Kia ora!

I found this dictionary thanks to a video on The Kid Should See This, introducing Kapa Haka, a traditional Maori dance. The dance was to intimidate the enemy but also to try to deescalate tensions and prevent the battle from happening.



This is Juju. She’s an 11 year-old racecar driver from Okayama. The short video is in Japanese with English subtitles.

This is one of my favorite lines:


And another:

So do you think we should lower the driving age to 11?

What did you think of the subtitles? Accurate?

Helping the needy

It felt like spring yesterday, but it’s cold again today. It’s hard to imagine having to “sleep rough” but that’s what the homeless are faced with.

In Brussels, Belgium, where (according to the video below) there are 2,600 homeless, and where canvas is illegal but cardboard shelters are not, Belgian entrepreneur Xavier Van der Steppen helps the homeless with “origami cardboard tents” that cost only $35 to make.

More about this story from the BBC

More about homelessness in Brussels (from the Brussels Times).

How about the homeless in Tokyo? According to this article from Mainichi Shimbun, “Tokyo sees 4,000 homeless sleeping in 24-hr cafes on any weeknight”.

One interesting point about the cardboard tents is that they’re made by prison inmates. One possible research project topic is to find out what prison inmates in Japan (or another country you’re learning about) are doing. Do they work? Do they make anything that contributes to society?

Another project for helping the needy (of a different kind): help the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare with their English-language information. This is just awful: “Self-support of needy person” (PDF)

One incomprehensible sentence:

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.