Q: Why are you interested in translating English books into Korean?
A: Because I want to understand informal style English well. You learn a lot of the intricacies of a language when you read their books. Especially the ones for kids and teens like myself.
Q: Is this something you’d like to keep doing as a side career in the future?
A: Yes, it is.
Q: What project are you working on now?
A: I have a book called Fairy Knights that I am reading and translating. It is the story of two fairy children and a hamster who all want to be heroes.
Q: How is Fairy Knights?
A: It is fun and very unpredictable. It makes you laugh alot and it also tells a very good story.
Q: What is it like to translate?
A: Well, everything is difficult. Speaking formally in a classroom uses rote rhythms and sentences, so that isn’t so hard. But when you translate English books, you are reading how people actually speak and actually use language. It goes well past the classroom setting and almost everything is difficult. Well, except some of the jokes. But when I change it all into Korean and fully understand the text, it always makes me smile. There is something special and heartfelt about reading a story in your native language.
Q: What is your favorite genre of books?
A: I love to read fantasy books.
Q: What was most surprising to you about translating when you first started?
A: I do very well at English and so you would expect a kids book to translate easily and quickly. But translating the contents of a book and staying true to form is surprisingly difficult and time consuming.
Q: Is there an achievement that you are most proud of?
A: I was given a commendation by the Minister of Education here in my country of Korea for outstanding diligence and performance in my studies and tests. This was the result of a competition in which the top students of the nation competed. Hundreds of students, two-hundred of whom were three or four years older than me. So I didn’t expect to get a prize at all!
Q: Why did you decide to take on the translation of Fairy Knights?
A: The cover is fun and also I realized that translating this book can help me drastically improve my English.
Q: What inspires you to work at translating English into Korean?
A: My teacher told me the story of his friend, an American who came to Korea and got his doctorate at a Korean University. His friend got his doctorate here, and he learned it all in Korean, not English. The friend had told him that the biggest and most important tool in learning the language to such a great level was to translate the texts that he had into English. It allowed him to gain not just vocabulary and grammar practice, but it also allowed him to feel the natural flow of the language. I want to get that feeling and that level of natural proficiency.
Q: Are you the best person for translating this book?
A: It is meant for English speaking students in the elementary school age but it resonates well with our age group at the middle school as well. It is fun. It is funny. And as a middleschooler I am still at the right age at which to convey the age-specific dramas and feelings of the book. An adult just wouldn’t get it right.
Q: How did you know that you wanted to do this project?
A: How many people get offered an adult-level project at fourteen years old? It is an amazing opportunity to develop myself and also my name in the public world. When I was offered this work I immediately knew that I wanted to do it.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far while doing this project?
A: The biggest challenge is dealing with idioms. They are very difficult and they often rely on pop culture references of the present or past, so they don’t make any sense to people from other cultures like myself.
Q: What did you do to overcome the challenge that idioms present?
A: I cheated! I searched for them on the internet and found their meaning so that I could understand them.
Q: What would you say to someone who is considering getting into translating?
A: I want to say to them that is a tremendous experience and it is also a powerful tool for learning the language. You pick up so much so fast, and you get to build up your resume at the same time.
Q: What do you think other people should know about doing this?
A: I think other people see me doing this and they think that it looks hard. Maybe even impossible. But they should understand that once you get into it, translating is a lot of fun.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with me?
A: Yes. I love comic books and I would love to translate some of those as well some day.
Q: Thanks for the interview, Yujin!
A: Thanks for the questions, Dames!
Check out Yujin Kim’s Fairy Knights translation at the beginning of January in stores all over the world!