Monday, January 3, 2011

lost in translation or .... maybe found

Sixty episodes of the Korean Historic drama (Queen Seondeok 선덕왕 善德王 (632–647)), and at about episode thirty-eight they gave the task of English subtitles to a high school student from Korea. It was terrible, for they started using the direct translation of the Chinese characters for the names of the players, so someone named ChunChu, became earlysummerfall, and the grammatical construction remained Korean, but in English, and since it was about a thousand and five hundred years ago they picked words from almost middle English to give it a flavor of long ago and far away. Meseems was I a headache brought. Yeah, it was funny, and my mind was quickly picking it up, since I was driven to keep up with the dialog and plot. Luckily, it was only two episodes and I was back on the regular guys and something I could handle without too much thinking, which is the way entertainment is supposed to be, right?

I dressed up and took my wife to church, Korean and American, for the special first service of the new Senior Pastor. He and his wife do a tag team, one will preach in Korean and the other will preach immediately after in English. Both have their education in Korean schools, and have lived and worked in the United States since graduation, last church was in Nashville. Well, the big projection screen has the lyrics to the hymns, and the old standards have both the Korean and English words to the songs so I was comfortable with that, but on the new rocking ones - they were giving us only one of the two languages to read and sing, for a couple verses, then they switched to the other. Forcing my mind to start reading the Korean alphabet, again - which I once knew, but since the songs were driving I was winging it, and by the time the Praise singing was over, I was really into it. Now I didn't know what I was singing, just glad I was getting the right sounds at the correct time. Wow, next week we will be back to the regular American service, Southern Baptist Bible thumping passion. I don't read musical notes either, another language failure of mine.

Long ago and far away, when I found myself stuck on the idea of marrying my girl friend (a most uncommon thought for me) I stopped learning Korean to talk to her, because she would go with me, and most of our lives would be spent in America or American culture. So thought I then. And I thought she really did well, and she was constantly terrified that she was doing badly, and was sure she couldn't speak English and would always apologize for her lack. What I didn't understand was that she was constantly thinking in Korean, with everything she had learned for over twenty years and translating it into her one year of serious English study, and many English Second Language courses for the rest of her life. I think she has done well, she worked on German before our first tour together there, and did well again. I worked at it too, but then German is not that much of a stretch for English speakers that socialize. We did well enough that driving into France became a panic situation since they didn't use English or German much, we were in a foreign country again. She, after almost forty years of Earl's careless attention, still thinks as a Korean farm girl with a covering of Korean Southern Baptist, and Confucian philosophy, having to translate everything constantly - my repeated errors in manners and thoughts are now well understood or temporarily tolerated - but every once in a while I will do something she will have to work over, going through her mental barriers of how things should be and the real meaning in a civilized tongue. Not the kind of unsettling and earth shaking fellow I wanted to be to her.

When Europe subtitles movies, we usually get them in English first (or so I think) but the market for Korean dramas is big in China, and the first two language choices are both Chinese - and if I could read Chinese I would tell you which was first of the two, but English is third. On this DVD set there is no Spanish nor French. Ah, I do know that I could hear the whole thing in English, but they would be readers not actors I would be listening to, and they cut the music and sound effects badly when they do voice overs. Das Boot works with English, those Berliners do well, but listening to it in German rocks. Looks to me like English will be a universal second language, but since there are so many Chinese and other Asians influenced by China for a long time coming, expect to need a better grounding in what they think and say after we all get beyond the TSA security screens and into the broader world. Spoken to any Hawaiian islanders with pidgin?

For sure I thought that the Ottomans had problems with harem intrigue, but then maybe it isn't a fault of Washington, DC, that everyone seeks POWER there, sure they are going to do a wonderful job for themselves and their children's future. It might be the heady water and air of government SelfSERVICE.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Earl, that is a major failing we (Americans) tend to have... That is thinking since somebody 'speaks' English, they think in English... in reality, many non-English speakers NEVER learn to think in English, simply doing a translation as the speak...