Authentic Content vs Translations

I read almost 50 books in Korean this year. Most were books that I would’ve had access to in English. In fact, many of them were books I’ve read in English.

Interestingly, I found that reading books I’ve read in English was both easier and harder than blind reading in Korean. It was easier because I had some background knowledge, but it was harder because I tended to think in English while reading those books. I tended to remember big moments from the books in English in my head, and then I’d search for them in Korean in the books. It became a bit distracting.

But I bought so many books that were translations from English because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to read in Korean. When I was in Korea last year, I couldn’t read enough to figure out what I wanted to read!

The library books from my co-worker’s daughter have been a godsend! Those books expanded my horizons and allowed me to take reading risks with no financial risk.

At least ten of the books I read were ones I would not have had access to in English. If I count the Kare First Love manga series (would I would not have read in English, but enjoyed reading in Korean), I read more than twenty books I wouldn’t’ve been able to read in English.

English is such an international language that it’s easy to think that we have access to enough books to read. And perhaps we do. Still, there is something magical about getting access to a whole other language-worth of books.

I read several awesome picture books that are only available in Korean, including one about a man who sucked up his wife in the vacuum cleaner. (Seriously. It was awesome.) I learned about the moon rabbits because I could read about them in Korean.

I ended up reading some propaganda that I borrowed from the gu office in Seoul when Good Man and I were registering our marriage. I learned “nuclear weapon” from that book and figured out a lot of political words from context.

I enjoyed the book about the third grade boy who was growing up (I’m Not a Kid Anymore) because it was such a Korean book.

Although I ended up throwing Body across the room, I am still amazed that I was able to read a book for Korean adults in Korean.

Now that I can truly read native content in Korean, it makes me even hungrier for the language!

(Cross posted.)

One thought on “Authentic Content vs Translations

  1. Comment from: HL [Visitor]
    One of the books I wanted to buy before leaving Korea was, well I don’t remember the exact title, but it’s by Murakami and it’s something like 1Q84. It’s his newest book (and hasn’t been translated into English yet), so I thought it’d be a fun attempt at reading. My (non-Korean) boyfriend vetoed the idea, saying I might want to learn to read Korean from not translated-from-other-languages-into-Korean books. That was also the reason I didn’t buy a translation of one of Bill Bryson’s books. Part of me still wishes I had. Oh well, I have a manga about Kim Jong-Il I got for free that I could plow through.

    There was no point to my comment, except to say that I understand the idea of not-translated-into-Korean reading being harder than Korean reading.
    12/28/10 @ 15:28

    Comment from: admin [Member] Email
    Title of the Kim Jong-Il manga please?

    The thing is, I read at least two books that were originally written in French and as far as I know are not available in English. I read them for the first time in Korean, and it was perfectly fine. (I certainly don’t know French!) Several of the picture books I read were translations, and they were fine, too. Kare First Love was translated from Japanese and it worked.

    But when I’m too close to the English-language copies of the books, it makes it hard for me. I think the first Pippi book was harder than the second and third in the series because I’ve read it so many times in English (and once in Swedish). The second and third books I’ve only read once or twice in English, back when I was in fourth grade.

    I was reading Half Magic in Korean, but I’ve put it down. If I’m going to finish it, I’d better do it soon because I’m reading it in English to my class right now and I’m too close to both copies. I was complaining to Good Man about it. “Why did they change ‘baseball’ to ‘basketball?’ You Koreans have baseball! Why did they take out ‘Western Union?’ They include a translator’s note for everything else, why not that?”

    Which is all to say–go for the Murakami book if that’s what you want. It’s definitely doable to read a translation. I’m simply going to avoid it for books I’m too close to in English. :)

    I want to read the DRAGON TATTOO series and am thinking of only picking it up in Korean. I figure if I’m going to read it, I might as well practice my Korean at the same time.

    12/28/10 @ 23:11

    Comment from: HL [Visitor]
    It has the creative title of 만화 김정일 by 이우정. I don’t know where you can get it. I got it for attending a NK human rights conference in DC.

    I’d love to buy the Murakami book, but I’m not sure of how to order it.
    12/29/10 @ 07:55

    Comment from: admin [Member] Email
    Can you get it through Kyobo or Hanbooks or Yes24?
    12/29/10 @ 09:12

    Comment from: Paul B. [Visitor] · http://samedi.livejournal.com
    Still, there is something magical about getting access to a whole other language-worth of books.

    Especially when it comes to things like history and culture, as that really opens up doors.

    I have a book on Goryo Dynasty tomb sites that I have yet to find in English, though I haven’t really made an effort to read that one yet. :-\
    12/29/10 @ 09:32

    Comment from: admin [Member] Email
    Non-fiction is an area I haven’t even started to explore yet. However, I have one biographical book that I want to read in 2011. Learning to read non-fiction’s going to require a whole new set of vocabulary!
    12/29/10 @ 09:55

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