Korean Translation - From Three MotaWord Translators

Published on May 20, 2019

by Marcos Dinnerstein

Summary: Korean translations can be tricky, with both meaning and style challenges. MotaWords translators give us an inside view of the challenges and rewards of Korean translations.

After studying English in universities, both Jasmine Kim and Yoon Seo brought their Korean translation skills to a professional level by reading English works extensively. For Jasmine, this led to work as a project manager at a translation agency, a job she held for five years.  Stanley Nam’s path was slightly less conventional. Let’s hear how each of them describes their journey.

Stanley Nam: I was lucky to serve as an Army Interpreter for my mandatory military service. As the Korean army frequently runs joint war games with the US, there is a high demand for middlemen who understand both two languages and the military settings in Korea. My primary job description included translating manuals to be used in the field, and promoting communication between the US and Korean personnel. Brevity and accuracy were vital in the two-year training, so after I finished the service I was confident in going into professional translation. From then on, I have worked for numerous clients both in Korea and Canada, where I am currently located. MotaWord is one of a kind as it let me freely work whenever I can and wherever I am. 

Jasmine Kim: As a person who enjoys challenging new things that are especially related to English, I love reading interesting content, particularly when it involves languages. I have studied English interpretation and translation at university and worked as a project manager at a translating agency for five years. These experiences brought me to this wonderful position of a freelance translator working new and interesting tasks every day!

Yoon Seo: I continue to study English and I read articles and columns to acquire the vocabulary and information on corresponding professions. This lets me translate works smoothly into Korean.

Most often, what languages pairs do you work in and in which direction?

Jasmine Kim: Generally I work in English to Korean translation or proofreading jobs, which I am familiar with, and this language pair and direction occupy most of my projects. I also handle Korean to English translation jobs when my schedule allows me. 

Stanley Nam: I mostly translate from English to Korean. Besides, there is also high demand among the Korean researchers who need their scholarly works to be translated into English, so I often translate articles in business (my major in college) to be made acceptable to international journals.

Yoon Seo: I work in English to Korean translations.

Describe a typical day working on a MotaWord translation job?

Yoon Seo: I'm holding onto my laptop because I have to compete with other translators to get a real-time translation.  When I don't have a laptop, I might miss a project.

OK, Yoon, we’re going to have to get more work for the Korean translators so you don’t have to worry about this.

Stanley Nam: MotaWord notifies me through e-mail when there is a project I can work on. When I am not on other projects, I can devote my whole working time to that project. Even while I am working on other projects, I can spare some time contributing to the MotaWord project as a side job. What I love about MotaWord projects is that I can be a part of many other competitive translators and do not need to work on my own. I can always learn from what others have translated, especially if there is already a Mandarin translation of the English phrase that I try to translate into Korean. This is very helpful as I speak Mandarin as well.

Jasmine Kim: I try to wake up early because I find the morning hours to be the most productive. I am usually tied up with housework until I get a new job. When I get a notification mail regarding “New translation project” from MotaWord, I dash to my computer and enjoy translating.  

Any advice for beginning translators?

Stanley Nam: Try to learn from language pairs done by other translators. There are also bilingual newspapers that provide pairs of Korean and English sentences of the same meaning. See how the journalists wrote the same situation in the two languages. By learning, I do not mean blindly following previous examples. Be critical about them and think about how you can do better.

This is a good place to jump in to suggest you watch this thoughtful video on the Korean language.  This Korean language teacher thinks deeply about language learning in general. You'll enjoy this. 

Why is it so difficult to translate between English and Korean?


Jasmine Kim: One of my favorite maxims is "He who has dreamed for long resembles his dream" said by a French novelist, Andre Malraux. I am sure that it is definitely true since I have become the person I dreamed of a few years ago. I strongly believe whoever dreams will see the dream turn out to be real.

Yoon Seo: Get a good understanding of the style of the document and the subject area required.

The three of you have my respect and the respect of the MotaWord team. The more I learn about Korean translations and the richness of the Korean language the more impressed I become. In my research, I found  examples of that richness:

10 Fascinating Korean Words That Have No English Translation

And here’s a web page where you’ll read and hear, Korean Core 100 Word List

For more information on Korean translations you might also like:

Korean Translation is Hard. Ask Koreans.

Korean Translation, why?


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