First, bridge the language divide

This article from VOA News explains that one of the hurdles the South Korean and North Korean women’s ice hockey players had to overcome was language: hockey terms in South Korea are mostly loan words from English, but in the language they use in the North, loan words have been removed.

Here are some of the examples, with the Hangul added (from Language Log):

If you want to read about how the game went, here’s an article from the New York Times: United, They Fall: Korean Hockey Team Loses, 8-0, in Olympic Debut”. 


Ink fish and sad cold noodles

This article from Atlas Obscura describes some very funny translation fails on menus, including:


smallpox — a deadly disease that has been eradicated (last known case: 1977). In Japanese, it’s 天然痘。

Some you can probably guess:

  • “ink fish”
  • “chicken in her own juices”

Some of the other really funny ones:

  • “steak on the way home”
  • “mouth bags”
  • “sweaty tacos”
  • “nuts of St. Jack”
  • “sad cold noodles”

And some simple bad editing and misspelling:

  • “Human Taste” (instead of Hunan Taste — Hunan is a province in southern China. In Japanese it’s 湖南省)

Like I tell students all the time, if you want to really explain what お好み焼き is, you can’t just say, “Japanese pancake” and you certainly can’t just translate “Grilled whatever you like”.

Take this example (three translations of a French dish called ile flottante) and try it with some hard to translate foods from Japan or your major language country.

Moon eating

Or “moon being eaten”. That’s how you say “lunar elipse” in Japanese: 月食。It was pretty spectacular, though my iPhone certainly doesn’t do it justice. It looked like you could pick it out of the sky with a pair of chopsticks.

At about 9 pm, just starting to “be eaten”, though it’s hard to tell from this photo. It was a very, very bright moon.

An hour later, orange and very 3D:

And here are some more profesional photos and captions for your reading practice:

“See it! Super Blue Moon eclipse photos” (from Earth Sky)

“Tokyo’s View of the Total Lunar Eclipse” (from Japan Forward)