slang.

This month, Cosplish's schedule includes a "Broken English" course and an "Otaku Eiken" ("Geeks' English") class, centred on the comic books loved by geeks, who are known in Japan as Otaku.

There is also "Moeng" -- a combination of "moe", which is geeky Japanese slang for "cute", and "English".

"Otaku culture is taking over the world. Everybody reads manga now. So I thought Otaku people in Japan might be interested in Otaku culture outside Japan," Yohei Suzuki, who founded the school with his brother Tomohiro, told Reuters.

Japan's geek market, which covers comics as well as "anime" animation movies, computer games and role-play cafes, has been estimated at some $1.7 billion in 2007. Since Otaku are generally enthusiastic spenders, a multitude of businesses has sprung up to feed the growing market.

Suzuki said Japanese geeks, known for being shy and socially awkward, might hesitate to sign up for a normal English course where they would have to talk to glamorous young women.

"They don't get along with normal people. Otaku only get along with Otaku people," the 31-year-old said in a telephone interview.

"I wanted to create a space for Otaku. Everyone at my school is a geek, so you don't have to worry about what everyone else is thinking."

Students at the school discuss their favourite comic books and films, and learn slang used in English online chatrooms and mobile phone messages, including popular abbreviations such as "GR8" ("great") and "B4" ("before").

Suzuki's brother and business partner used to work as a manager at a maid bar in Tokyo where waitresses dress as French maids, a popular Otaku hang-out.

Suzuki also describes himself as a geek. The brothers invented Cosplish because they wanted to add a fun twist to language courses, but Suzuki says there's a serious side to his business.

"If you go to an English school in Japan, they only teach you one set expression or conversation," he said. "We teach many different ways. It's informal, practical, everyday English."

(Editing by Michael Watson)

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