Not So Lost in Translation


Sometimes things can get a little mixed up in translation. But lucky for us, a group of talented Korean college students are here to help us interview sources who speak little or no English. While I tried to brush up on a few Korean phrases, it turns out you need a bit more than the ability to order at a restaurant to carry out an interview about Seoul’s disaster preparedness.

We met Jisu Lee outside the Seoul City Hall metro stop and chatted for a little while about our story and the man we would be interviewing, Woo Seung-yep. Her English was essentially perfect, though she had only spent a couple weeks in English speaking countries. But of course, she insisted her English wasn’t very good.

It was my first time ever communicating, let alone interviewing, through an interpreter. Besides a few simple misunderstandings, Jisu did a great job. She isn’t a professional interpreter, rather a economics student at Hanyang University, but she was focused and understanding. Although sometimes it did feel like the scene in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray insists the simple interpretations of the Japanese ad director don’t reflect the director’s long, animated tirades. 

As with any good interview, I realized some flaws to my story, and helped shape it into the important story that needs to be told, rather than one dreamed up from 5,600 miles away in a classroom in Montana.

Blog by Matt Neuman / Photo by Ian Baldessari