13 In About Translation/ Korean learning journey (:

The art of translation

Recently I’m yet again entralled by the world of translation. It’s not hard to see why. Translation is seemingly about accuracy (especially for documents/ factual articles) and yet it is also stylistic in nature (literary translation). Rather like a form of art. I have always been fascinated by things that are somewhat in between so it’s not hard to see why I developed an interest.

Especially towards literary translation. There’s so much going on in the original work, and it takes a skillful writer and reader with a deep understanding of languages to be able to save as much of these content/meaning/style in the translated work. Someone with a wide ranging skill set and quite a bit of flair.

Amazing (:

I have been developing an interest in this area for quite a few years already, but I needed to first work on my Korean. I was able to read but it was slow and tedious at times. But miraculously it’s getting a lot easier (and faster) and I am able to now pay attention to other aspects of the work besides checking up new vocabulary ever so often.

I tried my hand at some kind of literary translation twice and what came out was stilted, stiff and rather bad. But I think I’m improving. It is nothing short of arrogance if you think that translation is an easy peasy task that you can be good at immediately. There’s so much to learn, so much to absorb.

I’m totally new to this area and sometimes I wonder if there are rules when it comes to things like dialogue, reported speech, tense, active/passive voice. Should we keep such format(?) in the translated work, are there recommended rules or is it up to the translator?

All these questions prompted me to get both the original work and translated version of 엄마를 부탁해 (please look after mother)


The reason why I chose this is that the translated version gained a lot of praise and it is an international bestseller. Learn from the best lol. Hahaha also I have been rather intrigued by the storyline too.

Super excited when I started on it the other evening (: First, I translated two paras on my own and then I look at the translated version to pick out my mistakes and compare.


But maddeningly frustrating. I cannot understand why a reported speech is keep as reported speech in one instance but translated as a dialogue in another >< Or why there is seemingly a change in tense sigh. But it's amazing to see how some sentences are being tweaked to sound natural in English but yet retain the original meaning. Heh wrote quite a lot of notes in the English version (: I haven't annotated an English book since lit days years ago in middle school lolol. It's awesome that so far I can understand 98% of the words in the Korean version, so I can concentrate on looking at the process of translation (: So many things to learn!! (: I think there are some of you who are learning or have studied translation in school, any good books or resources to share? Would like to learn about translation as an academic discipline. P.s. I'm doing this simply for my own leisure purposes and learning. Because I happen to be one of those people who loves studying hahahahaha.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    5 March, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    Hey Hangukdrama, may I know where you got/ordered the books from? 🙂

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:54 PM

      I got the English version from a local bookstore and the Korean one from gmarket! (:

  • Reply
    5 March, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    정말… 소름이 돋았어요… when i scrolled down and saw the pic.. i did the same thing and have both books too. yeah it’s amazing how different nuances of the languages are translated to give similar meanings

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      ㅎㅎ high five! (:

  • Reply
    6 March, 2014 at 3:19 AM

    Translating is not an easy job….those who think it is, one never have done it, two they are pros and they have done it for years and have forgotten the difficulty they have gone through at the beginning or just born with a natural gift. So hats off to you for being able to translate your 3rd language.

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      yeah it’s definitely not easy!

  • Reply
    6 March, 2014 at 5:46 PM

    Gonna try and do thise with 창가의 토토 since I have that book in Korean and English maybe when I learn more Japanese I’ll try it too.

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      I think it’s more helpful if the original book is in the korean language though. Looking at two translated versions side by side feels different ><

  • Reply
    7 March, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    I feel that it’d be really beneficial to linguistic students if translation classes were required coursework because it really does make you think deeply about the languages you’re working with.

    When I first got interested in translation, I read things like “Literary Translation: A Practical Guide” by Clifford Landers and “Performing Without a Stage” by Robert Wechsler to be helpful. Clifford Landers’ book is good if you’re interested in how to make a career out of literary translation, but Robert Wechsler’s is better for learning about translation theory.

    By the way, Wechsler’s book is available for free as a pdf by the publisher: http://www.catbirdpress.com/bookpages/trans.htm (Just scroll down the page a bit to find the link to the PDF.)

    While reading about translation is a good place to begin, I’ve found that the only way to make semi-decent translations is to start off by making absolutely horrible ones. It’s also been good to remember not to get too hung up on a particular choice of words or syntax. Language isn’t like mathematics, so being a little fuzzy here and there is needed to accommodate for linguistic and cultural differences.

    And last, with regards to why reported speech is kept in some places and not others, I’m sure it’s because Chi-Young Kim felt that repeating the same form too much would come across as unnatural in English.

    Variations in syntax and the occasional synonym here and there are the translator’s friend! 🙂

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      yeah I totally agree! It’s not enough to look at the translation, but should really try doing it. There’s so much to consider and balance when it come to finding the right phrases or way to structure the translation >< Thanks for recommending the books! 😀 Will check them out. I have a tendency to be very logical and systematic so it's a little overwhelming to find that translation is technical and yet flexible >< haha hard to explain how I feel. 😛

  • Reply
    8 March, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    lol it’s so strange. usually korean learners get the korean version and english version to consult the english version when they have trouble understanding the korean… yet don’t need the english version to check sicne you’re korean is pretty darn good but you still get it for translation-learning purposes.

    • Reply
      15 March, 2014 at 7:47 PM

      hahaahaha yeah but it’s pretty fun! 😀

  • Reply
    28 March, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    Translation is hard generally, but translating literature is extremely hard. T_T Translators must be writers with an excellent command and understanding of the nuances of the language they’re translating into. Unfortunately?, it seems like making something sound natural in the new language is the most important thing so information is often lost.

  • Leave a Reply