Linguistic complications in Korea: 1950

Friday, February 11, 2011

Old editions of Cosmoglotta are being uploaded at a good pace, and I should be done the final years (1949 and 1950) in just a few days. Today I was looking at the final year and came across a short blurb about interpretation between American and Korean soldiers during the Korean War. Back then it was no difficult matter to find a Korean fluent in Japanese, and because American soldiers involved in the region had devoted most of their efforts to learning Japanese, two interpreters were often required.

Linguistic complication in Korea

According to Robert Bennyhoff in "Le Monde" (Paris, 1950.09.14), one of the many difficulties in the relations between American and South Korean officers is the diversity of languages. Few Koreans speak English correctly and no Americans speak the Korean language. Most frequently one has to resort to using two interpreters, the first translating English to Japanese and the second retranslating Japanese to Korean, or vice versa. It is easy to imagine, says Bennyhoff, the errors in interpretation and the endless confusion that results from that, and, he adds, sometimes miscomprehension brings a dear price.

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