Archive | September 4, 2011

Muddled in Translation

Jin’s doing some translation work, so she’s become more sensitive to the way things are translated here. Examples:

1.) We’re watching an English language show subtitled in Korean, something on the Discovery Channel. The narrator speaks of a “promising failure”. This however was subtitled in Korean as “expected failure”, as if “promising” meant “promised” and therefore the failure was “expected” instead of being a failure that showed the way forward. The whole thing struck me as very curious considering the stakes, issues, and ensuing trauma placed on success and failure here, and how a potentially positive thing such as a “promising failure” had it’s positive attributes stripped away from it to be wholly a negative.

2.) The habit of taking English words, spelling them in Korean, and using these new words instead of preexisting Korean words. We’ve seen this with “trousers” and “dough”, and whenever it occurs it makes me feel pretty bad, because my job is likely a vector of contagion for this habit. This will even occur to the potential detriment of a project. So if an English language RPG-style video game talks about steel swords and silver swords, two things Korea has a pretty rich tradition of, those words get phonetically translated into Korean becoming something like “sil-li-va swo-da” instead of using the Korean word for silver sword with generations of history behind it.