Korean Translation Tip: Three (3) Number-Related Tips in One (1) Easy Article

In previous posts, I've shared about number units unique to Korean and how Korean prose doesn't include a lot of spelled-out numbers

Here are three more tips...

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Many Koreans handwrite their numbers differently than we do in English. I used to think this was a generational thing, but I occasionally see funny number writing from young people, too. 

Translation Tip #1 - When translating handwritten Korean text, watch out for these variants on the numerals "9" and "8".

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Most Koreans know how Roman numerals work, but it's not a normal system for writing in Korean. Why risk it when translating?

Korean Translation Tip #2 -  It's generally safer to change Roman numerals to Arabic numerals (ex: "Stage IV" >>  "4 단계") when translating from English to Korean.

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There are two ways of spelling and pronouncing numbers in Korean: the native-Korean way and the Chinese-derived way. Usage depends on context and/or what's being counted, and the correct approach is typically one or the other; not a choice of whichever the speaker prefers. This can be a point of confusion for late learners of Korean like yours truly, but it's second-nature to native Korean speakers.

The issue is particularly relevant for the numbers 1 through 99, which is the same range of numbers Koreans prefer to write as Arabic numerals, instead of spelling them out like we often do in English. (See link in first sentence above for details.)

Since the same Arabic numerals are used regardless of pronunciation or spelling and a Korean translation is likely to use those numerals, this issue normally remains invisible to non-Korean speakers. However, when the numbers are spelled out (which does happen, though not often), there could be situations where they appear to have been done so inconsistently even though they are correct.

Here's an example. The number five written out in native Korean is 다섯, but in Chinese-derived Korean is 오. "Five hours" is commonly written as "5시간" but could be spelled out as "다섯 시간". On the other hand, "five minutes" is best translated as "5분" but might also be written as "오분".

Korean Translation Tip #3 - You're unlikely to get confused by this when reviewing a Korean translation since these numbers will usually be written as Arabic numerals. But just keep in mind that it's possible the same numbers (especially smaller ones like the digits 1 through 9) may appear to be written out inconsistently even in cases where they are correct.


Yet Another Korean Translation Mistake in Google Android

My tablet recently upgraded itself and the following message appeared during the process:

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It says:

Android is upgrading... 

Optimizing 92 of 116 apps

So the device is only optimizing 92 apps and it is not going to optimize the other 24? 

What Google meant to say was:

Android is upgrading...

Optimizing the 92nd of 116 apps

So, the correct translation should be

Android 업그레이드 중

앱 116개 중 92번째 것을 최적화 중

 

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A Korean Translation Error in Microsoft Word 2013

This is the standard print dialogue in the Korean version of Microsoft Word:

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The text in the red circle says "Number of pages" (as in one page, 20 pages, etc.). However, as explained by the pop-up tip in the blue box, it's the spot for entering which pages to print (such as pages 5-10, or pages 5, 7 and 8).

The original English version would have said something like "Page numbers". But in Korean the correct translation here should be "페이지 번호/범위", which literally means "Page numbers/range".

 

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High-Quality Workflow Design for English>Korean Translation

It would be great if every project followed a linear workflow from beginning to end, so that after feeding the source file in at the beginning, the final file at the end pops out as a perfect specimen, with every step having somehow brought the quality closer and closer to perfection. But the real world isn’t so simple and our workflow is designed to take advantage of the linear aspects of the work, while also dealing with the surrounding complexity.

Failure points in the process cause many of the errors. I’ve found some in the software of some of today’s leading companies. Keeping these pitfalls in mind, we bring together the highest-level technical expertise, English fluency and industry experience with the best English>Korean review talent, to maintain a reasonable rate structure across the range of project types and sizes that we handle, while also delivering our best work.

Hybrid CAT-tool workflow

Because we often work with subject-matter experts who are not CAT-tool savvy, I handle most technical processing internally, with the actual translation and proofreading steps processed by my team on RTF files that I prepare with the relevant terminology, context and TM content for their reference. I have been working hard on these processes for several years now and they include proprietary procedures that I have developed and maintain internally to raise quality.

Language pair-specific quality assurance

One aspect that sometimes affects the quality of translation into Korean is the lack of native-speaker fluency in English among the pool of Korean translation resources. This is a lesser concern on technical documents, where standard language is often used, but it does crop up. Yet one more role I perform in the quality assurance process is to review source files at the beginning for potential linguistic issues that could trip up the team, and then spot-check the translations at the end for common problems in the English>Korean language pair. I’ve written about a lot of these in my Korean Translation Tips series, and am increasingly integrating these into my quality assurance work.

Client-side induced errors

Unnecessarily complicated and unclear instructions, work processes and file formats, as well as process disruptions (such as late client instructions, source files changes), lead to a disproportionate number of errors. This also applies to poor client-end translations and layout which we are asked to review and where we end up fixing things that shouldn’t have needed fixing, leaving less available attention/time for productive editing work. This is exacerbated when the budget is not adequate for the effort required. I try very hard to get all this worked out in advance, and to shield my team from distracting factors.

Role specialization

It is important to keep in mind that only so much can be expected at each step of the process, and with two languages as mutually different as English and Korean, this is even more true. While we’d like to believe that a translation performed by a competent translator will be perfect the first time every time, this is simply not the case.

In fact, each step in the process (file preparation, translation, proofreading, automated and manual QA, content-context integration, etc.) adds value… at least, it does if the scope for each step is designed properly and adequate value added by each participant.

Our process lets the translator and proofreader focus only on linguistic issues by separating out the technical file handling, project management and context integration into discrete steps that I manage at the beginning and end of the project. Furthermore, creating conditions for high linguistic quality from the translation and proofreading team means that QA can then focus on final polishing, while also resolving other technical complications.

In our process, the translator is the lowest function and this person not take any leadership role. My colleague who does nearly all of my proofreading (and selects the translator, thus having a motivation to keep the translator in line) would be closer to this role. But frankly, in the end, it's me doing the dictating of terms and ensuring adherence with instructions, style, etc, and ever so occasionally, going back strategically with mistakes I found to let my colleague know I'm still paying attention. We don’t generally send edits back down the ladder for review and approval, nor do we rub other team member’s noses in every single mistake that we can fix at a higher level.


Korean Translation Tip: Solving Spacing Issues Between Korean and English Text in MS Word

There's a nasty feature in Microsoft Word as it applies to Korean; I have no idea why it's there. My best guess is that it's only supposed to be used with Japanese and Chinese but that Microsoft mistakenly included it for Korean, too. I'm not really sure, though.

Perhaps Microsoft could contact me and explain so I can let you know if I'm missing something here. After all, I already pointed out several mistranslations in Windows which they've told me they fixed! (BTW, I stopped writing about Korean translation errors in Windows and Office... There are plenty more, but it got boring to keep going on and on about them.)

Anyway, the issue here is that when English and Korean characters sit side-by-side in a document, sometimes a space is placed between the English and Korean. This is done regardless of whether a space should actually be there or not. Here is a short excerpt from my master's thesis to illustrate:

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Do you see those spaces indicated by the arrows? They aren't supposed to be there, and I certainly didn't add them when typing the text.

It turns out there's a simple solution. Special thanks to my genius layout guy, Xiang, for teaching this to me awhile back.

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I'm not aware of any situation where the above boxes should be checked in a Korean document; they should always be unchecked. To fix, simply select all text in a document and then uncheck those boxes to produce properly formatted text like the following:

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Korean Translation Tip - Sometimes there should be spaces between Korean and English text in a Korean document. However, these should only be added with the space bar. If you have a Korean translation where spaces cannot be removed because they can't be deleted, then following the above procedure will "fix" your document.