By Kate Bucek
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Translation is not a perfect process; it never has been. One cannot expect a translation to be an exact mirror of the original piece, although that is the understanding that many people have of the process of translation. The process of translating a piece of writing, especially creative writing, is one of many choices. The translator must make endless decisions based on their own ideologies and understandings of the piece before presenting to the reader what is often seen as an exact copy of the original. As there is rarely a disclaimer to warn the reader before they begin to read a translation that it is not, in fact, the exact same as the original, it is important to observe and understand the impact of various translation ideologies on the experience of a foreign reader.
Korean Sijo poetry is a very interesting model to investigate due to the various restrictions present in its form. Sijo is a form of mainly vernacular Korean poetry developed around the 14th century BCE. Before and including this point in history, most writing was done in Chinese characters, posing this contrast from previous forms of Korean poetry as sijo was written mainly in vernacular Korean, while there were some Chinese characters included as well in some cases. One of the notable characteristics of this art form is its syllable restrictions, which provide difficulty when translation to English, or any other language for that matter.
The Korean language is similar to languages like Japanese and the Altaic languages, such as Turkish and Mongolian, but is still very distinct and cannot simply be grouped in with these languages. Therefore, even in the cases of languages that are somewhat similar to Korean, there is no equivalence in these languages that would allow for exact translation without any decision making needed on the part of the translator. This leads us to the question of what the best method would be to translate Korean sijo poetry to allow for the understanding of a foreign reader without losing authenticity in the process. The solution to this problem would not be one single method, but the mixing of multiple methods through the process of stereoscopic reading.
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