Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Richards & Rogers Strike Back" or "Why Translation is Risky Business"

The following extract is taken from "Approaches and Methods" by Richards & Rogers. It is from the section related to the procedures of the Whole Language method. First, have a read. My commentary to follow.

Parallel Texts: Opening sentences from two translations of a Korean short story.

1a. "Cranes" by Hwang Sun-Won (translated by Kevin O'Rourke)

"The village on the northern side of the 38th parallel frontier was ever so quiet and desolate beneath the high, clear autumn sky. White gourds leaned on white gourds as they swayed in the yard of an empty house."

1b. "The Crane" by Hwang Sun-Won (translated by Kim Se-young)

"The northern village at the border of the 38th Parallel was ever so snug under the bright high autumn sky. In the space between the two main rooms of the empty farm house a white empty gourd was lying against another white empty gourd."

For me, this is a pretty good example of a few things: first, that translation into a language should probably be done in collaboration with a native speaker of the language you're translating into. I think this accounts for the mechanical feel of the second translation--poor Hwang Sun just doesn't have the English to do the translation justice, though he surely has the Korean! Second, that translation in general is a super-slippery affair and the the more disparate the languages (be it by language family, time, or both), the more grains of salt should accompany the "literal" interpretation of a text. This applies to all translations, particularly texts which are quite old and have been translated through several languages. No matter how 'good' these books claim to be, I remain wary.

Now, on a less heretical note, I hereby ofter my kidney to any who can find me the original Korean text of the extracts above. Takers?


Blogger Anne said...

I propose we get on that book swap when you reutrn. Will you be down for the January IELTS session in Busan?

11:39 PM  

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