Korean Translation Tip: Pitfalls of Handling Acronyms in Korean Translations

Today’s tip is about acronyms, which can cause trouble in translations from English to Korean.

Here’s a recent example.
I was editing an academic paper in English which had been written by a Korean and it was about intellectual property rights.
In academic papers like this, “intellectual property rights” is commonly abbreviated to “IPR”. (ex: “Researchers have investigated the relationship between the strengthening of IPR and technological innovation.”)
So, is IPR plural or singular?
(Hmm.. I bet you’ve never really asked this question before…)
Anyway… It’s singular as an acronym. But when written out or spoken as “intellectual property rights”, it’s plural.
This caused the writer of the above paper all kinds of problems and he kept writing “IPR” as “IPRs”. (ex.: …effects of minor forms of IPRs on economic growth…”)
This issue occurs frequently in English > Korean translation projects too since Koreans are often blind to the issue.
When acronyms are rightly pluralized in English (such as CPUs), translators into Korean often forget to take the “s” off in the Korean translation. This is true even if Korean would not normally indicate the plural form (as explained in a previous tip).
If I notice this typo-level error in a job handled by my team, I generally remove the “s”.
Best Practices Tip – When you get an English > Korean job back from a translator, if it’s got English acronyms in it, you might want to browse through and check for this issue. It’ll only take a moment, because the acronyms will stand out from the rest of the Korean text, and you can quickly remove any extra letters.


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