For the last 4 to 5 weeks, my life has been completely taken over by translating my book, Whenever You’re Ready into Korean, which is scheduled to be published in Korea this summer through Dasan Book Publishing. When I first spoke with the Korean publisher, they told me a professional translator is working on my book already as it is a normal process of bringing a foreign book to Korean readers. I honestly didn’t have a solid idea of what this process would look like, assuming maybe I would be involved in the process in one way or another. Even though my primary language is Korean, I left the country almost 20 years ago. I hardly ever communicate with anyone in Korean, not to mention to write officially in Korean. So my confidence in writing in Korean wasn’t that high. However, there was a big worry in me at the same time if the eventual Korean version of the book was something I don’t know as if it was written by someone else. Often, I feel a gap from an author; whenever I read a translated version of any book, I always prefer reading in the language an author originally wrote.
I called the Korean publisher and asked if I could translate the book, at least the introduction, and see if; 1. I was capable of this work, to begin with, 2. if my version of the book has a stronger connection to the reader than another translator. After an initial trial, the Korean editor confirmed that she preferred my translated version of the book to other translators, saying it has a stronger pull and energy directly coming from the author. And that is how my journey of translating my book started about a month ago. Interestingly, the more I worked on this project, the stronger I felt that this was indeed ‘my’ job, not someone else’s. I was completely re-writing the content in Korean and never directly translating from what I wrote in English. The book was re-created as something entirely new going through the same author’s brain process in a different language, the author’s mother language.
What I have been experiencing in this process is something I’ve never expected; I was re-connecting with myself from my youth, the language, and the culture I grew up with. At first, I needed an English-Korean dictionary for every 10 words, then soon, the flow of my primary language reappeared.
The work itself was very heavy, though. The volume of the book is not like a one-page article, but an over 1000 page long book. However, the Korean publishing company editor mentioned that in her history of working in this industry, this is the first time she has witnessed a foreign book translated into Korean by the same author. I am very excited to share this book with Korean readers, and I am already thrilled by this process and what this has given me. In my day-to-day life last month, whenever I feel overwhelmed by the workload with a tight deadline, I remind myself that I need to change the word from ‘have to’ to ‘get to.’ No, I don’t have to translate my book. I get to translate my book, which is an amazing opportunity and privilege to me and my life.
Do you have anything pressing in your life right now? Simply try to change whatever you ‘have to’ to ‘get to.’ You don’t have to exercise; you get to exercise. You don’t have to work; you get to work. I bet you will gain a new perspective of what you do and a deep sense of gratitude by simply changing those words.