Monday, 29 August 2011

Improving as a writer 2

By the way, I’m no way close to the calibre of Philip Yancey. Not even remotely. In fact, I’m already embarrassed to even mention his name in this regard. I ask for your mercy. :) I’m trying to say a few things I learned important from not-long career as a translator. It has been and still is a constant battle of improving myself as a writer. What is then the most basic requirement for a writer? Just a simple common sense is enough to begin with: to make your writing sound natural. There must be higher and many more stages for becoming a good writer but I believe getting this simple thing right is foundation of all. I can say this up front when it comes to Korean translations because there are still many translated works not done according to this fundamental rule. When you read them you can instantly tell it is translated: it means it is NOT natural. Sentence structure, word choice, or something else tells you aloud that it is awkward.

I do Korean translation from English.

Improving as a writer

It is overwhelming to realize how much more to learn to be a better translator. I myself translate English to Korean as a professional.

I already emphasized quite a few times how important it is to be an expert in your first language. When I say ‘expert,’ I mean expert in ‘writing.’ Yes, I’m saying this again which I already said many times: translators are writers. Now, to say this is simple, but to achieve it? Oh, how daunting it is to become a good writer! I remember a renowned, widely respected writer Philip Yancey once describing pangs of writing. He was first trying to explain how hard mountain climbing was, and it did sound quite dreadful to me (yes, I don’t quite fancy climbing mountains to start with). But then he soon came to realize it was still incomparable to the pain of writing.

I do certified Korean translation.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Korean is different from English 2

Being able to speak or understand a language is, therefore, not enough to get yourself qualified as a translator. I have seen a number of wonderful works by foreign writers translated from English to Korean. Some of them were simply just so painful to read through. I can’t blame those who took up the task of translation. When translation is not taken seriously, or better said, not understood properly, chances are you end up with a book that is not as widely appraised as it was with the audience of its original language. If you want to be an English to Korean translator because you can speak a good deal of English or got a high score in TOEFL, you have to pause for a moment and think through what it takes to translate one language to another.

Korean is different from English

Korean and English have very different grammers. Their sentence structures, too, are remotely similar. No wonder Korean translation to English and English to Korean translation are difficult. For a translator like myself who has just a few years of experience in this industry, sometimes it takes more than half an hour just to come up with the right word. Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter whether you are a 30-year veteran translator or just a beginner in translation. As I said a few times before, translators are writers, and they are in the business where creativity is of paramount importance. Many times it was misunderstood that if you speak another language, then you are capable of translating, which is now getting clearer that isn’t true. Just think about people that speak your own language. There are those who are talented in speech, whereas there are those who are not as eloquent.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Basic Korean Sentences 4

More Koreans!

1. I’ll see you later.

다음에 뵙겠습니다 – da um ae beb ge ssum ni da

Or an easier version would be

또 뵙겠습니다 – ddo beb ge ssum ni da

2. Tomorrow

내일 – nae ill

Now you should be able to say “I’ll see you tomorrow,” right? It goes like this:

내일 뵙겠습니다 – nae il beb ge ssum ni da

3. Yesterday

어저께 – eo jeo ke

4. Today

오늘 – o nul

5. Last week

저번 주 – jeo beon ju

6. This week

이번 주 – ee beon ju

7. Next week

다음 주 – da um ju

8. I’m busy.

바쁩니다 – ba pum ni da

Let’s combine a few words from above. Can you try “I’m busy next week?” It will be:

다음 주는 바쁩니다 – da um ju nun ba pum ni da

There’s another way of saying that you’re busy:

시간이 없습니다 – shi gan ee eop sum ni da

This literally means “I don’t have time.” It is more commonly used to say that you’re busy. To say “I’m busy next week” using this sentence instead is:

다음주는 시간이 없습니다 - da um ju nun shi gan ee eop sum ni da

I’m a professional Korean translator. For more help on translation, please visit

Basic Korean Sentences 3

Another set of sentences that are commonly used in Korea.

1. I'm cold.

춥습니다 – choop sum ni da

2. I’m tired.

피곤합니다 – pi gon ham ni da

Example> After you work hours straight on a school project and finally make the deadline, then someone next to you comes over and poke your arm asking you out for a pint. You just wave your hand and say “피곤합니다.”

3. It’s easy.

쉽습니다 – sheep sum ni da

4. It’s difficult.

어렵습니다 – eo ryup sum ni da
Example> Although you were a straight-A student during high school, it’s been a while since you graduated. An 11th grader comes up to you and asks a question about statistics from math course. You say, “어렵습니다.”

There’s another way of saying ‘it’s difficult’ in different circumstances.
Example> You live on the 15th floor and just found the elevator is out of order. On your way to your floor with your friend, you’re so exhausted and stop for a while to take a breath. You say the following:

힘듭니다 – him dum ni da

It means ‘it’s hard/difficult’ and further indicates the task you are involved in is tiring.

I’m a professional Korean translator. For more help on translation, please visit

Monday, 8 August 2011

Basic Korean Sentences 2

More sentences that are commonly used in Korea. I’m a professional Korean translator and these sentences are translated into Korean with reliable accuracy.

1. I’m hungry.

배고픕니다 – bae go pum ni da

2. Very

아주 – ah ju

This is a simple adverb which can be placed in front of any verb or adjective. For example, if you leave this word in front of the sentence above ‘I’m hungry,’ it will look:

아주 배고픕니다

And it will simply mean ‘I’m very hungry.’

3. Too

너무 – nuh mu

If you’d like to go a little more intense than a simple ‘very,’ use this word. For example, if you replace ‘아주 (very)’ with ‘너무 (too)’ in the above sentence, it will look:

너무 배고픕니다

And it means ‘I’m starving.’

4. I’m full (of stomach)

배부릅니다 – bae bu rum ni da

If you noticed there is a word repeated in both sentences of ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m full,’ which is ‘배.’ It means stomach. Both sentences can be literally translated ‘My stomach is empty’ and ‘My stomach is full.’ Pretty self explanatory, isn’t it?

5. It’s hot. (weather)

덥습니다 – dhup sum ni da

Yes, I’m talking about the weather being hot and not girls. Korean summer is quite humid and temperature alone will not tell you how hot it is. If the temperature says it’s 30°C (86°F), you can expect it to feel like at least 5°C extra, which will make it to 35°C (95°F).

Christian Translation

I was born and raised Christian all my life. Obviously, I have read quite a few books and listened to a number of sermons both in English and Korean over the years. My involvement in Christian translation was, however, very recent. I started interpreting sermons by Korean pastors to English two years ago. Of course, I was a little nervous at first but gradually got the hang of it, and now I’m actually looking forward to it. Like everything else, practice makes perfect. More experience amount to better and relaxed interpretation. Simple.

Last December, I had a brand new opportunity. I was asked to do a movie translation. It was a Christian movie called Furious Love. It was actually more than a translation. Not only did I have to translate every dialogue, I had to put the subtitles on myself, which I’ve never done before. The movie had been already released as DVD, but it was so well received the company decided to get on another project and make an international version of the film. Eleven different subtitles were to be added and I was asked to do Korean subtitles, or Korean localization as we translators call it. It took many hours to get it done as I had to learn everything from scratch, but it surely was a lot fun.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Basic Korean Sentences

I’d like to list a few sentences that are most basic when travelling in Korea.

1. Thank you
감사합니다 – kam sa ham ni da

2. I’m sorry. (as an apology)
죄송합니다 – chae song ham ni da

This is used when you apologize, and not when you feel sorrowful such as at a funeral. Here’s another version:

미안합니다 – mi ahn ham ni da

3. Excuse me.
실례합니다 – shil lae ham ni da

4. It’s/you’re beautiful.
아름답습니다 – ah reum dab seum ni da

Yes, you can say it to ladies, and they will be extremely flattered. It is the highest form of complementing an aesthetic appearance. Don’t say it to men. If you want to make her less nervous, you can tone it down a bit and use the following:

It’s/you’re pretty.
이쁩니다 – yi peum ni da

5. No, thank you.
괜찮습니다 – ghen chan seum ni da
Its literal meaning is ‘I’m ok/fine.’ It is to use when you’re offered something, and you want to refuse it. In Korea, a blunt ‘no’ is often considered rude, and we have a roundabout way of saying as above.

6. Yes.
예 – ye
Although it sounds almost identical as the same word for English, the tone is quite opposite. It’s monotone and polite.

7. No.
아니오 – No
This is a flat decline. As I said above, a right-off-the-bat ‘no’ a needs careful consideration in Korea. Be gentle when you use it.

I work as a professional Korean translator. You can trust me on these.

Culture Affected by Military

Korean men are required to serve in military when reached to a certain age. Unless bearing a significant issue with your physical condition, it is his duty. When this was set up mandatory a few decades back, it was a more than a three-full-year service. That’s more than 36 months. It has reduced over the years, and now is less than 20 months. (I got in in 1998 and served for 26 months) Because a vast majority of Korean men goes through this experience, it is fair to say that we have a culture that has been inevitably and strongly affected by it. For example, if you are from North America, you will find Koreans have an extremely strict measure on the interaction between an older and a younger person. Some might think it is generally true in most Asian countries such as Japan and China. I lived in Japan for four years and I’ve been in close contact with many Chinese while living in Canada for the past ten years. They don’t come close in terms of strictness in this ‘age factor.’ It is natural to find an 8-the grader bowing from his waist up to a 9-th grader. If a year difference could make such a scene, it becomes a bit more complicated with a wider difference. This phenomena is definitely getting weaker as North American culture gets into every corner of our own. However, a norm built over decades will not fade away so easily. As a professional Korean translator, I run into a text every now and then that keep me conscious about this issue.