Jublo is a certified UK translation and digital agency based in Leeds.

English to Korean Translation: Why is it Tricky?

Translation is a fascinating process that allows us to delve deeper into the languages involved. As we know, not all English words exist in other languages, and not all of the words in those languages have an English counterpart. This makes language translation a little tricky.

But what makes Korean especially difficult to translate? Whether you want to translate Korean to English, or the other way around, you’ll likely run into a few hurdles. In this post, Jublo looks into why this increasingly popular language is particularly complex to translate to and from.

Note: Though it might be tricky, our experienced translators are fully equipped to translate English to Korean.

Reasons why it’s difficult to translate English to Korean

As we’ve already mentioned, not all words have a direct translation into English and vice versa. But since this is common for almost all languages, it doesn’t make Korean more difficult than others. What really sets it apart is the Hangul alphabet.

In English, we use the English alphabet, which consists of 26 different letters. In Korean, the Hangul alphabet is used. Hangul is the modern writing system for the Korean language and consists of 24 letters which are written in syllables.

The 24 letters are made up of 14 consonants  (ㄱ ㄴ ㄷ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅅ ㅇ ㅈ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ) and 10 vowels (ㅏ ㅑ ㅓ ㅕ ㅗ ㅛ ㅜ ㅠ ㅡ ㅣ). These letters are written in syllabic blocks arranged in two dimensions. Seeing as Korean writing is done through syllables, no Hangul letter appears alone. Instead, two or more of the Korean alphabet letters are constructed into one block. Therefore, each word also comprises one or more Korean syllables, all starting with a consonant. A statement will therefore read like this 리즈로 오세요 (come to Leeds).

Translating these blocks of writing into English, or from English into these different syllabic blocks, is what makes Korean translation particularly tricky. However, that’s not all. The Korean language also differs according to who you are speaking to. Much like German, Korean has different speech levels that are used according to the level of respect that you want to show the person or people you’re addressing. This means that, in translation, you must consider whether you want to be conversational or more formal. If you are doing business translations, for example, you will use the formal speech level, or risk offending your audience. 

History of the Hangul alphabet

Hangul is a particularly interesting writing system. It was created in 1446 by Sejong the Great, the fourth ruler of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. The creation of this phonetic writing system greatly influenced the future of Korea, making Sejong one of the most influential Koreans in history. He is so revered, in fact, that almost every school in the country has a statue of Sejong on their grounds, to show respect to a man who furthered education in a truly impressive way.

Can I use an app to translate English to Korean?

These days, Google translate and other apps can be used to translate one language to another. And they don’t do an awful job of it either. However, if you are expanding your market into Korea or otherwise attempting to translate your offerings into Korean, it is very important that you correctly communicate your business, brand and offerings, while making a good impression. 

Incorrect or disrespectful language would not be conducive to a good first impression. When you take slang and localisation into account, it becomes clear that professional language translation services should be used. At Jublo, we take into consideration the culture and language of the country you’re translating for, as well as your original meaning. So that nothing gets lost in translation.

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