Experiencing Culture through Translation

As an individual interested in Korean culture I have always wondered whether I am learning and experiencing Korean culture by proxy as I do not know the language.

Language is fundamental in expressions thoughts, ideas and culture. Language is a powerful tool, even leading to wars and conflict.

But as an ‘international fan’ I live my life through a translated version of Korean culture. From the TV, dramas, films and articles I read I rely on translation.

In fact the spread of the Korean wave can be attributed to the accessibility of translated content online. For K-pop fans particularly, getting access to Super Junior or Miss A latest material is great but being able to understand what they are singing about is important. Some international and Korean fans take it upon themselves to translate videos so others can watch them.

The internet has provided all with an equal platform from which we can indulge our interests. Where would be without the internet and those that translate content for us all.

Of course when translation occurs some of the original meaning is lost.

By translating, we are taking the original statement and making it easier for us to understand. You could say that we are transferring meaning to relate to our own schema (way of understanding).

This leads to the following questions: Are we truly experiencing Korean culture or is it just a translated version?

Can you say you understand a culture when you don’t speak the language?

I’d like to think that as my knowledge increases I could say yes to a certain extent.

Understanding a language can help you to understand the people who can then inform you on the culture.

With the world becoming more connected, barriers are being broken down. Furthermore those of us in the English speaking part of the world are lucky that our language is a widely spoken language. We are also lucky if we have Korean friends that speak English and can translate for us and fill us in on their culture.

For me, being able to understand Korean will allow to easily comprehend what I see and read. I can also access more content to widen my knowledge. But importantly it will allow me to gain a greater depth of understanding about Korea and its people.

Although my knowledge is translated, I am still experiencing and enjoying learning more about a culture love.

Do you feel closer if you understand the language? Let me know your thoughts.

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