SEOUL | Sat Apr 16, 2011 10:21pm EDT
(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that concluding a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea was a priority for the Obama administration, and it was committed to getting the deal done this year.
Clinton told a gathering of business leaders in Seoul that, beyond the economic benefits, the pact was “profoundly in America’s strategic interest as well.”
“Getting this done together sends a powerful message that America and Korea are partners for the long-term and that America is fully embracing its role as a Pacific power,” she said.
U.S. and South Korean trade negotiators struck a deal in December on a free trade pact, which was signed in 2007 but had not been ratified for three years because of U.S. auto and beef industry concerns.
Both the U.S. Congress and the South Korean parliament have yet to pass bills to approve the pact, despite U.S. President Barack Obama’s renewed push for ratification.
“I want to state as strongly as I can how committed the Obama Administration is to passing the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement this year,” she told a gathering of business leaders in Seoul during a whirlwind trip through South Korea and Japan.
A U.S. official added that Washington hoped to have the FTA ratified by Congress well before an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has previously said the Obama administration wanted to win congressional approval of a free trade agreement before July. The agreement is pending in South Korea’s parliament and is expected to be passed.
Clinton said the pact — which Washington says will increase exports of American goods by $11 billion and create tens of thousands of jobs — is ready for review by Congress.
Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, last month criticized Republicans for refusing to move ahead on the South Korea deal until the White House sends Congress implementing bills for long-delayed trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
PENDING TRADE DEALS
Republicans broadly support the South Korea deal, but have threatened to block a vote on the pact unless the White House also submits the other two pending trade deals for approval.
“This is a priority for me, for President Obama and for the entire administration,” Clinton said. “We are determined to get it done, and I believe we will.”
The United States and the European Union are racing against each other to be the first to seal a free trade agreement with South Korea, the world’s 15th largest economy, hoping to get a jumpstart on the benefits of increased business deals.
The European Parliament approved a South Korea free-trade deal in February, clearing the way for the EU’s largest bilateral free trade deal to take effect from July.
The shift in focus to Asia follows Clinton’s attendance at a NATO conference in Berlin, where the alliance’s foreign ministers faced strains over a Western air campaign in Libya against forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Clinton met South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday, who commended her for Washington’s “exceptional leadership” in handling the situation Libya.
She was due in Tokyo later on Sunday for a flying visit in a show of support following last month’s earthquake and tsunami disasters that killed thousands and crippled a nuclear plant.
Communication is not just important for businesspeople and politicians. It is almost always important to deliver the right message to your audience. Nowadays, in relation to communication and languages we often hear the word “lost in translation”. Though the phrase has become a bit popular, it should not become a habit for everybody.
Getting lost in translation can happen to everyone, whether you are conducting foreign business, court interpreting and even delivering messages on an international informative show such as a current affairs or news programs. We all know that the media are the most influential factor that can really affects human lives. Thus, media practitioners must be responsible in disseminating information to the masses.
One of the popular issues that media have been facing recently related to a speech that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak delivered. Several international news channels encountered some difficulties in understanding the Arabic language that the Egyptian President used. Most of the interpreters in that various international television channels were native speakers of Arabic, and their knowledge of English did not meet the requirements for interpreting or rendering the messages effectively. Thus, there were differing interpretations about Mubarak’s speech in the various television channels.
Interpretation and translation services are complex processes. It is worth noting to know that every important live on air speech can turn into a disaster if qualified and professional interpreters are not hired. Thus, it is most preferable to hire interpreters who have experience in rendering messages in some international organizations such as the United Nations, European Union or the Red Cross. It is beneficial to hire an interpreter who has experience in political interpreting as well.
Language barriers may affect the relations between all countries. Hence, interpreters and translators can have a big impact globally, both in effective interpreting and in being lost in translation. Even the United States of America admitted that they have poor translation services, mainly in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which became obvious when they needed to publicize information about the 9/11 attack in New York City. It seems that there is a crisis of hiring credible Arabic to English translators in the FBI. This is because most Americans have difficulties trusting dual citizen translators, specifically in the Arabic to English language combination. These translators help to translate whatever messages they would receive from alleged and potential terrorists inside and outside of the U.S.
This could also be a big problem in the translation industry. Translation and interpretation must be based on the original and precise truth of the messages and thus, it should not be biased for any reasons. In translations for Government translation, this can sometimes lead to friction between the government and the translators themselves.
Language matters in every way to us, and so do interpretation or translation. Reliable translation companies mostly hire professional and credible translators. A translation company does not do business only in the translation world but they are a highly efficient medium to everybody to create, measure and attain understanding as well. As long as the world has language barriers, translation companies are the homes of reliable translators that are capable of communicating at a global level.
As the number of non-English speakers in the United States who are seeking health care continues to grow, so does the need for medical interpreters who can serve as a liaison between these patients and their doctors.
Medical interpreters have been in short supply, and the demand for them is expected to increase even more, because standards that went into effect Jan. 1 require health care organizations to provide an interpreter for patients who speak limited English.
Even before the new standards were introduced, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted jobs for interpreters and translators would grow by 22 percent over the next decade, faster than for all other occupations.
A nationwide survey of 4,700 doctors, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Studying Health System Change, found that only 55.8 percent of practices with non-English speaking patients provide interpreting services, and 40 percent offer patient-education materials in languages other than English.
Medicaid currently reimburses medical providers for the services of an interpreter. Depending on the state, medical interpreters can make $25 to $50 an hour. In the private sector, they can command upwards of $100 an hour. However, forgoing the services of an interpreter could be even more costly, said Olgierda Furmanek, an associate professor at Wake Forest University who has designed a new graduate-level curriculum in response to this burgeoning career path.
“In a hospital, when there is a language barrier between the patient and the medical professional it slows everything down. Trained medical interpreters bring more efficiency to the overall operation,” Furmanek said. “Without interpreters present, mistakes can happen and they can be costly and tragic.”
In order to be effective, medical interpreters must not only be fluent in a second language but know a great deal of medical terminology, have good memory recall, understand ethics and cultural sensitivities, and be accurate and precise in interpreting and translating medical information. They also must not omit or filter information exchanged between a doctor and a patient.
Beginning this year, Wake Forest will offer an M.A. in Interpreting and Translation Studies with three options for track of study. One is Intercultural Services in Healthcare, which the Winston-Salem, N.C., university says is the first such specialization in the United States; it prepares students for managerial careers in areas of culture-sensitive health care delivery. Another track, Teaching of Interpreting, will be the only one in the Northern Hemisphere educating faculty for college-level interpreting programs.
By Kate Rogers
Published March 28, 2011
In an increasingly globalized society, knowing more than one language is often a major advantage in the job market. However, being an expert in a language is a highly successful and competitive career in itself. And in times of world tragedy, such as the recent tsunami and earthquakes that ravaged Japan, being a translator gives you something other than money to donate.
Kevin Hendzel, spokesperson for the American Translators Association, said the industry has more than 13.5 million translators and interpreters and has been growing at a rate of 13% annually over the past several years – despite the rough economic backdrop. Today, translators work everywhere from courtrooms to hospitals, tech companies and government, providing a vast array of services.
The industry serves in 180 different languages, Hendzel said. The federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on translator services and state and local governments collectively spend $900 million.
“The industry is much larger than people know,” Hendzel said. “It one of those great invisible industries, and a great enabler of international commerce.”
Aside from being experts in their language, Hendzel said translators also need to be experts in their concentration. He has been a translator of Russian to English for more than 25 years, and works in the nuclear materials field. Typically translators have one dominant language and area of expertise, he said.
“The problem with doing different languages and subjects is there isn’t enough room in your brain,” he said. “They need to have a huge base of knowledge to be successful. It’s harder for kids coming out of school, because they know a lot about a language, but not a lot about the world.”
Being an expert in a specific area, in addition to knowing a language inside and out, helps to differentiate a translator from his or her competition, Hendzel said.
“Doing Spanish translation in the U.S. for example, even if you are very skilled, you have an enormous amount of competition,” he said.
The most in-demand translators are those speaking Arabic languages, when it comes to open government positions, and French, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and Chinese are more in-demand on the technology side of things. Many translators work freelance, earning between $25,000 and $175,000 a year, Hendzel said. United Nations translators are on the higher end of the pay scale, earning between $150,000 and $200,000 a year.
“There is a lot of money out there for translators and interpreters,” he said. “Many people do this as a second career, after doing something else for a long time. This is the only industry that grew through the recession, because globalization continues to accelerate and demand continues to grow.”
Translators also often flock to foreign countries in the aftermath of disasters, like the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. Hendzel estimates there will be more than 10,000 translators and interpreters working in the country due to the recent tragedies.
When the earthquake struck Haiti a little more than a year ago, there were nearly 4,000 translators in the country within 24 hours, he said. Many translators work pro-bono in such cases for different charities or news organizations.
“The community response was quite significant,” Hendzel said of the Haiti situation. “There were less than 2,000 working there in the end, some paid, some volunteer. Haitian Creole and French — it’s a tougher language. Japanese is an entirely different situation.”
By Jillian Jorgensen firstname.lastname@example.org
June 5, 2011
People expect to see an attorney beside a defendant in a courtroom. But often in New Hampshire courtrooms, there’s another person at the table — an interpreter.
By the end of fiscal year 2011, the financially strapped state court system expects to spend $450,000 on interpreters to help foreign-language speakers understand civil and criminal court proceedings.
“From our perspective, it’s a matter of access to justice,” said Don Goodnow, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
It’s also a federal directive, Goodnow said. The Department of Justice requires courts to provide interpreters at hearings and trials in all cases, even if a person can afford their own.
Through early May of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, there have been 1,995 interpreter appointments made through Language Bank. In fiscal year 2009-2010, there were 2,105 interpreter appointments.
“The proceeding we try to conduct cannot be effectively conducted unless you are able to communicate effectively with the prosecutor, and the other attorney, and the judge,” Goodnow said.
The state has a contract with Language Bank, which is under the umbrella of Lutheran Social Services. The court system occasionally uses other interpretation services, if there is a conflict or if Language Bank can’t find an interpreter. The state also uses a different company for American Sign Language interpretation, which can be very expensive, Goodnow said.
Spanish is “overwhelmingly” the most requested language, he said.
In the last four years, interpreters in New Hampshire courts have translated complex legal arguments and verdicts into 40 languages, from Hungarian to Dinka, from Haitian Creole to Maay-Maay, from Swahili to American Sign Language.
Contracting through Language Bank provides a level of expertise that was missing before, Goodnow said, when the court clerks kept their own list of local interpreters. There was no one to verify their qualifications, and the costs were shifting from year to year, he said.
So, they put the job out to bid several years ago, Goodnow said, and have worked with Language Bank since 2006.
Amy Marcildon, director of services for New Americans, said Language Bank works to ensure all interpreters are qualified.
“We do have a quality control component to our program,” Marcildon said. “We have someone who goes out unannounced when people are interpreting to observe their interpreting and make sure they’re following protocol.”
Interpreters can add time to trials
To find interpreters — especially for some of the less common languages — the agency works with colleges and cultural associations, program director Alen Omerbegovic said.
“We try to do our best to help,” he said. “But sometimes, we tell the court we can’t find anybody, we cannot do anything.”
Omerbegovic also is a Bosnian interpreter for Language Bank. Interpreting legal proceedings word for word is no different than other types of translating.
“You have to do simultaneous interpreting instead of consecutive interpreting,” Omerbegovic said.
Translating a lawyer’s questions, a witness’ responses, the interjections of other lawyers and judges as it happens can be tricky — and it takes time. Judges and attorneys are very accommodating, Omerbegovic said.
“We do try to remind people, and judges, and say, ‘Hey, can you just give them a sign to slow down?’” Omerbegovic said.
For the interpreters, the stakes are high to get things right. While the person they are assisting is sometimes facing a simple traffic violation, in some cases the defendant’s future is on the line.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “You kind of like have a feeling, like there’s a whole life in the play in front of you.”
The language barrier is not only a challenge for the interpreter, it also is difficult for defense attorneys representing foreign-language speakers.
“Trial lawyers are trained in a particular way and the use of an interpreter changes the dynamic of trial,” Exeter defense attorney Richard Samdperil said. “There’s a pace to cross-examination that you can’t get to, you can’t achieve, with an interpreter.”
Everything slows down, Samdperil said, even the interesting parts of a court case.
“Facts that are important sort of need to be presented in a certain way,” he said. “Everything comes out flat and one-dimensional. It affects how the case gets tried.”
It also is logistically difficult. A defense attorney cannot lean over to whisper to his client, or even whisper through an interpreter, who is busy translating whatever else is happening. Scrawled notes obviously don’t work any better, Samdperil added.
The state does not provide interpreters for meetings outside of court hearings. So, if Samdperil wants to talk strategy with a client, he has to hire a different interpreter. That is paid for by the client, unless he or she has a court-appointed attorney.
The entire hearing or trial takes longer with an interpreter, Samdperil said, in a court system already plagued with delays.
“Particularly in New Hampshire these days, time is a precious commodity in terms of getting hours in front of the judge,” he said.
Scheduling can be a challenge
Donald Blaszka, a Derry defense attorney and former assistant county attorney, said finding a time when an interpreter, judge and both lawyers will all be available can be tough.
“It’s very important that the court system needs to accommodate these people, and they do a great job of that,” he said. “I think the more difficult part is becoming scheduling.”
Blaszka said interpreters have a “very thankless and difficult job” of truly interpreting, not summing things up.
Sometimes, family members will say they can interpret a meeting between Blaszka and a client outside court. But in one case with a Spanish speaker, Blaszka, who studied the language in high school and college, noticed the family member wasn’t being exact enough.
“The family member was clearly summing it up, and I told the family member I was going to end the meeting,” Blaszka said. “The family member was summing up instead of doing it word for word or phrase to phrase.”
Blaszka said he has been impressed with the patience of everyone in the court system when it comes to dealing with foreign language speakers. He said he has been seeing more and more people speaking many different languages, and expects the trend to continue.
“They speak Korean, Mandarin and other languages from all over the globe,” Blaszka said, “not just what people think of Spanish or some of the quote-unquote traditional languages.”
Goodnow, with the court system, said with more Spanish speakers and other shifting demographics in New Hampshire, people are likely to continue seeing interpreters in the courtroom.
“If you look at the census figures,” he said, “I think you’ll see we are an increasingly diverse community.”
Facts and Statistics
Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the East Sea and the Yellow Sea
Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
Population: 48,598,175 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
Religions: no affiliation 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%
The Korean Language
The Koreans are one ethnic family speaking one language. They share certain distinct physical characteristics which differentiate them from other Asian people including the Chinese and the Japanese, and have a strong cultural identity as one ethnic family.
The Korean language is spoken by more than 65 million people living on the peninsula and its outlying islands as well as 5.5 million Koreans living in other parts of the world. The fact that all Koreans speak and write the same language has been a crucial factor in their strong national identity. Modern Korea has several different dialects including the standard one used in Seoul and central areas, but they are similar enough that speakers/listeners do not have trouble understanding each other.
Korean Society & Culture
Korean Family Values
. The family is the most important part of Korean life.
. In Confucian tradition, the father is the head of the family and it is his responsibility to provide food, clothing and shelter, and to approve the marriages of family members.
. The eldest son has special duties: first to his parents, then to his brothers from older to younger, then to his sons, then to his wife, and lastly to his daughters.
. Family welfare is much more important than the needs of the individual.
. Members of the family are tied to each other because the actions of one family member reflect on the rest of the family.
. In many cases the family register can trace a family’s history, through male ancestors, for over 500 years.
. The teachings of Confucius describe the position of the individual in Korean society.
. It is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship.
. The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships: 1) ruler and subject, 2) husband and wife, 3) parents and children, 4)brothers and sisters and 5) friend and friend
. Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity.
. Ancestors are based on the male family line.
. Children are raised to believe they can never repay their debt to their parents, hence the popularity of ancestor worship.
. They hold ancestral ceremonies for the previous three generations (parents, grandparents, and great grandparents) several times a year, particularly on Chusok and New Year’s Day.
. On Chusok, people cook and set out food to celebrate their ancestors.
The Concept of Kibun
. Kibun is a word with no literal English translation; the closest terms are pride, face, mood, feelings, or state of mind.
. If you hurt someone’s kibun you hurt their pride, cause them to lose dignity, and lose face. Korean interpersonal relationships operate on the principle of harmony.
. It is important to maintain a peaceful, comfortable atmosphere at all times, even if it means telling a “white lie”.
. Kibun enters into every facet of Korean life.
. It is important to know how to judge the state of someone else’s kibun, how to avoid hurting it, and how to keep your own kibun at the same time.
. In business, a manager’s kibun is damaged if his subordinates do not show proper respect. A subordinate’s kibun is damaged if his manager criticizes him in public.
. Nunchi is the ability to determine another person’s kibun by using the eye.
. Since this is a culture where social harmony is crucial, being able to judge another person’s state of mind is critical to maintain the person’s kibun.
. Nunchi is accomplished by watching body language and listening to the tone of voice as well as what is said.
Etiquette & Customs in South Korea
. Greetings follow strict rules of protocol.
. Many South Koreans shake hands with expatriates after the bow, thereby blending both cultural styles.
. The person of lower status bows to the person of higher status, yet it is the most senior person who initiates the handshake.
. The person who initiates the bow says, “man-na-suh pan-gop-sumnida”, which means “pleased to meet you.”
. Information about the other person will be given to the person they are being introduced to in advance of the actual meeting.
. Wait to be introduced at a social gathering.
. When you leave a social gathering, say good-bye and bow to each person individually.
Gift Giving Etiquette
. Gifts express a great deal about a relationship and are always reciprocated.
. It is inconsiderate to give someone an expensive gift if you know that they cannot afford to reciprocate accordingly.
. Bring fruit or good quality chocolates or flowers if invited to a Korean’s home.
. Gifts should be wrapped nicely.
. The number 4 is considered unlucky, so gifts should not be given in multiples of 4.
. Giving 7 of an item is considered lucky.
. Wrap gifts in red or yellow paper, since these are royal colours. Alternatively, use yellow or pink paper since they denote happiness.
. Do not wrap gifts in green, white, or black paper.
. Do not sign a card in red ink.
. Use both hands when offering a gift.
. Gifts are not opened when received.
If you are invited to a South Korean’s house:
. It is common for guests to meet at a common spot and travel together.
. You may arrive up to 30 minutes late without giving offence.
. Remove your shoes before entering the house.
. The hosts greet each guest individually.
. The host pours drinks for the guests in their presence. The hostess does not pour drinks.
. The hosts usually accompany guests to the gate or to their car because they believe that it is insulting to wish your guests farewell indoors.
. Send a thank you note the following day after being invited to dinner.
. Wait to be told where to sit. There is often a strict protocol to be followed.
. The eldest are served first.
. The oldest or most senior person is the one who starts the eating process.
. Never point your chopsticks.
. Do not pierce your food with chopsticks.
. Chopsticks should be returned to the table after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
. Do not cross your chopsticks when putting them on the chopstick rest.
. Do not pick up food with your hands. Fruit should be speared with a toothpick.
. Bones and shells should be put on the table or an extra plate.
. Try a little bit of everything. It is acceptable to ask what something is.
. Refuse the first offer of second helpings.
. Finish everything on your plate.
. Indicate you are finished eating by placing your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or on the table. Never place them parallel across your rice bowl.
Business Etiquette and Protocol
Relationships & Communication
. South Koreans prefer to do business with people with whom they have a personal connection.
. It is therefore crucial to be introduced by a third-party.
. Relationships are developed through informal social gatherings that often involve a considerable amount of drinking and eating.
. Individuals who have established mutual trust and respect will work hard to make each other successful.
. South Koreans treat legal documents as memorandums of understanding.
. They view contracts as loosely structured consensus statements that broadly define agreement and leave room for flexibility and adjustment as needed.
. Under no circumstances insult or to criticize in front of others.
. Sensitive matters may often be raised indirectly through the intermediary that first made the introductions.
. South Koreans are extremely direct communicators. They are not averse to asking questions if they do not understand what has been said or need additional clarification.
. This is a culture where “less is more” when communicating. Respond to questions directly and concisely.
. Since there is a tendency to say “yes” to questions so that you do not lose face, the way you phrase a question is crucial. It is better to ask, “When can we expect shipment?” than “Can we expect shipment in 3 weeks?”, since this question requires a direct response.
Business Meeting Etiquette
. Appointments are required and should be made 3 to 4 weeks in advance.
. You should arrive on time for meetings as this demonstrates respect for the person you are meeting.
. The most senior South Korean generally enters the room first.
. It is a good idea to send both an agenda and back-up material including information about your company and client testimonials prior to the meeting.
. The main purpose of the first meeting is to get to know each other.
. Meetings are used to understand a client’s needs and challenges. They lay the foundation for building the relationship.
. Do not remove your jacket unless the most senior South Korean does so.
. Have all written materials available in both English and Korean.
. Business attire is conservative.
. Men should wear dark- coloured, conservative business suits with white shirts.
. Women should dress conservatively and wear subdued colours.
. Men should avoid wearing jewellery other than a watch or a wedding ring.
. Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions in a highly ritualized manner.
. The way you treat someone’s business card is indicative of the way you will treat the person.
. Have one side of your business card translated into Korean.
. Using both hands, present your business card with the Korean side facing up so that it is readable by the recipient.
. Examine any business card you receive carefully.
. Put the business cards in a business card case or a portfolio.
. Never write on someone’s business card in their presence.
By IBTimes Staff Reporter | January 22, 2011 8:00 AM EST
Job seekers with bilingual skills could look forward to a profusion of opportunities in the coming year, according to various reports and company hiring plans. With the globalization of businesses and populations growing increasingly cosmopolitan, the need for transactional knowledge of languages has become very important in both private and government sectors.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of translators and interpreters in the country is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. Another book on the employment scenario, Closing America’s Job Gap (W Business Books, January 2011), predicts that For those completely bilingual in Spanish and English, these highly marketable language skills open doors to new careers.
In the US in particular with people of different linguistic origins converging for medical treatment, the need for medical interpreters has grown by leaps and bounds. Consumeraffairs – the news and advocacy portal – also points out that the new standards imposed by the Joint Commission requiring hospitals and health organizations to provide language interpreting and translation services will further boost the demand for personnel fluent in speaking foreign languages.
A big name in the translation and interpreting industry, thebigword has announced that it will be creating 3000 jobs for linguists in 2011. Worldwide, thebigword’s interpreting business, is expected to grow by 150 per cent during 2011, fuelled by major contract wins.
Within the US itself, the company’s expansion rate has touched 20 percent per month. thebigword has identified the government sector as one of the largest areas demanding linguists and interpreters; in an official release the company says that increasingly cosmopolitan populations are driving the need for regional and national Government bodies to communicate in a range of languages in the USA and Britain.
The company has won substantial Government business based on its ability to deliver savings expected to be US$100 million per year.
Strangely however, based on a report by the University of Phoenix Research Institute, the Wall Street Journal reports that while proficiency in languages – especially in Chinese and Spanish – seems to be among the most critical skills likely to be sought by recruiters over the next decade, very few workers had plans to invest in language instruction.
A survey among 419 employers and 511 workers last fall revealed that 42% of employers expected the demand for business proficiency in Chinese to be high among recruiters; 70% said the same of Spanish. However, a majority of workers said that they neither planned to learn Spanish nor attain business knowledge of Chinese in this period.
However, going by the explosive growth in the number of students enrolling in Mandarin and Chinese cultural courses at the school level across the US, the workforce of the future may be better prepared to meet such demand. In fact, as the Congress takes a relook at the No Child Left Behind Act (or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) language enthusiasts hope that it will pass the $400-million proposed funding for teaching world languages to K-12 students.
In the 1950s, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in Asia. But today, it is a major economic power: according to World Bank figures, it boasts the world’s 13th largest GDP. Korean is the nation’s only official language, and although regional dialects exist, some version of Korean is spoken by virtually all of the country’s 50 million inhabitants.
Korea is clearly a country in need of high quality language services; that’s why a group of language professionals has founded the nation’s first translators’ and interpreters’ association.
”I have frequently received complaints from the government and foreign clients about poor interpretation and translation services…there was no institute offering information about competent, high-experienced and qualified language experts,” explained Kim Ji-myung, chief director of the new association, in an article from the Korea Times. In addition to working to upgrade Korean translation and interpretation quality in general, the new association hopes to set up a certification system for legal translators and interpreters.
Although some Korean businesspeople speak English, it is essential to communicate perfectly when doing business with Asian companies. That’s why Language Translation Inc. provides translation, interpreting, and localization services in Korean and over 40 other languages, including ten Asian languages. “Let us show you how good translation should be.”
There is a truly great article in the New York Times about the role of the translator and translation (in several, some surprising, guises). Michael Cunningham the author of “The Hours” and, most recently, “By Nightfall” uses his experience and a graceful examination of the translation of one line(!) from Moby Dick to illuminate some of the issues that translators and authors face. His essential point is simple:
I’ve come to understand that all literature is a product of translation. That is, translation is not merely a job assigned to a translator expert in a foreign language, but a long, complex and even profound series of transformations that involve the writer and reader as well. “Translation” as a human act is, like so many human acts, a far more complicated proposition than it may initially seem to be.
This is interesting enough a claim likely to be met with some skepticism in the West, where writing and reading are seen as solitary endeavors. Still, it seems right in at least one way, as a reader, solo or not, is certainly “translating” in some sense the work of the author. This, for instance, is why many readers like “The Buckwheat Seasons” by Yi Hyo-Sok and I strongly dislike it. My reader’s translation takes place through a prism that has certain characteristics. First, there is a set of certain genres that I recognize and like. Buckwheat Seasons is in none of these genres, in fact if I had to give Buckwheat Seasons a genre I’d have to make one up, bucolic shaggy dog tale, or retreat to something entirely generic like “fiction.” Second, I generally like my fiction to go somewhere. Buckwheat meanders around a central premise that is never expressed, really examined, or concluded. Finally, I don’t have much sentimental feeling for buckwheat.
Authors, similarly, are translating the world into text and, surprise, often do not work alone. Kim Young-ha’s “Your Republic is Calling You,” is substantially based on the tales of ex-spies, tales they were paid to tell him. Who is the author here? Kim Young-ha gets the residual checks for this excellent work, but isn’t he really just translating the story of the North Korean?
And what of the role of the editor? In an excellent discussion of the The Myth of the Lone Genius, including authors, take a look at the Slate series on collaboration in which Joshua Wolf Shenk notes:
To illustrate the consistently hidden partner with an obvious example: Book editors don’t put their names on covers. Their reputation largely depends on authors—who can be notoriously ungrateful and committed to the idea of their solitary genius. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road sat on slush piles all around Manhattan until Malcolm Cowley, then an editor at Viking, undertook the laborious effort (literary, political, emotional) of shaping it for publication. But afterward, Kerouac and the Beats portrayed Cowley as a villain who muddied the famous unbroken typescript, which they claimed was powered by Benzedrine and holy light.
Even when a creative partnership is inescapable, principals may resist acknowledging its influence. Maxwell Perkins, the great editor who discovered and shaped the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, also made magic with Thomas Wolfe. Their collaboration made Wolfe’s sprawling manuscripts into the epic novels Look Homeward Angel and Of Time and the River.
At first, Wolfe praised his partner, comparing his role in Of Time and the River to “a man who is trying to hang onto the fin of a plunging whale.” Maxwell’s tenacity, Wolfe said, gave him his “final release.” The irony is that just such exuberant acknowledgments helped fuel a major critic’s charge, in the Saturday Review, that the author’s “incompleteness” could be seen in “the most flagrant evidence” that “one indispensable part of the artist has existed not in Mr. Wolfe but in Maxwell Perkins.”
Then, Cunningham goes on to talk about the role of translation in making the literary experience right. He begins with Moby Dick and asks:
“Call me Ishmael.” Three simple words. What’s the big deal?
He answers his own question..
For one thing, they possess that most fundamental but elusive of all writerly qualities: authority. As writers we must, from our very opening sentence, speak with authority to our readers.
Cunningham notes that these words have something important beyond authority:
They have music.
Listen to the vowel sounds: ah, ee, soft i, aa. Four of them, each different, and each a soft, soothing note. Listen too to the way the line is bracketed by consonants. We open with the hard c, hit the l at the end of “call,” and then, in a lovely act of symmetry, hit the l at the end of “Ishmael.” “Call me Arthur” or “Call me Bob” are adequate but not, for musical reasons, as satisfying.
Most readers, of course, wouldn’t be able to tell you that they respond to those three words because they are soothing and symmetrical, but most readers register the fact unconsciously.
Then he introduces us to an Italian translation:
That is the Italian version of Melville’s line, and the translator has done a nice job. I can tell you, as a reader who doesn’t speak Italian, that those two words do in fact sound like something, independent of their meaning. Although different from the English, we have a new, equally lovely progression of vowel sounds — ee-a, ah, ee, a, ee — and those three m’s, nicely spaced.
If you’re translating “Moby-Dick,” that’s one sentence down, approximately a million more to go.
Cunningham concludes by encouraging potential translators to do what they must to his own work, but his general arguments are also powerful. ALL communication is translation, this is a given in communication theory, and this makes me wonder about the relative marginalization of translators, and the sometimes cavalier approach that authors and translation institutions have towards their work. It seems intuitive that translators should be the key decision-makers in transmitting messages across languages, and this raises the question of why the current translation structure is composed as it is.