Monday, 25 July 2011

Between ‘Our’ and ‘My’ in Korean

There are two distinctive words for ‘our’ as well as ‘my’ in Korean. They are spelled different and, therefore, sound different. However, one of them is used in a situation where it looks it should’ve been replaced by the other. I myself am Korean and I have never realized for the first thirty years of my life until I was asked recently. I was asked because I happen to be in a business where language matter is of paramount interest. (I work as a professional in a Korean translation company) In other words, most Koreans who have not been asked will never notice even though it so obvious once they are. Amazing how familiarity can blind you.

In Korean, ‘my book’ or ‘my friend’ is translated as it is. Word meant for ‘my’()  is used in this case. If you put those phrases in any machine translator, it will surely give back to you the original, ‘my book’ and ‘my friend.’

However, it’s different for ‘my country’ and ‘my father.’ Word meant for ‘our’(우리) is used. If you put those Korean phrases in a crappy machine translator, it might give you ‘our country’ or ‘our father.’ Why? I did spend some time to figure this out myself. What makes those two cases different? I know I have used them all my life and never made a mistake in using the wrong determiner for two different cases. However, I never questioned what seems now very odd. I wasn’t able to answer myself and had to look up, and aha! It made sense!


Friday, 22 July 2011

About myself-1

I am native Korean in my mid-thirties.
From a very early age of my life, I lived in three different countries: Korea, of course, the U.S. for four years, and Japan for another four. I believe it is fair to say that I speak, read and write three different languages with certain degree of fluency.
Growing up with a different background such as one mentioned above, I came to realize that I notice certain things more acutely than my peers. It started back in Korea when I was reading books not written by Korean authors. With economy in Korea booming at an unprecedented rate, which is often described as ‘miracle’, a number of industries followed the suit. Publishing was one of them. Printed and published were books after books, and still are. An alarming rate of growth in publishing industry could not possibly be met by limited supply of native Korean writers, and needed help from elsewhere: works from across the sea.  It was all ok, in my limited opinion, except for one blemish.
I cannot forget what I heard from a veteran translator: “We, translators, are writers.” How many times have I encountered a book which is so awfully translated that an unnecessary effort was needed to read through where it was merely to enjoy. I admit that I sometimes overreact and jump off the bat in this matter, but it is something that is felt by many fellow Koreans. It is no wonder I got interested in serious Korean translation myself.