Adding Korean to an English written book?

Discussion in 'Writers Forum' started by Mia Smith, Feb 23, 2018.

  1. Mia Smith

    Mia Smith Member

    I'm writing a new book and I the main character and a side character speak Korean to each other, but I've been struggling with how to incorporate the Korean in to the book. Like as an author I know when they are supposed to be speaking Korean rather then English but unlike French or Spanish there it Hangul(symbols) and I feel it looks awkward in the middle of the English and also the reader won't be able to sound out pictures.

    Here's an example
    "그냥 꿈" He whispered
    "Just Dream" He whispered in Korean
    Both are just awkward to me personally but I cant think of another way to put Korean into my story. Do you have any advice as writer or readers? Thanks.
  2. tumbling.dice

    tumbling.dice Senior Member

    If the book is meant for English speakers then use the closest English translation, the Korean will be meaningless. If it's meant to be for Koreans with a background in English I guess you can dispel with the English translation and just make do with the Hangul.
  3. wilsjane

    wilsjane Member

    You simply cannot write a book for English speaking readers using chunks of another language. Adding constant references that one of the characters is speaking in another language will simply bore the readers to tears and detract from the storyline.

    The art of writing is to introduce the opening characters and an outline of the initial plot in the first, preferably quite short chapter. That is where you make it clear to the readers that the character is Korean and does not speak English. Do not make things too complex, you will only confuse your readers, they will end up confused with the muddled story and give up.

    Always remember that YOU devised the plot. It is easy to forget to tell your readers fully, something that you are taking for granted about one of your characters. This will end up with the readers view running in a different direction to your devised plot and things will cease to make sense at the next turn of events.

    It is OK to remind readers in order to keep them on track. Adding a phrase such as "Having difficulty understanding Korean" will achieve this, but do not overdo it. The moment that the reader feels that you (the author) are treating him as an idiot, your book will take a very quick journey to the rubbish bin..
    makihiko likes this.
  4. wilsjane

    wilsjane Member

    I forgot to mention, If you are considering marketing the book in Korea, you should consider publishing a bilingual edition. Once printed, this version could be made available to order in other parts of the world. Without a Korean market, no publisher will even consider printing it for the very small home market.
  5. makihiko

    makihiko Official hippie since 2005

    I agree with @wilsjane. I would also add, that sometimes, having a very dramatic, and/or climactic phrase written in Korean would be nice. I would choose to write the Korean in romanji characters, so that they could be sounded out. Mentioning that the character speaks Korean every 5th or 6th chapter could likely be enough to remind people.

    Then there is another point; What kind of art style of writing you are choosing. The show Adventure Time, has a character who speaks only Korean, and it's very gimmicky. In the past I would look up what she was saying, but after several translations I lost interest.

    If you are trying to make a product for sale, make it easy for everyone. If you are making an expression of your own personal art, make this choice however it feels right to you.

    @Mia Smith Any thoughts?
  6. Irminsul

    Irminsul Valkyrie

    I think it's a cool idea. Nothing is worse than reading a book and they're in some go forsaken country and everyone speaks English lol. That isn't ambient vibe to me it's unrealistic.
  7. Tyrsonswood

    Tyrsonswood Senior Moment

    Writing a book that most of the readers wouldn't be able to read parts of...

    Sounds legit.

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