My name is Daniel Graham. I’ve been a lot of things in my life: a passionate Christian, an apostate, and a happy skeptic, a martial artist, a soldier, a student and a teacher (but mostly a student), a son, a father, a friend, and a husband to name but a few. Probably last on my list of expected roles was Korean-English translator.
Translation wasn’t a career choice for me. I just kind of slid into it.
I was working a factory job to pay back my student loans and earn some money to get myself back in school when the US Army gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse: it would pay off my student loans, provide funds for additional schooling, and give me an opportunity to learn a foreign language, all in exchange for four years of my life. I leapt at the chance. That was in 1985.
My Korean-language education began, after basic training, at the San Francisco branch of the Defense Language Institute. It continued through two years of training in the States before I finally got the chance to go to South Korea. As things turned out, I didn’t come back for six years.
There I married a Korean woman, had two strapping boys, and was blessed with the good fortune of having the Army send me to Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute for a year. I did have to give Uncle Sam four more years for that last one, though. It was worth it.
With family in tow, I returned to my home country and got out of the US Army a day or two later. That was Thanksgiving 1992. I’ve been doing full-time freelance translation ever since.
Having done some translating while I was still in the US Army, I expected the work to be a temporary gig, but it has ended up being my long-term profession. I’ve been at it full-time for several decades now.