Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Translating Teams = Teams of Translators?

Wanting to Go Insane, Yet Unable
미쳐버리고 싶은, 미쳐지지 않는
Yi In-seong

I've blogged before about Jean Bellemin-Noël and Choe Ae-young, a translating team who translate from Korean into French, hence the above image of Interdit de folie, their translation of Yi In-seong's novel Wanting to Go Insane, Yet Unable (미쳐버리고 싶은, 미쳐지지 않는), a work that has not yet been translated into English.

I first read of this translation team in an article by Claire Lee for the Korea Herald, "French-Korean duo shares art of co-translating," and I found it interesting because she interviewed the two translators and presented a summary of their working method:
Together, the two have developed an original, effective process of co-translating. First, Choe translates the entire Korean text to French, with a long list of footnotes that contain explanations of cultural context, synonyms of major words, and alternative ways of interpreting the text. Bellemin-Noël then revises the first draft and rewrites the text into more refined French, taking Choe's footnotes into consideration. Then the "talk" begins. "From this stage we wouldn't use my first translated draft at all," Choe said. "We'd discuss extensively comparing the original Korean text and the second translated version which has been revised by Dr. Bellemin-Noël, for the final copy that would compromise the two drafts."

Bellemin-Noël said though the two discuss their work in a "cheerful mood" 90 percent of the time, the mood can get very tense for the remaining 10 percent. "I try to keep the original context of the Korean text as much as possible while Dr. Bellemin-Noël brings the perspective of French readers," Choe explained. "This process requires a lot of compromising and tough decisions."
I quoted these words in that earlier blog entry, then presented the similarities and differences between their method and the process by which Sun-Ae and I proceed:
This description of their process interests me for its similarities and differences with the process that my wife Sun-Ae and I work through in our own translation efforts. Moreover, according to Claire Lee, "Bellemin-Noël has almost no knowledge of the Korean language," which I find quite heartening, personally, since I'm in the same position of ignorance. Anyway, our process is somewhat different. Sun-Ae has a doctorate in German literature but translates into serviceable English that gets better with each passing year. I rework her translation, trying to reword it with an ear to literary quality in English. Sun-Ae then reads my reworked version, checking for mistakes of understanding on my part, which she and I then discuss. Afterwards, I re-read the text carefully, listening for awkward expressions, which I rework. Sun-Ae re-reads after that, checking again that the translation remain true to the original Korean, and we discuss any difficulties.

What strikes me as a significant difference between our method and theirs is the degree of informality to ours. I think that ours is less formal because we're a married couple and work five feet apart at desks facing one another, an arrangement that allows us to query each other any time either of us encounters a translation problem.
Perhaps you can understand why I generally don't call myself a translator. I think of myself as a "transformer," for I take the English text given to me by Sun-Ae and transform it into a literary English text. But I notice that Choe calls Bellemin-Noël "my co-translator," and the author of the article, Ms. Lee, refers to Choe and Bellemin-Noël as "Korean-French translators."

The point that comes home to me is that since Bellemin-Noël can be called a "translator" despite the fact that he "has almost no knowledge of the Korean language," then perhaps I can also pose as a translator . . .



At 1:54 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I am in a similar position as a member of a translation team putting together a new English language version of Tasso's Il mondo creato (Creation of the World). My official role in this effort is editor. I have no Italian, but my first language is English, which puts me in a position to see things that the translators (for whom English is a second language) pass over. Here's a description of what I am seeing/doing:

New Tasso Translation

At 3:43 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the link. I knew, of course.

Jeffery Hodges

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