Monthly Archive: February 2008

Translation is Not a Commodity!

What your translations say is crucial both in terms of style and meaning. While cost is very important, you’ll break out of the ordinary by delivering with consistency, quality, promptness, reliability and thoroughness every time.

The following are just a few examples to demonstrate the premium nature of our translation services. As demonstrated below, we do not cut corners in the quality of our deliveries.

I have not mentioned specific company names here due to the confidential nature of our work. We always handle projects with this important point in mind.

Scientific Publications

One of our clients has been having our team translate the monthly newsletter of an organization working in the field of nuclear power. How important do you think these documents are in today’s market? Rather than just any translator for this task, our linguist on the job has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and is currently working in a nuclear technology research institute in Korea. Do you think this costs a bit more? Sure! But if ever there was an example to prove that translation isn’t a commodity, this is it!

Life Sciences Materials

Our Korean translations of various medical and social services forms and booklets are being used throughout the US by numerous hospitals and social organizations, including health insurance firms and medical research agencies. In addition, Korea is emerging as a leading country for clinical trials. We frequently handle forward- and back-translations of clinical trial protocols and consent forms and our team understands the process involved, including the additional review step of reconciling the two versions.


Our patent translation team is second to none, with years of experience working directly under and with patent attorneys in Korea. On one ongoing pharmaceutical patent project which we have handled for several years, our team not only delivers translations ready for submission directly to the Korean Intellectual Property Office, but we frequently find and point out mistakes in the English source, too. This added value has given the end user great confidence in the work our agency client delivers.

Legal Materials

Legal complaints to be submitted for litigation must be prepared according to standard formats with the correct terminology. Not only that, as the legal system in Korea is different than that of the US and other Western nations, these must be handled by expert legal translators familiar with the differences. Our team translates such projects frequently and we always deliver a Korean translation that meets the standards expected in Korea.

Large Technical Projects

CAT tools such as Trados and memoQ are marvelous tools. But they're not always easy to use and when handling a turn-key approach from start to finish, in the latest desktop publishing software, knowing the ropes is important both in terms of keeping costs down and maintaining consistency throughout. On a recent one-million word project, our team worked steadily to not only meet, but also beat, original deadlines, even as the project scope increased unexpectedly. Needless to say, the size of this project also let us cut our prices far below our posted standard rates.

Complicated Typesetting

Suppose your client has a large file in PageMaker for translation to Korean in Trados but the final delivery should be in FrameMaker? Or a file in English Quark that the client needs typeset into Korean Quark? If an English advertisement is being translated to Korean, it’s easy enough to pick out some fonts that look OK to a non-Asian, but what if the fonts in your delivery to the client were selected to appeal to the Korean readers? Our layout technician is the best anywhere. It’s generally safe to assume that if a Korean typesetting project can be done, we can do it.

Ongoing Corporate Materials

A large multinational has been having their corporate materials translated into Korean (and about 25 other languages too!) for the last 4-5 years, during which time we’ve handled countless projects for them through our agency client in a wide variety of business subjects. From annually updated codes of ethics, to procedural manuals and letters from the president, our team takes ownership of the work, jumping in to provide constructive feedback about why certain changes by the client’s reviewers who joined the process late would affect the consistency of style and meaning with previously established language.

Education Materials

A large city school district in the US has ongoing needs for Korean translation and our team has been a key (though not exclusive) provider of this work over the years to our agency client. Following a rigid style guide and glossary prepared by our client, as well as translating in Trados, we have worked hard to make sure the district’s materials in Korean are always top quality. Indeed, Dong-Hyeok Kim, one of our key team members, holds a teaching certificate in Korea!

Wishing Koreans a Happy New Year

The first thing you need to be aware of is that there are two New Year's Days in Korea – one for the solar calendar and one for the lunar calendar. New Year's Day according to the lunar calendar in Korea is the same as in China but it is better to refer to it as "seol-nahl", Korean New Year or Lunar New Year rather than Chinese New Year. You can and should wish Koreans a Happy New Year for both New Years.

Wish Koreans a Happy New Year on or within a few days of New Year's Day. Do it once only the first time you see or speak to someone after New Year's Day but do it for both the solar and lunar New Years. For significant Korean individuals with similar or greater seniority than you, you should definitely make an effort to meet or telephone them to wish them a Happy New Year. Doing it on New Year's Day will make a better impression than doing it after New Year's Day but as with most things, it is better late than never. A face-to-face meeting or telephone call is much better than sending a card. With Koreans who are less senior than you or not particularly significant, you don't need to make a special effort to contact them – just wish them a Happy New Year if you happen to see or call them on or soon after New Year. Naturally, you should return the greeting to any person who gives you a New Year's greeting.

Each year, the Korean (Chinese) New Year falls in either late January or early February. In 2008, it will fall on February 7. The date it falls on in a particular year can easily be found by searching the Internet using the phrase "Chinese New Year" followed by the year in question.

The Lunar New Year is a three-day public holiday in Korea and is a time for families to gather and eat a meal together. For this reason, expect traffic chaos on major roads and difficulty obtaining tickets to travel in Korea over this period. Nowadays, international flights into and out of Korea are also heavily booked out over the LunarNew Year holiday break because many Koreans use the break to take a quick overseas trip. Try to avoid it but if you know you will need to travel over the Lunar New Year break then book months in advance.

Most shops and businesses are closed over the Lunar New Year holiday and ATMs often run out of cash and are not replenished until after the holiday so make sure you do your shopping in advance and have sufficient cash to tide you over.

The Lunar New Year is a time of gift giving in Korea. Adults give envelopes containing cash to children with the amount being determined by the age of the child and the closeness of the relationship. Companies might give gifts to employees or major clients. If you are invited to a family gathering, prepare some envelopes with cash for the children plus some empty spare envelopes just in case. You should prepare a gift, such as a commercially produced gift set or gift basket for the person who invited you as well as for that person's parents. Remember that the parents of the person who invited you are the most senior so they should get the most expensive gift. In addition, take lots of small denomination notes to participate in a variety of traditional Korean gambling games that are played at such gatherings.

The Korean expression for Happy New Year is "seh heh bok mah-nee bahd-oo-say-yoh". It literally means "Receive lots of New Year's good fortune". There is no need to distinguish between the solar and lunar New Years when wishing people a happy New Year. Use the same expression for both.

Related greetings are to wish people a good New Year's holiday break the last time you see them before they head off for the break and to ask whether they had a good New Year's holiday break when you see them again afterwards. The expressions for these respectively are "Seol-nahl-eul chal boh-neh-say-yoh" (flat intonation) and "Seol-nahl chal boh-neh-shoss-o-yoh?" (rising intonation).

Click here to hear pronunciations of the phrases described above:

If you are not confident about giving New Year's greetings in Korean, then just do them in English. The fact that you make the effort to contact people and wish them a happy New Year will create a great impression with your Korean associates. If the language barrier means that you are unable to communicate directly with a person that you want to give greetings to then you could ask an English-speaking subordinate of that person to pass on your New Year's greetings. This will create the same good impression.