Read, write, think your way for translation, say winners
By Han Sang-hee
When translating, it’s crucial to understand not only the words, but also the rhythm, flow and the vibe of a particular work, which comes from intensive reading and practice.
When Roh Young-ju, the winner of the Commendation Award for poetry in the 41st Modern Korean Literature Translations Awards, was young she was indeed an avid young reader, but sometimes this got her into trouble.
``(Reading books) was always a problem for my parents and teachers. My mother was worried about her lazy daughter, and my teachers wanted me to focus on schoolwork instead of devouring useless stuff,’’ she told The Korea Times.
As for fellow winner and translator Andrew McCullough, translating poetry was a bit different from fiction. He should know, as he won the Commendation Award for the contest in fiction last year.
``I think that in translating poetry there is always the worry about it being too dull or staid. We both had to focus on maintaining metaphors in the translation without losing the original tension and flavor of the original,’’ he said.
The poet Hwang In-suk’s works managed to pull out a new form of creativity ― transforming an already well-known beloved work into a completely different language ― and also discovering one’s self along the way.
``Quoting a literary critic, Hwang belongs to the kind of poets for whom `the distance from their brains to their lips is so short that their thoughts `are’ their poems.’ My lips being a great distance away from my brain, I’m not capable of writing those pieces myself. But I’ve always enjoyed her work and think I understand ― 0r rather, remember ― what she tries to say,’’ Roh said.
``You tumble into her signature piece ― the ample usage of onomatopoeia and mimetic words; the dizzying parade of five senses; various verb endings that carry different nuances, which is one of the peculiarities of the Korean language,’’ Roh explained.
As switching one literary work to another language is tricky as it is, Roh pointed out that it’s hard to just choose one specific way to become a ``good’’ translator, but there are ways to practice.
``Easier said than done, for ‘good’ and ‘language’ are such elusive words. So I don’t believe there is such a thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Still, setting aside ‘good’, if one wants to be someone dealing with literature, I think there is one essential rule no one can be excepted from: read a lot, write a lot, and think a lot.’’