“Library of Congress” is the “Tokyo Dome” of English journalism

Culturally bound size references are a bane of translators. For example, Japanese authors used to be very fond of giving land area references in terms of "Tokyo Domes." As in, "An area of forest equivalent to 112 Tokyo Domes is lost every year." The English-speaking reader is liable to look at such a translation and […]

Funny errors in Japanese

I recently bought the book いいまちがい (Japanese Made Funny), a bilingual collection of funny errors made by foreigners speaking Japanese. One of my favorites was a guy who wanted a hamburger with no ketchup or other condiments. He calls up his Japanese friend, and asks him how to say "plain" in Japanese. The friend tells […]

Dying languages

The world's languages are becoming extinct at an unprecedented pace. Language diversity is important socially, culturally, and scientifically, and the loss of so many languages — the vast majority of which have never been written down, let alone studied — is a tragedy for humankind. But I think that those calling for dying languages to […]