A Museum Dedicated to Mistranslated Japanese Phrases

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.


The Museum of Wonky English is on view in Tokyo through December 7, 2022.



  1. Am I the only one who finds the mistranslated English charming, and amusing?

  2. Please, where can I buy that specific shirt?

  3. How am I the first one to mention that “my hovercraft is full of eels”?


  4. The English for urinating with precision and elegance is actually not mistranslated. It sounds funny because it unpacks what is inherent in キレイに (kirai ni, “in a clean fashion” or so). In order to cleanly urinate, one must urinate with precision and elegance.

  5. The Louise Penny novel Bury Your Dead has some wonderful French/English mistranslations including “The night is a strawberry”….

  6. Years ago, the Japanese fast food chain “Mos Burger” printed the the following slogan on their merch: “All nature was full of life”. (Before we came along!)

  7. My husband was watching an American war movie while in France. An American soldier pointed to tanks in the distance, ostensibly coming to the rescue of troops. The soldier shouted “TANKS!” The subtitle read, “MERCI!”

  8. The below website started out with examples from Japan, but has since expanded to cover other countries as well:


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