Nobel Prize in Literature: Japanese vs Korean LanguageJuly 26, 2009
“You all know that Japan is an inferior country.”
[via Japan Probe]
This person claims that Nobel Prizes in Literature were not awarded to Korean writers because Korean language is difficult to translate into English, but Japanese (two laureates) is simple, primitive, and easy to translate. Moreover, Japan is an inferior country.
It is very sad that this person is teaching such things…Nonetheless, I found some interesting facts indirectly related to this video.
A Study by the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages came up with the numbers of needing 1000 words to understand 80%, 2000 words for 87%, and 5000 for 94% of English literature.
The National Institute for Japanese Language came up with 560 for 50%, 1200 for 63%, 2800 for 73%, and 9700 for 89% for Japanese.
This is because English literature commonly uses phrases like “water”, “hot water”, “boiling water”, “boiled and cooled water” using combinations of simpler words to describe things whereas Japanese has a separate distinct word for each of them as in “水”, “お湯”, “熱湯”, “白湯” which racks up the vocabulary count.
Seoul International Heritage Festival
Seungmu (Monk’s Dance) By Chihun Jo
(Work that the person in the video claimed is impossible to translate)
얇은 사(紗) 하이얀 고깔은
고이 접어서 나빌레라.
파르라니 깎은 머리
박사(薄紗) 고깔에 감추오고,
두 볼에 흐르는 빛이
정작으로 고와서 서러워라.
빈 대(臺)에 황촉(黃燭)불이 말없이 녹는 밤에
오동(梧桐)잎 잎새마다 달이 지는데,
소매는 길어서 하늘은 넓고,
돌아설 듯 날아가며 사뿐히 접어 올린 외씨보선이여.
까만 눈동자 살포시 들어
먼 하늘 한 개 별빛에 모두오고,
복사꽃 고운 뺨에 아롱질 듯 두 방울이야
세사(世事)에 시달려도 번뇌(煩惱)는 별빛이라.
휘어져 감기우고 다시 접어 뻗는 손이
깊은 마음 속 거룩한 합장(合掌)인 양하고,
이 밤사 귀또리도 지새우는 삼경(三更)인데,
얇은 사(紗) 하이얀 고깔은 고이 접어서 나빌레라.
Translation by a linguist and a professional Korean-English translator
A pearly veil(*1) of gossamer, folded delicately ’til it flutters by(*2)./Locks of hair, shaven to a cerulean tint, hide beneath the gossamer veil./And the two streams of light trickling down the cheeks, so truly gorgeous as to make me cry.
The stage is the night when the beeswax wordlessly melts away, when the moon sets on the paulownia leaves.
With long sleeves spreading the sky, the slippers(*3) hesitate to roll yet gently glide across./Into the shyly black eyes, a star’s light from a distant sky pours./With two mottled drops on the peach blossom cheeks, even in worldly trappings agony shines as a star./Unfurling, rolling, folding, reaching, yet deep within the hands clasp in sublime prayer(*4).
Even at midnight(*5) when the crickets hold their vigil, a pearly veil of gossamer flutters by.
*1 – Veil is not entirely accurate–고깔 refers to a conic prayer veil-like headdress used in the Buddhist tradition.
*2 – 나빌레라. Butterfly-like. The English word “butterfly” comes from the insect’s archaic name “flutterby”, describing its motion in flight.
*3 – A stand-in for 외씨보선 (Oes’ibosun), a type of dress slippers.
*4 – 합장. Hands clasped in palm-to-palm position. Pranam.
*5 – 삼경. The hours between 23:00 and 1:00
The reason there isn’t much translation of Korean literature is not because Korean is hard to translate, but because there aren’t Korean translators who are also writers and poets. Were I a real poet, I probably would have produced a better translation of Seungmu–the attempt was just a proof of concept. The Korean-English translation community is severely limited to practical forms, such as in sciences and documentation.😐 (Source)
I am not very familiar with Korean literature and was wondering what Korean writer deserves a Nobel Prize in Literature in your opinion?
Further Reading: Seungmu (Wiki)