A Complete Guide to Korean Translation & Localisation
An incredibly complex and intricate language, most linguists classify Korean as the largest language isolate currently spoken, meaning it bears little to no relationship to any other known language. This makes translating documents, marketing materials, and written copy incredibly challenging, whether you’re translating from Korean, or into it.
This Korean translation guide will explore just a few of the qualities that make the Korean language so unique, and what to consider when you’re translating or localising a piece of text for Korean audiences – and why using a professional translation agency is always the safest bet!
Sentence Structure & Length
There is a natural order applied to the sentence structure of any language; when writing out a sentence in English, we stick to a subject-verb-object word order. An example of this would be ‘she drove her car’, or ‘he ate a sandwich’.
There are a total of six possible combinations of subject, verb, and object. In Korean, the order goes subject-object-verb. This can be tricky enough with simple sentence translation, but with sentences containing multiple objects it gets a little more confusing – the object being emphasised will then move to the start of the sentence, in spite of the natural order.
Sentence lengths also differ in Korean. Whereas in English you might find several shorter, concise sentences relating to a single point, it is more common in Korean to have one long sentence strung together, which often means the translated text has to take on a whole new form entirely.
1, 2, 3 Counting Systems
The Korean language has a total of three counting systems, which are used depending on the particular context:
- Sino-Korean is used to count money, and is also used within dates, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Native Korean is used to count people, objects, and age.
- Ordinal, derived from Native Korean, is used to show the order or ranking of things in a set or position, i.e. first, second, third.
These can be catastrophic if used incorrectly, especially with official documents where finance or the law is involved.
Spaces (And When Not to Use Them)
While in English it is essential to include a space between every single word, in Korean, there are certain instances where the space must be removed in order for the sentence to make any sense.
For example, particles must be attached to whichever words they are related to. There should be no spaces between the particle and the word it is being used in conjunction with. For example, the ‘to’ in the verb ‘to run’ would be attached when written down in Korean, forming ‘torun’.
Korean is what linguists refer to as a high-context language – a lot of the meaning is derived from context and assumptions, rather than the words themselves. English, by comparison, is a low-context language. Implicit words are needed to give an English sentence proper meaning.
For example, in Korean language culture, there is no requirement to include a pronoun when referring to a subject. This is because there is the immediate assumption that the subject of a sentence is human.
For example, in English we might say ‘where are you going?’. If we took the same sentence in Korean and literally translated it into English, it would read as ‘where go?’. This is because the other words would be assumed, given the context.
Why Use a Professional Translation Service?
Especially when you’re dealing with a language as complex and nuanced as Korean, using a professional translation service is always going to be a smart move. Here’s just a few reasons why we recommend always seeking out professional help with your Korean translation.
When you work with a translation agency, you’re working with people who have been specifically trained to deliver quality translation services, with accuracy, fluency, and cultural appropriateness guaranteed. You will undoubtedly receive a higher level of translation when compared to using amateur translation tools, as these companies have a rigorous process in place that covers proofreading and editing on top of the translation itself, providing you with content that reads well in any language.
Speed & Efficiency
Backed by a team of professionals, a proper translation agency can often deliver results with far greater speed than a translation tool. If you have a large-scale project with tight deadlines, an agency can draw on their wealth of resources to make sure everything is completed on time, and with a greater level of accuracy and readability.
Professional translators who are working with their native language will have a deep understanding of the intricacies of the dialect and cultural nuances of the region they’re from, both of which are extremely difficult to grasp through research alone. Through using a proper translation agency, you can steer on the safe side of caution and avoid any potential language hiccups, all while ensuring your business branding and marketing materials really speak to your target audience in the way you want them to.
Whether you’re looking for Korean to English translation, English to Korean translation, or Korean localisation, our team of professional translators are here to help. With over 20 years of experience, our expert linguists have the industry knowledge and nuanced understanding of culture required to deliver accurate, localised translation that properly conveys the message of your documentation, branding materials, or marketing assets. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can benefit your business.