The Korea Times 칼럼

dante 2022. 1. 6. 18:02

이 블로그에 쓰는 글 중 어떤 것은 제 페이스북 

계정 (에도 게재됩니다.

아시다시피 저는 디지털 세상과는 거리가 먼 사람이지만

어머니를 바깥세상과 연결하려는 아들의 노력 덕에 페이스북 계정이 있습니다.


전에도 여기에 한 번 쓴 적이 있지만, 페이스북 측에서는

제가 우리말로 쓴 글을 영어로 번역해 싣곤 하는데

그 영어란 것이 아주 엉망진창입니다. 전담 직원이 있을 것 같진 않고

초기 단계의 AI에게 맡기는 듯, 우리가 사는 '이승 (this world)'을 

사람 이름 '이승'으로 인식, "Lee Seung"으로 쓰는 식입니다.


처음 한두 번은 웃어넘겼지만 이런 일이 되풀이되니 기분이 나빠져

영어로 불쾌감을 표현하는 글을 써서 코리아타임스 (The Korea Times)에 보냈습니다.

종이신문엔 내일 나오겠지만 인터넷판엔 조금 전에 실렸기에

코리아타임스에 감사하며 아래에 옮겨둡니다.

제목에 나오는 'Comedy of Errors'는 세익스피어의 작품 제목에서

따온 것입니다.


Facebook's comedy of errors


By Kim Heung-sook


Translation is a difficult task and that is why professional translators make a living by doing it. Both as an author and translator, I have never seen a writer have their text translated into other languages without it being scrutinized by the person who will do the job. Almost all writers understand that translators can be traitors, as the saying goes.


The first time I found one of my postings on Facebook to have been translated into horrible English without my knowledge, I tried to laugh it off, giving a sort of benefit of the doubt to Mark Zuckerberg and his people. "They may be doing this in their kind efforts to deliver my piece to English users around the world," I thought. However, as the unsolicited service continued, I began to feel violated, if not angry.


Now, I can say I hate Facebook.

"Hate" is an emotion I am experiencing only for the second time in my life.Years ago, I felt that way about a doctor who touched me inappropriately in the course of a physical examination. This time, I do not know the exact hand. I only know that it belongs to somebody or something at Facebook or Meta or whatever you call it.


I wonder if Facebook does this traitorous act to all postings in languages other than English. I wonder if they are doing this to pieces in Korean in misguided kindness to Koreans to show respect to such global sensations as BTS and Blackpink.


Or, are they doing this only to postings by users with less than a score of followers? I happen to have 18 of them.

(I hear you laugh, but it's okay!) Believe it or not, I wasn't and am not unhappy about the small following. Once upon a time, I chose to live in a quiet world distant from digital technology. I have been writing fleeting thoughts on a Korean blog and my son, probably out of a wish to connect me to the bigger world, opened a Facebook page for me and posted my writings there. Apparently, his wish has zero possibility to be fulfilled, but the page has been instrumental in connecting a few of my readers with me and I appreciate it.


The Facebook translations are horrible to say the least, but they sometimes give me laughs. For instance, in my Dec. 22 posting, I mentioned "어깨에 뽕을 넣은 공무원" meaning "a high-handed civil servant," but Facebook translated it into "A civil servant who put bread on his shoulders." Bread is "빵" in Korean and the Facebook translator seems to have misread the word "뽕" as "빵." On Dec. 16, I wrote about Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" in Korean and the Facebook translator changed both the names of the author and his book into "Henry David Sorow" and "Citizens Rebellion," respectively.


In a posting on Dec. 14, I talked about Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" which is written "신곡" (pronounced "Singok)" in Korean. The Facebook translator changed the book's title to "New Song" which, in Korean, is written and pronounced the same as Dante's work.


On Nov. 21, in my posting on the movie "Mogadishu," I recollected: In the mid-1980s when I was covering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a reporter, I met several eminent diplomats like former Ambassador Park Kun-woo and former Minister Hong Soon-young, who both departed from this world too soon. For "this world," I used the Korean word "이승" which contrasts with "저승," the otherworld. The Facebook translator obviously had no idea of this and took "이승" as a person's name, for its version was as follows: "When I entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a journalist in the middle of the 1980s. Outstanding diplomats I met ... Among them, I remember Ambassador Park Gunwoo and Minister Hong Soon-young. Two people who left Lee Seung too early. Two people outclassed themselves." Anyone reading the Facebook translation would wonder who or what "Lee Seung" is.


For all of these and numerous other errors committed by Facebook, I, a believer in patience, am just waiting until the company does something to correct its offensive habit. So far, however, I have seen no signs of improvement. So, here I accuse Facebook of its repetitive crime of ruining others' writings and reputations.


I hope Facebook people will understand that even if they started to translate others' postings with good intentions, their outcomes are so terrible as to breed hatred. To Mark Juckerberg, I would like to say this: Please stop unsolicited translation of Facebook postings. Your translation is nothing but a comedy of errors and a demonic twin of my writing. Please stop it or I may call you Mmark Zuckerbug, Marcc Zugerberg, or something really terrible.


Kim Heung-sook is a poet and translator. The former Korea Times columnist is the author of many books including "Forest 숲," a collection of her poems in Korean and English.