The voice of “smileville”

When I was in high school, I was on a study abroad program in a Spanish-speaking country, and I remember watching an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie dubbed in Spanish. The Spanish speaking actor’s voice was considerably deeper than Schwarzenegger’s and had a very different tone, and I remember thinking how “off” it sounded.

Many of my students will be familiar with some of the characters in this video clip of a voice actor and his various roles. One project you could try is to find the Japanese voice actors for these roles (or other movies or animated series you’re interested in) and compare them. While you’re at it, compare the content, too. Are the English and Japanese very different?

Another project you could try is to find out why China apparently bans anything related to Winnie-the-Pooh…

Scottish sheep scarfing seaweed by the seashore

My hair used to be blonde when I was little, but it’s gotten darker the older I get. I joke with people sometimes that it’s because I often eat seaweed (wakame, nori, mozuku, kombu…) now that I live in Japan. Students used to believe me, but they’re not quite as gullible these days.

“to scarf (down)” is an Americanism that means “to eat a lot and usually quickly”, similar to パクパク食べる. It’s usually used to talk about junk food, rather than healthier food, though.

Baking time

It’s finally cool in Tokyo. Time to start baking.

Here’s a video about chocolate chip cookies, comparing and analyzing the process of those made by an amateur to two different professionals. How do you make your cookies? And if you want to practice your “cooking English” more (the vocabulary and idioms used when talking about cooking is rather specific from language to language and just translating directly doesn’t always work, so getting lots of input in that language is very important if you want to talk about it), there are some links to recipe sites in the Tools section.

Happy cooking 🥘 and baking 🍪

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, here’s how to decorate cookies to make them look like autumn leaves:

A different kind of translation

This topic may seem a little far from the lives of Japanese college students, but it’s a chance to learn a little more about an important part of world history.

Zora Neale Hurston was a famous American author (students: talk to me if you want to learn more about her, or try researching her on your own) and in the early 20th century, she interviewed a man named Cudjo Lewis in order to write a book about him. Why? Because he was the last survivor of the last slave ship that arrived in America. Lewis’ birth name was Oluale Kossula, and he was born in Benin and kidnapped and sold into slavery when he was 19 years old. Hurston spent 3 months interviewing him.

The book was never published in her lifetime (she died in 1960). She wrote most of the book using Kossula’s dialect, and publishers didn’t think the book would sell well. But it has recently been published and I’m excited to read it. It’s also available on audio, and for a book like this, I’ll probably do both.

Here’s an article about this from Vulture. And it includes an excerpt from the book. A translation challenge for you is to see if you can intepret the dialect. It may help to try reading aloud.

Here’s an example:


“De war commences but we doan know ’bout it when it start. Den somebody tell me de folkses way up in de North make de war so dey free us. I lak hear dat. But we wait and wait, we heard de guns shootee sometime but nobody don’t come tell us we free. So we think maybe dey fight ’bout something else.”


The war (the Civil War) started but we didn’t know about it. Then somebody told me that people in the North started the war to free us (the slaves). I was happy to hear that. But we waited and waited, and we heard gunshots sometimes. But nobody came to tell us that we were free. So we though they were probably fighting about something else.”