Duolingo Opens Museum of ‘Wonky English’ to Display the Art of Japanese Mistranslations

“Why do mistakes have such a bad rep? They’re the unsung language-learning heroes.”
Image: YouTube screenshot via Duolingo

As many will attest, learning a foreign language is not easy. According to Duolingo that is why it “has always celebrated its learners’ mistakes as valuable stepping stones to acquiring knowledge.”

With that in mind, and as part of an effort to create brand awareness, the language learning app has launched the ‘Museum of Wonky English’ (MOWE), described as “the first institution in Japan to shed light on the art of mistranslations.”

Created by independent creative agency UltraSuperNew Tokyo, the free-to-visit museum is located at the UltraSuperNew Gallery in Harajuku Tokyo, and features sixteen of “the best examples of wonky English found all over Japan,” said a release, adding that the selected pieces display English mistranslations that have given mundane phrases new, surprising meanings.


 

“Why do mistakes have such a bad rep? They’re the unsung language-learning heroes, and we wanted this campaign to settle the scores,” said Andrés Aguilar, Associate Creative Director, UltraSuperNew. “There’s a treasure trove of meanings you can only access when lost in translation, and that’s what we wanted people to experience in the Museum of Wonky English.”

“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,” UltraSuperNew said.

Supporting the campaign is a hero film that invites people to visit the museum and participate in a social activation to share the humorous and interesting mistranslations they come across in daily life on Duolingo’s Twitter channel: @duolingo_japan. The best submissions will be exhibited in the museum next to the rest of the masterpieces, and those who sent them will be given a free month of Super Duolingo.


 

Francois Claverie, Group Creative Director, UltraSuperNew added: “The beauty of wonky English translations is entirely lost on those who don’t have a good enough command of the English language. Roughly 88 million people in Japan are being left out! By giving them a taste of how wonderful these mistranslations can be, we’re hoping that they’ll give Duolingo a try, to be able to quickly appreciate them by themselves too.”


Image via UltraSuperNew

 

Image via UltraSuperNew

 

Image via UltraSuperNew

 

Image via UltraSuperNew

 

Image: YouTube screenshot via Duolingo

 

Image: YouTube screenshot via Duolingo

 

Image: YouTube screenshot via Duolingo


“Our goal is to make learning a language fun and effective for everyone, by highlighting these wonky mistakes, we turned them into fun language learning moments,” said James Kuczynski, Creative Director Brand & Marketing, Duolingo on the museum website.

He added: “We loved this simple universal insight UltraSuperNew shared with us and how we could turn these learning mistakes into ways to help others get better at learning a language”.

The Museum of Wonky English is at the UltraSuperNew Gallery, Harajuku, Tokyo, and is open 11 am to 7 pm every day from November 29th to December 7th, 2022.


Credits

Client: Duolingo
Japan Country Manager – Sho Mizutani
VP of Marketing – Manu Orssaud
Director of Regional Marketing, Asia – Haina Xiang
Creative director Brand & Marketing – James Kuczynski
Director of social media & Influencer – Katherine Chan

Agency: UltraSuperNew
Group Account Director: Yumi Esposito-Pueblo
Group Creative Director: Francois Claverie
Associate Creative Directors: Andrés Aguilar, Oguzcan Kaganoguzbeyoglu
Copywriter: Nobuaki Nogamoto
Art director: Sayu Fujii
Designer: Belle Sim
Strategist: Isobel Walker
Producer: Alex Watanabe
Content planner: Kazuki Chito
UI/UX designer: Yerai Zamorano
Gallery Coordinator: Alex Schmidt
Contributors: Jinshi Itomi, Asumi Yamayoshi

Film Production:
Director: 古川原壮志 Takeshi Kogahara
DP: 石田遼 Ryo Ishida
Gaffer: 神山啓介 Keisuke Kamiyama
Art Design: AKI
Sound:尾居土祐大 Yuta Oido
Grading: 山田祐太 Yuta Yamada
Music: Tommy Zee
Producer: 大澤康久 Yas Osawa

Image: UltraSuperNew

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