Sometimes the Translation is Reaaaaally Bad!

As part of my ongoing project to review all of the KLTI/Jimoondang short novels, I have begun to read Hong Gildong by Seo Hajin. This is based on a Korean folk-tale of the same name. Thus I was ecstatic to find a translation of this work at the “Foreign Bookstore” (Right across from exit 1 of the Noksapyeong Subway Station on line 6). I had a lovely gift certificate from my fiancee, which I plopped down to purchase the thing.

It is published by someone called the “Korean Classical Literature Institute” and Baek Am Publishing Co.

The booksleeve of the thing is astonishingly lovely. I have included a scan of it there on the upper right, and that scan can’t accurately convey how nice it looks, since it can’t let you feel the 100 lb cover paper or see it’s glossy shellac. The cover is also thick, and the paper is apparently acid-free and a semi-rough.

But talk about thick and rough? The translation, apparently done in 1999-2000 is disgraceful.

How bad? So bad it made me go rushing to Google, to see when Babel Fish was first publicly available, because I immediately suspected that this had been how it had been translated. Babel Fish did pop up just before 2000, but my quick search didn’t determine if Korean was one of its first seven available languages.

It begins with the preface:

Also on the occasion of millenium period, with the view that our boastful Korean classical literature can be known all over the world, be even just a littl helpful to those who study English we had these series translated in English by professionals

Sure, professionals, but professional whats?

The inside is worse. On pages 3-4 of the English translation we find:

In the middle that Gildong reading a book, all of a sudden, he thrust desk, deploring.

I was pretty much deploring as well. It just goes on; it is a rare page that has fewer than ten errors:

Calming down his mind and watched it, a boy came up to him, riding on a donkey, after blowing the flute, rebuked.

Here is a brilliant paragraph:

And he gave an order of cancelling the seize of Gildong to 8 Provinces.

A websearch seems to indicate that the “Korean Classical Literature Institute” has only published the 10 books it lists (look down the page) on the inner sleeve of this book (although, threateningly, the Preface seems to warn us of the possibility of 19 other volumes). That is a very good thing, because this is bad work. Don’t be fooled by the nice covers. πŸ˜‰

3 thoughts on “Sometimes the Translation is Reaaaaally Bad!

  1. Professional on-line machine translators, it looks like….It’s a competitive world out there for those machines, so a little more sympathy please. πŸ™‚

  2. LOL..

    I cannot share your forgiveness for this kind of thing. What if it were the first piece of translated Korean Lit someone came across?

    For a relatively unestablished national literature, this is like wounding yourself because you like the sting of salt. πŸ˜‰

  3. Yes, and to be honest my above comment was largely to be flip–I wouldn’t guarantee that it was a machine. I’ve seen worse come out unenhanced by any mechanical device (but there are a couple of features above that do make me think machine, perhaps…..That said, a computer shouldn’t spit out “littl” for “little”, so there was some editing involved…..

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