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Discover the world of translated lit from the translators of I Decided to Live as Me

Discover the world of translated lit from the translators of I Decided to Live as Me

Are you curious to know how your favorite books are translated from one language to another? 

In Fully Booked Chats with Kyung Min Bae and Ma. Kristina Carla Rico, the translators shared their experiences on translating I Decided to Live As Me to the English version of the best-selling Korean book.

I Decided to Live As Me shows readers that the most essential thing to do is to live as you. The non-fiction book, which is also included in the list of BTS recommended titles that every ARMY should read, is a light read with cute illustrations that talks about accepting yourself for who you are instead of looking at other people’s lives, trying to be understood by everyone.

Here are some interesting points from the conversation that you might want to learn about the practice of translated literature.

What is the role of translators in bridging the gap brought upon by language?

Kyung Min Bae: People think that translating is just transmitting from one language to another, but it has a deeper meaning. As I gained more experiences in translating, I saw the importance in showing the right message to the readers. More than the language itself, it’s really the connection between two languages and cultures—translators play a crucial role as a bridge between cultures and language speakers

Ma. Kristina Carla Rico: Translators play an important role in not just connecting people, but connecting societies through literature. As translators, we are able to show people different world experiences. 

KMB: The keyword here is: connection. We connect people and help them see different world experiences through translated literature.

How do you approach text when given a translation work? How do you immerse yourself in the book?

MKCR: In the case of I Decided to Live as Me, I read it even before we were asked to translate the book. It was a different experience reading it for the first time, because I just read it as a reader who wanted to enjoy the book. I was able to connect with some of the lines. But as a translator, you have another role to play and that is to make sure that you understand the culture behind the words and sentences written in the source language; to be able to fully immerse myself in the book, I try to read it alone in a space where I can concentrate and I read aloud.

Do you have similar experiences in I Decided to Live as Me as a young woman living in Korea before moving here in the Philippines?

KMB: I think this book really relates to readers in their 20s because that’s what really happens in their daily lives. I also had quite similar experiences, especially that the author was talking in some chapters that she, as a Korean woman, felt that social pressure really existed. And the same social pressure still exists. That, I think, positively triggered foreign readers to have a universal sentiment.

MKCR: Yes, I agree. Even if the experience is that of a Korean, it’s still the same even here in the Philippines. I think this is one of the reasons why many Filipinos liked this book. It is very relatable.

What does a good translation mean?

MKCR: A translation can be considered good if it fully conveys the message of the author; if the target readers would find it not awkward. It shouldn’t feel like it’s translated from another language.

KMB: For this book, even if the publisher is Filipino, we had to consider: will other English speakers be able to read this book? We really tried to make it more understood by more English-speaking readers.

What do you love most about translating books? 

MKCR: I’ve been learning Korean for 10 years now. I’m a full-time teacher in one university and part-time in another. It was all about teaching, teaching, teaching. But with translation, I get to learn more about the language that I love most. 

KMB: The time I translate, I really focus. There’s nothing else but me and the text. That feels like my sanctuary. I can see myself in the text I am translating. 

What are some key lessons about translating that you can impart to readers?

KMB: Translation always teaches me that language is so dynamic. The more I translate, the deeper I get to see about these two languages: Korean is my mother tongue and English is my second language. But to translate and to discover the message—what’s really inside the language. 

What is your advice to those who are interested in learning the practice?

  • Continue learning the source of language

  • Be genuinely interested with the language

  • Practice!

You have to do it to be better at it. Keep improving your language. Read more and when you understand different styles of writing from different authors, there are things you can learn and acquire as your skill. 

Did you miss the Fully Booked Chats with Kyung Min Bae and Ma. Kristina Carla Rico? Don't fret, you can still watch the full video in the Fully Booked Facebook Page: Art of Translation by Kyung Min Bae and Ma. Kristina Carla Rico.

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