It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these, but lunch looked pretty good today at husband’s office cafeteria:
I’m surprised GT came up with “prison” for 콩밥 (rice with beans) because it’s a euphemism for “serving time,” but I would not be surprised to find an actual Bureau of Squid somewhere nearby, and am very concerned about the Jeyuk crisis simmered Night, which is how I’ve been feeling in this hothothot Seoul summer. I have no words for eggs and vegetables, though.
The romanization of the untranslated words, however, is curious. I wonder if “it” is translating the words based on prior examples of romanized Korean words, or if it has an algorithm for romanizing words it can’t translate? If the former, it says a lot about the approach taken towards translating words for Korean foods or objects that don’t have counterparts in the target languages. Translators, how often do you romanize instead of trying to translate? This is not a value judgement. I think there are pros and cons to both methods, and the words ultimately sound foreign whether translated or romanized precisely because they don’t have easy correlates.
The question of whether to translate descriptively or to introduce the native term is often a tough call in the name of readability and pedagogy, especially when introducing new objects or concepts. “Tofu,” is part of the English lexicon now, but I imagine it was initially introduced as “Japanese bean curd.” I have seen “bean curd” used in translations of Asian literature as well as in original work in English dealing with Asia, but at this point the foodstuff is ubiquitous in the U.S., and is in English language dictionaries (both the American Heritage and the OED cite 1880 as the first English usage of “tofu”). The food item appears on menus in Korean and Chinese restaurants alternately as bean curd and tofu, but rarely as “doobu” or “doufu,” their counterparts. The same can be said for a number of Chinese and Japanese words that have become naturalized in the English lexicon, but have cognates in other Asian languages: futon, Zen, congee, mochi, feng shui, to name a few. Of course, this has to do with when and how the items and concepts were introduced to the target language (English) and how they were popularized. The U.S. government (military) had a vested interest in promoting (or rehabilitating, as one scholar I know is currently researching) Japanese culture after WWII, and the media coverage of the new Japan introduced these items and concepts to the American public and language (just do a search on “Japanese culture” in Time magazine between 1945 and 1970 for a quick glance at the changing perceptions of Japan, Asia, and the introduction of Japanese aesthetics and culture, like this article covering an exhibition of Ukiyoe at Chicago’s Art Institute in 1955 — note the title “Out of the Floating World,” which already suggests some familiarity with Japanese art).
But I digress. Seriously.
An alarming number of translations of Korean children’s books (well, three that I’ve seen but that’s already alarming to me) use “corn cakes” for 떡 (ttuk), for what reason I can’t imagine, since it’s made with rice flour, but I assume the translators thought there was some folk correlation between corn cakes and ttuk. I find this to be a disservice to the reader because it makes false analogies between cultures, but I understand the difficulty, especially in children’s books, of conveying the right nuance in your translation. So…once again, translating is hard and there’s no one way to do it. Is that my conclusion to every post on translation? Sheesh.
Now, off to find that surrey prison. Tracking down a moving target is always hard.