Korean Translation Tip: To My Esteemed Translation Client Reader

In reference to those holiday greetings I translated in a previous post, my translations of them sounded a bit weird, didn’t they? But hey, what do you want me to do? Change the meaning so they sound better to you?

Actually though, even though I said I translated them literally, I left some meaning out.

That’s right; I didn’t translate everything for you.

I left out all the parts that went overboard (from an English perspective) in expressing respect.

Consider this Korean sentence:

“2011년 한 해 동안 귀하가 폐사에 보내 주신 사랑에 감사드립니다.”

I translated it this way in in the blog post I referenced:

“Thank you for the love you have shared with our company during the 2011 year.” (Gotta love that "love" word there!)

But this is what it really says:

“Thank you, with respect, for the love which you, the esteemed, have shared in a respected way with our humble company during the 2011 year.”

Kind of weird, huh?

Korean Translation Tip – Korean really does include this much nuance expressing respect and humility, and especially in formal communications. However, it gets tedious (and runs the word count up unnecessarily) to translate it all so your Korean > English translator (including yours truly) generally leaves all this out. Just know it’s there but don’t think it needs to be included in the translations you deliver to your clients.

Oh, and by the way…

Thank you, with respect, for the love which you, the esteemed, have shared with humble ol’ me over the many years that humble ol’ I and my humble team have handled translation work for esteemed you…

3 Responses

  1. John says:

    Hey Steven,
    Just curious, why do Koreans write that way. I also translate from Korean to English and I’ve just overwhelmed with the adjectives and the extra “fluff” they put it there. I didn’t grow up learning Korean composition, but is that seen as “proper” in the Korean perspective? If so, why?
    Thanks,
    Baffled American

  2. John says:

    I’ve just *been* overwhelmed

  3. I guess I’d just say that the levels of respect are built into the Korean language and that getting them right in speech is something that comes naturally to Korean speakers; they don’t seem to agonize over it like we do coming from a non-Korean background. I’ve thought of it being like knowing how close to sit next to someone on a park bench; you’ll sit closer or further away depending on your relationship to them, and it’s never that hard to figure it out or to think through the process. But trying to explain it later might seem a bit more complicated.

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