Language Learning

My Language Learning Methods

नमस्ते! As some of you may know, I’ve recently decided to pick up Hindi again after taking a Hindi language class in uni two years ago. I have to admit that I haven’t done anything to improve (or even remember the few things I did already know) in those two years. But now that I’ve graduated, I have some more time on my hands and want to use that time productively. So, I’ve started working on Hindi on my own!

So far, I’ve been lucky enough to always learn languages in a class, be it in middle/high school or at uni. But this time’s different, I have to do this completely on my own, and I had no idea how to learn a language by myself! After some trial and error, I’ve found some methods that work for me, and I’ll be explaining those here.

Language books

This might be the most obvious one, but it’s one of the best options out there for me. A good textbook explains grammar, gives examples and exercises, and has good vocabulary lists for you to learn. Textbooks are especially great when you’ve already used them in a class and know how to work with them. I’m using the same textbook I used in my Hindi classes, and I’m working through it at a good pace.

However, there are some cons to using a textbook. First of all, it can be boring to work through. Most textbooks are very theoretical, so it can feel like you’re not getting any actual practice in. Secondly, the grammar’s only explained once, so if you don’t understand the explanation, you can’t just ask a teacher to explain it to you. You’ll have to research everything you don’t understand by yourself, which can be annoying. Lastly, textbooks can be expensive! The textbook I use for Hindi was pretty affordable, but the books I used for Japanese were not.

Series and Films

A fun way to immerse yourself in a language is by watching series or films in your target language. It can be as simple as watching it with subtitles in your native language or in your target language. This helps with your listening skills, as it helps you get used to the sounds of a language. It’s also a fun little confidence boost when you can pick out and understand some of the words.

A great piece of software to use when you watch a lot of Netflix is Language Learning with Netflix. It’s a great extension that allows you to watch Netflix with subtitles in two languages at once and allows you to compare the words. If you’re not sure what a certain word means, just hover over it and you get to see its meanings! It’s a bit complicated to set up and use, but once you’ve got it going, it’s incredible!

Example of the Language Learning with Netflix interface on a show in Hindi
Example of the Language Learning with Netflix interface on a show in Hindi

I’ve also used the extension in my work as a private tutor and summer school tutor, to teach English in a more fun way than just textbooks. It allowed them to compare the subtitles while still being able to understand what was happening. I’d fully recommend this extension to anyone!

Language Exchange Sites/Apps

If you’re tired of not being able to use the language you’re learning, a language exchange site can be a good option. There’s plenty of apps and sites where you can find a language exchange buddy. I personally use the Language Exchange subreddit and HelloTalk regularly, but there are many other options! I suggest you try out a few and see what works well for you.


I’m not a big fan of Duolingo when it’s used on its own, but it has its good points. Duolingo is great for on the go, you can practice even if you only have a few minutes available. It’s a great app to improve your vocabulary, and the point aspect makes it a fun little game between friends. However, using Duolingo as your only learning method is not going to get you far. Duolingo teaches you certain phrases and how to substitute words in those phrases, but there’s no grammar whatsoever. The app is great for vocabulary, but please use it in conjunction with a grammar textbook.

That’s all I have to write about language learning methods for now! I’ll probably write another article with more methods I like using in the near future, but that’s for another time. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and until next time!


New Domain and Languages!

I’ve recently upgraded my blog to an actual hosting service, which includes a new domain! You can now find my blog on! With this upgrade, I’ve been making some changes to the blog, including multi-language support! Hover over the flag in the menu (at the top of the page), and you can choose which language to view the blog in!

Right now, only English and Dutch are available and not all pages and posts are translated yet. However, I’ll be working on that bit by bit over the next couple of months! Having a blog in multiple languages has so many benefits over just having one language. First of all, it makes perfect sense for a blog about translation to be available in multiple languages. Secondly, it makes the blog accessible to people who might not speak English well or at all. The final benefit I’ll name is that it keeps me actively involved with the languages I speak, as I’ll be translating the site myself!

I’m incredibly excited about these changes, and this brings me one step closer to building this blog to where I want it to be! Thank you for reading, and until next time!


Pun Analysis 2: Are you hitting on me?

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another pun analysis! This week, I’m looking at a pun translation from a manga called Takane no Hana nara Ochitekoi! This is not a manga I’ve read or plan to ever read, but this pun was very useful for my thesis research. I’d like to show it to all of you, as well as my analysis on this pun.

In Japanese, this pun revolves around the word tsukiatte (付き合って), which is used by a student asking out his classmate, and means please go out with me. The girl, however, interprets this as a different meaning of tsukiatte (突き合って), which can mean something like please hit me or let’s hit each other. This is a homophonous pun, as the words used in the puns have different meanings and different spellings but share the pronunciation of tsukiatte.

The pun in Japanese

In the English translation, the translator translated both forms of tsukiatte (突き合って and 付き合って) according to the meaning the kanji give them, and not to the double meaning of the pronunciation of the word. This removed the pun, but the translator added a note explaining what the pun was in Japanese. This is what we call a Pun to Non-Pun translation, with usage of an editorial technique (in this case, a translator’s note to explain how the pun works in Japanese).

The pun in English

I would personally try to keep a pun in the translation, possibly using the English phrase “to hit on someone.” This still gives ambiguity if used correctly and also matches with the Japanese meanings of tsukiatte.

How would you translate this pun? Leave a comment and let me know! This post is a bit shorter than my usual ones, but these analyses are pretty short. I have more pun translations available, and I will analyze them all eventually, so check back regularly!


Pun Analysis 1: Punk Bicycles

A few weeks ago, I promised to show some puns and their translations, and analyze them in a blog post. The past weeks have been busier than I expected, so I haven’t had the time to properly write for my blog, but I fully intend to keep that promise, so here’s the first pun analysis! This pun is from the Nintendo game Earthbound/Mother 2.

In the Japanese version of the game, the bicycle shop is called Panku (パンク), which can mean either punk or flat tire. This is a homophonous pun involving the double meaning of the word panku, combined with the fact that it is the name of a bicycle shop owned by a typical punk guy. The translators used a Pun > pun translation here, using a similar bicycle-related pun that also covers the meaning of the word punk.

The English translation for this bicycle shop is Punk-Sure. This is a pun in multiple ways. First of all, the name of the shop sounds almost identical to the word puncture, which is another possible translation of the word panku. This is a paronymous pun, as Punk-Sure and puncture have similar, but not identical spellings and pronunciations. Secondly, the name Punk-Sure involves the word punk, which again refers to the store’s owner. Lastly, going back to the word puncture, this is very closely related to the name of the shop in Japanese, as a puncture (Punk-sure) usually results in a flat tire (panku).

That’s all for this post! I’ll analyze more puns over the next couple of weeks, so check back regularly!


How A Growth Mindset Can Help You Learn A Language and How To Develop One… — World Linguistics

I recently came back from my week at the summer school, where I taught English, and one thing I taught my students relates to mindsets. I explained the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset, and how the latter helps with language learning. I just saw this post written by the people over at World Linguistics which explains really well how a growth mindset can be used to learn a language, please check it out!

Have you ever wanted to learn a language but have gotten frustrated while learning it because it seemed so daunting? If so, you’re not alone. If you are struggling in a language class or if you are just struggling to teach yourself, I have news for you. It isn’t impossible! It actually is possible, and […]

How A Growth Mindset Can Help You Learn A Language and How To Develop One… — World Linguistics


How to translate: Puns part 2

Around two weeks ago, I wrote a post on translating puns, mainly focusing on the different categories and some strategies you can use while translating puns. That post was mentioned and used as a source by Nicholas Rossis here, and his post was reblogged multiple times. So, I’ve decided to elaborate on pun translation a bit more, and show some more strategies you can use. I will follow up on this with more posts, showing a pun that has been translated from Japanese to English and explaining the strategies used by the translators.

I will be using the following acronyms in this post:
ST: Source Text, the original text in its original language, and
TT: Target Text, the translated text.

Once again, I will make use of Dirk Delabastita’s work, which differentiates between significant or intended wordplay and non-significant or unintended wordplay. Unintended wordplay is, according to him, best omitted from the target text to prevent the text from looking clumsy, but intended wordplay and puns should be preserved in the translation.
These are the strategies he mentions, and the ones I will use when analyzing puns in upcoming posts:
• Pun → Pun translation,
• Pun → Non-pun translation,
• Pun → Zero translation,
• Pun → Related rhetoric,
• ST pun = TT pun,
• Non-pun → Pun translation,
• Zero → Pun translation, and
• Miscellaneous editorial techniques.

Pun → Pun translation involves replacing the ST pun with another pun in the TT in the same setting, but with different linguistic structure and wordplay. Pun → Non-pun translation involves translating the pun in a way that keeps one of the ambiguous meanings and discards the other.

Pun → Zero translation cannot be called a translation, since the part of the ST containing the pun is completely removed from the TT.

Pun → Related rhetoric is not a true translation, but the usage of another form of wordplay, like alliteration or metaphors, in the same setting as the pun. This still keeps some form of wordplay intact, albeit not as a pun.

ST pun = TT pun is a reproduction of the same pun, barely changed or edited. This can be possible because the SL and TL are very similar, as in the example he gives of the Disney movie The Aristocats. Due to the similarity of Dutch and English, the movie title The Aristocats
can simply be transcribed to Dutch as De Aristokatten. This is the most direct of the translation
options, but not possible in every case. If a pun uses loanwords from the language you are translating to, you might also be able to use this translation strategy.

Non-pun → Pun and Zero → Pun translations do not directly involve translating puns, but they create puns in the TT where there are none in the ST, possibly as a way to compensate for removing a pun earlier in the text. Miscellaneous editorial techniques that can beapplied are using footnotes and comments to explain that there was a pun in the ST and why it was omitted.

Using these translation strategies as a guideline, I believe that there is an appropriate translation for almost any pun, and I will show how these strategies are employed by translators in my next few posts. I wrote about pun translation from Japanese to English for my BA thesis, so I will be using the sources and examples I researched for that as a basis for the posts. I hope you’re all looking forward to it as much as I do! And in the meantime, if you want to practice translating puns, go to the Pun Generator and try translating those puns!


Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere (1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.


How to translate: Puns

Puns have always intrigued me. The idea of using similar or identical words to create a humorous sentence based on the way it’s interpreted is something I have always wanted to learn more about, as well as the factors that make up a pun. Making puns has become a sort of game for me. If I’m in a light-hearted conversation or playing a game with my friends, I try to make puns regularly in different languages, depending on the friends I’m with. If I’m with friends who speak Dutch and English, I’ll make puns using Dutch and English. If I’m with friends who also speak Japanese, I’ll pun in Japanese as well. I believe that being able to pun and use wordplay in a language is proof of your skill in and knowledge of that language. After all, for a pun to work, you need to create some sort of ambiguity; a situation that can be interpreted in multiple ways. A good example of this is “The first scientists who studied for were mistified.” This pun works because of ambiguity on multiple levels, which I will explain more about later.

Puns can be divided into four categories of ambiguity, according to Dirk Delabastita (1996). These categories are homonymy, homophony, homography, and paronymy, each of which is better suited to different forms of communication.

Homo-nymyA pun where a word
with multiple meanings
is used to give multiple
meanings at once.
A hard-boiled egg in the morning
is hard to beat.
Homo-phonyA pun using two words
that sound identical, but
have different spellings.
‘Mine is a long and a sad tale! said the
Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.
‘It is a long tail, certainly,’ said Alice, looking
down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; ‘but why
do you call it sad?’
Homo-graphyA pun using a word with
multiple meanings, but
different pronunciations
for those meanings
You can tune a guitar, but you
can’t tuna fish. Unless you play
Paro-nymyA pun using two words with
similar, but not
identical spellings and
A skunk fell into a river
and stank to the bottom

Translating puns can cause several difficulties because most puns are specific to their own language. A pun that works in Dutch most likely won’t work in English and the other way around. Exceptions to this are puns using loanwords from the language you’re translating to, but realistically, you won’t see many of those.
When translating puns, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind. We need to know where the ambiguity lies and how it’s used in the source language. We also need to keep the topic of the dialogue or text in mind, as a pun about bananas in a text about monkeys makes sense, but a pun about bananas in a text about fish won’t work at all. Thirdly, we can’t use overly complicated puns. A pun should add humour to a sentence, without becoming the focal point of said sentence. This means that the puns need to be easy to understand and make sense to the reader. Like every translation, we need to keep in mind what we’re translating for. If it’s a book, we can use more words to get our pun across, but in the case of subtitling, we have a limited amount of time and space to make the pun. The most important factor is also the most straight-forward one: Don’t try too hard. If you can use a pun in the translation without too much effort, that’s great! If you can’t, don’t worry about it. Sometimes the situation just doesn’t work with a pun in your translation, so then just leave it out, or compensate by adding a small pun later in the translation.

Pun translation is, to me, one of the most difficult parts of translating media, but it’s also the most fun part. There are only a few other situations in which you get to go so deep into the language, and you’re guaranteed to learn something new every time. Next week I’ll show some pun translations from Japanese to English and discuss them using the things I’ve explained today, so look forward to that!


Delabastita, Dirk, and André Lefevere. 1996. Wordplay and Translation: Special Issue, Dedicated to the Memory of André Lefevere (1945-1996). Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’\s Adventures in Wonderland



So, it’s a bit weird to do an introduction as the fourth post on a blog instead of the first, but that’s where we’re at, since I completely forgot to write an introduction when I started this blog and went straight for the interesting stuff. Well, better late than never.

My name’s Rick, and I write about translation, language learning, and linguistics. I recently graduated with a BA degree in Japan Studies, and am preparing for a MA degree in translation. I’ve always been interested in languages and linguistics, and spent hours as a teen looking through Omniglot, just reading random pages. I love learning about languages, as well as teaching them. I’m a tutor for English to middle and high school students, and gave a workshop on basic Japanese at my old high school a few years ago.

My main interest in translation is the theory behind it. Actually translating is a lot of fun, but I love analyzing translations and translation theories even more. On this blog, I will be mainly writing about topics I’ve come across while translating or studying, as well as my thought process behind these topics.

As for my language goals: I hope to one day speak ten languages, and I’m hoping to achieve five languages within the next three years. I currently speak Dutch and English, am pretty good (but not fluent) in Japanese and German, and have just picked up Hindi again after taking a semester of it in uni and then forgetting about it for two years.

I’m always open to talk about translation and languages, so feel free to leave comments and ask questions, I’ll be happy to respond! Finally, I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it.


How to translate: Venomous and Poisonous

When I started learning English, two words always confused me, due to my textbook not explaining the difference. Those words were, as you might have guessed, poisonous and venomous. In my textbook, it said that they both mean giftig in Dutch, which gave me the impression that they were interchangeable. One time, I gave a presentation in English class and said something along the lines of “a venomous frog,” which resulted in a weird look from my teacher, who explained to me that it’s supposed to be “a poisonous frog” and “a venomous snake.” But 14-year-old me wasn’t satisfied yet. I have always had a slight interest in poisonous and venomous animals, and I wanted to know why that distinction mattered. What makes a snake venomous and a frog poisonous? And what about scorpions? Or spiders? Eventually, I stumbled across an image on the internet that said “If it bites you and you die, it’s venomous. If you bite it and you die, it’s poisonous.” To many of the people reading this, it all sounds so simple, but it was confusing to me back then, and this single sentence helped me understand the distinction better.

If we want to translate the words poisonous and venomous, we need to be clear on the difference in meaning. A venomous animal uses fangs, stingers, spines, or other body parts to inject a toxin in a prey or attacker. Some examples are cobras, hornets, box jellyfish (which I’ve written something about in a different post), and the platypus, one of the few venomous mammals. A poisonous animal uses toxins as a way to not get eaten by predators. Some examples of poisonous animals are poison dart frogs, the infamous fugu, and the pitohui, one of the few poisonous birds. So to give a concise definition:
Poisonous: Secretes toxins through its skin or a specialized gland to avoid being eaten.
Venomous: Injects toxins into a wound, in order to kill/capture prey and fend off attackers.

Out of all languages I’m familiar with (this doesn’t mean I speak all of them fluently of course), English is the only language making the distinction between poisonous and venomous. Dutch, German, Japanese, and Hindi all have a single word which means both poisonous and venomous.

Japanese毒々しい (dokudokushii)
Hindiविषैला (vishailaa)

So now that we’ve established the definitions of the words poisonous and venomous, as well as their counterparts in other languages, how are we going to translate it? In most cases, the solution is quite simple: just use the words I’ve given above. Most sentences and texts talking about venomous and poisonous animals will most likely not focus on the distinction between the two terms, so there’s no reason to make this more difficult for yourself. But if you ask me, thinking about translation is more fun when it comes to the rare corner-cases that you barely ever see, so let’s make one up! Let’s say we have a text fragment that looks like this, with a translation brief that specifically wants us to keep the distinction:

Some frogs are poisonous, while some snakes are venomous.

As you can see, translating this using the words in the above table gives us a bad translation. Let’s look at the Dutch translation for this sentence, as that is the language I’m most comfortable translating to. The sentence would look somewhat like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn giftig.” Do you see the issue? We’re repeating the same adjective, even though there’s supposed to be a distinction between the two, and the meaning of the Dutch word giftig doesn’t allow for that distinction to be made. What are our options? We can’t just make up two new words that mean poisonous and venomous respectively, try to get them printed in the Dutch dictionaries, and expect people to use and understand them. That’s now how language works, so we need another method to make our target audience understand the distinction. Making these distinctions the core of our translation is a good option here. There are a few ways that we can differentiate between venomous and poisonous, which I will explain next.

The first way to differentiate the two terms is with the method of delivery. A poisonous animal does not need a specialized delivery method, as the goal of a poisonous animal isn’t to poison something, but to deter predators from eating it. Venomous animals, on the other hand, do have specialized delivery methods for their venom. Snakes have fangs, scorpions have stingers, and stonefish have spines. In other words, venomous animals actively inject venom into other organisms, and poisonous animals passively poison other organisms when they’re eaten. Using this method, our translation looks like this: “Sommige kikkers zijn passief giftig, maar sommige slangen zijn actief giftig.” This doesn’t quite work as a sentence, so we need to do some retooling. Depending on how much space we have, we can edit our translation to explain the distinction a bit more, for example: “Kikkers scheiden passief gif af, maar slangen moeten hun gif actief injecteren.” This still isn’t a sentence I would use in the final translation, but since this is a hypothetical situation, that’s not important. The most important thing here is to give a clear distinction between a poisonous animal and a venomous animal, which you can do by placing focus on the difference in delivery.

Placing focus on the different delivery systems can also be done in another way. Instead of looking at active and passive delivery of toxins, we can look at the body parts used to deliver them. Many poisonous animals have toxins that don’t need to enter the body through the bloodstream, but enter through the skin and digestive system, so they don’t need specialized fangs, stingers, or barbs. Dart frogs, for example, secrete their toxins through their skin, and show their toxicity using their bright colours (this is called aposematism). Venomous animals have specialized body parts to inject their venom into their victim’s bloodstream, such as fangs, stingers, or barbs. So if we focus on that difference, we can translate the sentence like this: “Giftige kikkers scheiden hun gif af door hun huid, maar giftige slangen moeten hun gif in hun prooi bijten.” The issue with this sentence is that it only shows the difference between frogs and snakes, and not necessarily between all poisonous and venomous animals. There are many poisonous animals (including the fugu) that have their poison concentrated inside of their bodies instead of on the skin, and not all venomous animals use bites to inject venom. Of course, if the text you’re translating is only about frogs and snakes, then this would be a great way to show the differences between the two, but it’s not quite right for describing the general differences between poisonous and venomous animals.

Another way to differentiate poisonous and venomous animals is with the way they use their toxins. Poisonous animals mainly use their poison defensively to avoid being eaten, while venomous animals use their toxins offensively, to capture and kill prey or fend off attackers. If we use this in translation, we get a sentence like “Kikkers gebruiken hun gif defensief, maar slangen gebruiken hun gif offensief.” This clearly shows the difference between poison and venom, while making it understandable for the readers. I personally prefer this translation over the others, as it clearly explains the difference in a concise manner and doesn’t cause much confusion.

That’s all I have to say for now about the words poisonous and venomous, and how to translate them to a language that doesn’t naturally make that distinction. I have one last question to think about with regards to this translation: there is a snake that’s both poisonous and venomous (the Rhabdophis keelback snake), and I’m curious how you would translate that in a text if you need to explain this. If the sentence to translate is “Some snakes are both venomous and poisonous,” how would you do this? Feel free to let me know!