I recently finished translating Hopper and Wilson in Dutch. It is the first book *evah* of mine to be translated into Dutch. There is a German version of BLOOM floating around, and Korean kids get to read BLOOM and SPLASH, but this will be the first time Dutch children will be able to read my book. Well, it will be the first time they will actually understand what it says, since my mother has been gifting my books in English to anyone who would take them. Bless her.
Of course I knew translation was tough, but I didn’t REALLY know. Now I do. It’s not about translating the words. When I simply translated the words, even if it was grammatically correct, it just felt clunky, or just plain wrong in Dutch. I realized every language has a different rhythm and feeling. When you learn a language, it is as much about acquiring the words as it is about slowly being initiated into a new culture with its own humor, history, politics, hurts, codes, mores. So what I realized was that I had to feel or visualize what I had tried to say in English, and then decide how to best capture that feeling or image in Dutch. It is as much about transporting the story into another language, as it is about having it make sense in another culture.
I am very happy De Vier Windstreken (my Dutch publisher) acquired the book and trusted me with the translation. We still need to decide on the names for the two friends. Ollie en Ippe? Wammes en Willie? Bommel en Mik? We’ll see.
So what does this translation say about Korean culture?