Anyone who has been to Japan has undoubtedly encountered the mistranslated phrase. Robotic translator gone awry? Translation job outsourced to intern who took a semester of English? Whatever the reason, these mistranslations have offered endless chuckles but are also a reminder of the nuances of language and how difficult it can be to accurately capture true meaning. So instead of scolding, this museum celebrates these mistakes, positioning them as valuable stepping stones in acquiring a new language.
The pop-up museum, being held at Tokyo’s UltraSuperNew Gallery in Harajuku, features some classics such as “please urinate with precision and elegance” and “When coffee is all gone. It’s over.” The exhibition is actually a publicity campaign from language learning app Duolingo.
The hope is that when visitors look at the signs, menus, clothes, and other objects exhibited in the museum—objects that can make them chuckle, gasp, think, and reflect—they will notice there’s more depth to wonky English than they initially thought and become more emboldened to learn a foreign language.duolingo
The Museum of Wonky English is on view in Tokyo through December 7, 2022.