My only area of genuine expertise, as I would define it, is translating Korean into English. I’m well read in many subjects, however, and, over the past two decades, I have translated a mind-bogglingly large quantity of texts in a variety of domains. I’ve been very cautious in accepting work but have found, especially in the last ten years, that almost all the information I need to translate a document well is freely available on the Internet.
With that caveat, I present the following, what I would call my “areas of focus”:
I know this seems an odd area in which to stake a claim, but, for general subjects, I’m your man. My reading, in both Korean and English, has been all over the place. Although this is probably not a wise approach, specialization being as useful as it is, I have specialized in the general. Curiosity has driven me there.
English writing skills are essential in the humanities, to a greater extent, I think, than in more technical subjects. Technical writers try to be understood; other writers seek to inform, but also to move the reader on an emotional level, and to be appreciated. Consequently, native-speaker comfort with the target language is a big plus.
Philosophy and Religion
The first jobs I did as a professional translator were three doctoral theses in feminist theology. Since then I’ve moved from Korean into English many documents that attempt to address questions on the meaning of life. Some have been profound; others, plain silly. Regardless, whether a text discusses Jesus’ life and death, the intricacies of Yin and Yang energies, the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west, or the utter meaninglessness of existence itself, I’ll probably be comfortable translating it.
Audio Transcription, Title III Work
I’ve done a great deal of audio transcription. Several years of my life, literally, I’ve spent winding and rewinding tapes (in the 1990s) and forwarding and reversing audio files (since the 2000s), making sure that I caught every last “um” and “ah.” Most of this work I’ve done for various law-enforcement agencies (i.e., related to Title III). My involvement in Title III operations has included both live intercept and after-the-fact transcription. I’ve been a part of, and led, teams of linguists.
I’ve done a lot of patents, and patent-related documents. A lot. So far, my customers have been satisfied, apparently. Even I have been impressed, from time to time, with the texts I’ve produced. “Who wrote this?” I ask myself rhetorically, feeling quite pleased. Those are the times that I find some reward in the incredible tedium and persnickety process of patent translation. But I am no patent expert. Here, as in most fields of translation, research is everything.
Over two decades of full-time translating have included boxes and boxes and boxes (back in the day) of legal documents. Now the texts come as PDFs, but, if I were to print them out, they would still fill many boxes. I’ve translated everything from personal identification papers to contracts to decisions by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea. Major legal battles between Korean and foreign firms have sent a high volume of work my way. That said, as with patents, I am no expert in this area.
What translator doesn’t do general business documents? This type of work hardly deserves a category of its own since these kinds of files are usually included in jobs that might be classified under a different heading.
In addition to being an area of great interest to me personally, IT has always made up a significant part of my workload. Engineering notes on system development, software manuals, patents, and, of course, litigation involving virtually every Korean tech giant have kept food on the table.
The semiconductor-related work I’ve done has mostly consisted of patents, but I’ve also translated my fair share of related engineering reports.
Medicine and Pharmaceuticals
My medical-translation experience includes a wide range of document types, from medical bills to clinical studies. Specifically pharmaceutical work has mostly involved marketing, patient questionnaires and responses, development strategy, observational studies, and drug labeling.
In the late 1990s, during the so-called Asian Financial Crisis, I did a lot of finance-related translating. I assume everyone else did, too. Since then, though, the only purely finance work I’ve done has been year-end financial statements. Of course, there are bits and pieces of financial terminology everywhere.
National R&D Programs
It’s been a while, but, throughout the 1990s, I did a great deal of work related to national R&D programs in South Korea. The most significant of these was the government-led initiative to create a nationwide broadband infrastructure.
Starting in the mid-1980s, I spent eight years as a Korean linguist in the US Army, and I did a significant amount of translation in military subjects in the 1990s. I’ve kept myself informed on military issues since then.