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Korean Food, Lost in Translation

Awkward English translations are exceedingly common in Korea.  So common, in fact, that there is even a word to describe them: Konglish. “Konglish” translations of Korean restaurant menus are often especially heinous.
Kim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, has collected a list of them for the Korea Herald:

Preposterous English food translations include “lacquer poison chicken broth with ginseng (hanbang samgye tang).” Customers will surely be intimidated by this poisoned chicken dish that may threaten their lives. In fact, this dish, which should be translated to “boiled chicken with ginseng” or “chicken stew with ginseng,” is not dangerous at all, but very good for your stamina… Examples of embarrassing translations could seemingly go on forever.

Other highlights:

  • mountain not yet the pebble pot boiled rice with assorted mixtures (sanchae dolsot bibimbab, a vegetable hot pot)
  • mother hand tasty director of a bureau (omma son mat cheong guk jang, a soybean stew)
  • green pea jelly vegetable nothing needle (cheongpo mook yachae moochim, a green pea jelly salad)

Most of these botched translations are the result of attempting to translate word to word from Korean to English. As you can see from the results, it’s not always that simple and for accuracy’s sake it’s important to have someone with a working knowledge of both languages.

In an attempt to make Korean food sound more palatable, South Korea’s national language institute just released its first batch of official translations for restaurants. With verified English translations for 200 common South Korean dishes, officials hope this will make eating out in Korea easier for tourists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the new translations come with problems of their own:

Many of the descriptions appear too brief. Take kal-guksu, a popular wheat-flour pasta soup with fish stock base. The new list calls it noodle soup, but that doesn’t reveal the type of noodle used in the dish. In Korean cuisine, there are many types of noodle dishes, in variable thickness, served chilled or in hot soup with different condiments and spices.

Meat dishes could also use some embellishment beyond listed definitions such as short rib soup, pork backbone stew, beef bone soup, ox bone soup and ox knee soup.

Still, that’s better than leaving tourists wondering if they’re being poisoned, or whether or not government officials taste like chicken!

What’s oddest menu translation you’ve ever seen? Share it in the comments!

Additional

I really don’t know what this video is, it has nothing to do with translation but I found it when I was researching this post. This guy’s laugh is hilarious.

Gangnam Style Translated into English

We know you wanted us to… so here’s the English translation for Gangnam Style.

Enjoy!

Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style  Read more

Twitter Now Speaks Korean

Popular microblogging service Twitter just learned a new language: Korean. As of Wednesday, January 19th, Korean users can now send and receive tweets in their native Hangul alphabet from the Twitter website itself, instead of having to resort to a third-party application to translate the site.

In a Korean-language press release translated in the San Francisco Chronicle, Twitter wrote:

“With this launch, Twitter is now available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Korean. With 70 percent of Twitter accounts belonging to users outside the U.S., it’s important for us to make Twitter available in as many languages as possible, and we hope to support even more by the end of this year.”

Why Korea? At a press conference, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams says that the decision was a result of increased demand. Read more

This Elephant Speaks Korean

There’s no doubt that elephants are intelligent. Aristotle once called them “”The animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind.” They have the largest brains of any land mammal, and have exhibited such human-like behaviors as holding funerals for their dead, painting, playing music and counting. They’ve even outsmarted human researchers in some intelligence tests!

Now, scientists have confirmed that a male Asian elephant at a Korean zoo has learned to “speak” Korean. Well, 5 words of it, at least. The elephant, called Koshik, has a spoken vocabulary that consists of the following words: “annyeong” (hello), “anja” (sit down), “aniya” (no), “nuwo” (lie down) and “joa” (good).

When it comes to communicating with other intelligent species, the main limitation is in their ability to vocalize human words. That’s why apes have to be taught sign language or how to use a computer. So how does Koshik do it? According to a paper published by the scientists:

“To create these very accurate imitations of speech formant frequencies, this elephant (named Koshik) places his trunk inside his mouth, modulating the shape of the vocal tract during controlled phonation. This represents a wholly novel method of vocal production and formant control in this or any other species.”

His method works- Korean speakers can readily understand what he is saying. Scientists believe that he learned to vocalize Korean words because he spent much of his youth as the only elephant in the zoo.

Researcher Angela Stoeger-Horwath told Live Science,

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Koshik’s drive to share vocalizations with his human companions was so strong that he invented a whole new way of making sounds to achieve it.”

However, researchers don’t believe that Koshik actually understands the words. It seems he’s just using his talent to bond with his trainers, rather than to communicate.