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A Cinema Reader, Lee Mi-doInterview with a foreign movie translator

 If you enjoy watching movies, you have probably seen the name -Lee Mi do- ,a translator, in the ending credits of the movie.  He started his work as a movie translator in 1993.  He has translated more than 450 foreign movies.  He stands foremost among the movie translators of today in Korea. The Post met Lee Mi do and listened to his story.

Being a foreign movie translator
 After graduated from university and finishing his military service, he started work related to movies.  His job was marketing American movies to Korea.  Nowadays, people can get information about foreign movies easily through internet but about 10years ago it was not easy to get information about movies.  They needed someone who could communicate information about American films to Korea to publicize about the movies.  At the time, the company suggested him to translate subtitles for the movies.  Taking this opportunity, he started foreign movie translation. 
He said being a foreign movie translator is a fascinating job.  He also thinks that this occupation suits him because he loves movies and English and he always enjoy his work and is happiest when he is working.  "Futhermore, I can always watch new movies first and I can watch different movies all the time.  He added: "I can schedule my own free time because I'm working as a free lancer."
 Many people think that foreign movie translators watch movies again and again when they translate the subtitle.  The Post asked him this and he answered "Never.  Translators never watch the movies when they translate."  This was a surprising answer.  He explained: "The copy rights on the movies is the most important for the financial success of the movie.  If copy right is infringed, it can be a death-blow to the movie's success."  Because of this, translators cannot watch any of video files.  The only thing that he is allowed to see when he translates, is the subtitle script.  He has to imagine the situation in the script and translate the subtitle totally using his imagination.  After rating of the movie and subtitles, he can watch the movie for the first time and make any small changes that are needed.
 Some people think that translating is simply changing one language into another.  They are totally wrong.  Mr. Lee calls translating as 'the second creation.'  He emphasizes 'creative translation'.  "When I translate English into Korean I'm trying hard to translate the culture in the language not only the language itself,"he said.  "Constant efforts and studying is essentially needed to perfectly translate cultures."  The things he cares about the most are jokes and puns.  That is hard work because he has to consider rhythm and cultures in jokes or puns.  "The puns or jokes of another culture worry me because it is hard to make them natural," he said.  He also tries to use definite and concise expressions to help the audience concentrate on the movie.  "I don't use canned phrases and internet languages when I translate.  I think that using canned phrases or internet languages is lazy translation, "he said and added "I think translator's most important goal is to translate creatively but not to damage what the original author intended to mean."
  He says that translating puns and jokes is always a delicate and difficult part.  Sometimes when there were some new canned phrases or slangs in the movie he translates, he asks his American friends for help.  He said he doesn't like actors who speak a lot and fast.  "The number of the words in each scene is limited, if actors speak too much, I have a hard time arranging their words.  They drive me crazy,"he explained.  On the other hand, he said he likes actors like Tom Hanks in movie Terminal and Sean Penn in movie I am Sam because they speak easy expressions slowly in the movie.  "I appreciate that type of actor as a translator," he added.
 The Post asked him when is the most worthwhile moment as a translator.  He answered "When movie that I translated becomes a movie that the people want to see again."  He said when a movie he translated is released, he goes to the theater and watch the movie with other people.  "I feel happy and special when I see that people are touched by movie through the subtitle that I translated.  That is the most worthwhile moment to me," he said with smiling.

 

"Movies are my second English teacher."
Mr. Lee said: "My first English teacher was my father and my second English teacher was movies."  His father was an interpreter officer in the U.S. Army so he began studying English when he was young.  His father often took him to the theater to watch American movies when he was young so he could experience American culture indirectly and studying English in interesting way.  Since then, he has enjoyed watching English movie and studying English.  Movies were his teacher and also his friend.  He said: "People want to study English in a fast and easy way but it is impossible to study language.   He stressed learning English in an interesting way such as watching English movies or reading English books.  He said the most important thing when you study English is "practice."  He also advices students who want to be translators: "Focus on studying Korean more than English."  He said that Korean linguistic ability is a precondition to be a good translator.  Studying systematically is also important. Therefore, It is good to study at a qualified educational institution like a Graduate School of Translation.  "Varied experiences in life are basic acquirement for translator.  Enjoy your campus life, study hard and find your true love," he said.  "Indirect experiences are also important.  Students should acquire a closer acquaintance with good books and newspapers.  They'll help you to think deeply and creatively," he added.
  Lately, he has extended his field and started work as a writer not only as a foreign movie translator.  He wrote several books related to the cinema and English.  He said that writing books is a journey which can enrich his life and he is planning to continue writing books.  The Post is looking forward to his continued work not only as a foreign movie translator but also as a writer.

Lee Min-jeong  serendipity@dongguk.edu

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  • Cowan 2017-07-13 18:23:50

    Is there a way of comunicating with mr Lee?the movie interpreter?my email is michyvo@libero.it I'm Michelle Ingram Cowan   삭제



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