Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the Price of Translation: the lack of post-reunion assistance

[Note: there is a "Part 2," or follow-up post, to this, if you are interested: "a Metaphor for the 'Price of Translation']

Okay, I have a gripe. It has been building for a while.

It's simple: translation. Post-reunion translation and assistance.

It's practically non-existent, particularly through the adopting agency. This increasingly disgusts and incenses me.

I know taking on the role of victim is not going to get me very far. Ultimately, I have to be proactive and do my part. I say this simply to clarify that I'm not looking for a pity party.

I just think it's ridiculous that an adoption agency that specializes in mediating and promoting inter-country or transnational adoption provides so little post-reunion services.

The adoption agency is a major reason as to why the adoption even took place in the first place. Would it not be logical and considerate that the agency would provide equally developed services and assistance programs for post-reunion, since the agency's adopting practices are a primary reason the adoptee was adopted out to another country?

But instead, if I were to go through the adoption agency for translation, I would have to pay $15-$25 a page to have a letter to or from either one of my Korean parents translated. If it happens to be a two-page letter, well, then I'd be paying half a benjamin. Ouch.

Or I can pay $75 an hour for translation services during a [conference] phone call. Slap.

So, basically, I have to pay in order to communicate with my own flesh and blood. And in particular, I have to pay, even though I didn't make the decision to lose my original language and culture. I have to pay, even though I had no control over the circumstances and choices that determined my fate.

I have to pay, even though the agency is in large part, the entity responsible for my current predicament.

I know all the things people would say to justify and support the agency's fees and practices. Well, their staff can't work for free, you know. This post-reunion stuff takes a lot of energy and time, and well, the demand is so high these days...

Exactly my point. Well, then, maybe the agency needs to consider this and pay to have someone on staff to provide translation and post-reunion services, so that the adoptee doesn't have to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars just to say hello, how are you, to her own flesh and blood.

Maybe the agency needs to be a little more willing to focus not only on the front-end but on the back-end of its adoption practices. Maybe the adoption agency needs to think a little more thoroughly about the consequences and repercussions of what it's doing, and change accordingly. And of course, the consequences and repercussions go much deeper than translation services. But that's another post.

Learn the language. Sure, okay. No problem. Become fluent enough to discuss deep issues like "Why did you relinquish me?" or "Why didn't you tell my Appa?" Sure.

It's one thing to have a basic conversation but dealing with intense and unresolved emotional issues requires an understanding and fluency in the relevant language that normally comes only with a lifetime of exposure.

Or at the least, it requires living in the nation of origin for years and years. And even then, expecting to speak like a native understanding all the nuances and subtleties is something that even years of experience may not fully develop.

Yes, maybe I'm feeling a little resentful, bitter, angry at the moment. I won't allow it to consume me or steal away the good in my life. And as I stated earlier, I ultimately have to take responsibility for my part.

At the same time, this is a very real dilemma--one that affects my every day life and obviously, my ongoing relationships with my Korean parents-- that resulted from a set of circumstances and a series of decisions over thirty years ago that had nothing to do with me but affected and continues to affect everything about me.

So much is lost in translation--more than simply words and meanings. Who you are, who they are remains lost...Finding one another has certainly been a dream come true. But trying to know one another has been and will continue to be a slow, daunting, and painful process.

Only so much can be grasped when getting to know one another through translation.


sherinala said...

Hi! GOAL will have people translate for you for free, if you are a member... I used them when I was in Korea, bc I had the same issues w/the adoption agency :*(

이요한 said...

Sherinala is right, the goal office has people that can help translate. Also if you ever go back to Korea and you contact them they will also help you get a translator for your meetings. They also have support groups that meet up on the weekends. Also I think that we need to keep in mind that Korea is kind of a pioneer when it comes to adoption. I don't think that they ever imagined that we would come back in search of....... But there are organizations here that are trying to make a difference, and trying to set a standard/model for the rest of the world to follow.

On another note, if you ever come back to Korea and looking for a place to stay you should contact the people at KoRoot. It is really cheap <$20 and it includes 3 meals. It is run by a pastor and his wife and they only house Korean adoptees. It is in the Gyeoungbok Palace area.

Anyways I hope you are able to find some better support.

Mei Ling said...

"It's one thing to have a basic conversation but dealing with intense and unresolved emotional issues requires an understanding and fluency in the relevant language that normally comes only with a lifetime of exposure."

I just find it frustrating that we can't communicate with our blood and flesh parents ourselves.

Even with translators and third-parties who are willing to translate, it's not like I want to have an agency or some random Joe Schmoe off the street have to ask about MY adoption circumstances and witness the most intimate details of my life!

Frankly, I'm just frustrated (and angry) that I *myself* can't somehow build up skills of fluency in an adequate amount of time to form some semblance of a lost relationship.

Mila said...

Thanks, Sheri and Tyler for your suggestions. I actually am familiar with GOAL's services and with KoRoot.

And actually, I had wanted to use GOAL when I was in Korea; however, my birth parents are not comfortable with using random translators. They are partial to going through the agency due to the sensitivity and complexities of their individual situations. But of course, using the agency is restrictive due to a whole host of issues.

And as Mei-Ling alluded to, it's so difficult having random strangers translating the most intimate and personal details of my and my Korean parents' lives...

And really, it's less about the lack of assistance and more about the fact that the core of the issue--being adopted out to another country makes it SO COMPLICATED.

The whole thing is haywire.

Just the simple fact that I have to even rely on translators is daunting.

And it really irks me that the adoption agencies responsible, not in whole but in part, do not offer more assistance. Search and reunion processes have been going on long enough for them to get their act together...

Also, living in Deep South America, where diversity is lacking and where services for Korean adoptees are nonexistent only exacerbates my difficulty.

I'm not trying to be negative. I know efforts are being made to improve assistance, but there is LONG way to go...

Mei Ling said...

"Just the simple fact that I have to even rely on translators is daunting."

Yeah, it's so annoying. Speaking for myself, I have come a "long" way in language learning compared to when I first started.

But it never seems like enough, and I know that in order to form a "real" relationship, whatever I could possibly attain for the rest of my life (by my invicible standards) probably could never and will never be "enough."

And THAT is both incredibly sad and maddening.

(As a side note, I did manage to get in contact with a bilingual Taiwanese who was living in the US who was able to translate in Taiwanese to my parents, but still! I remember feeling so hopeless and angry at myself for not being able to speak FOR myself.)

Martin said...

You can ask the people at Tomedes - http://www.tomedes.com for free translation. I'm sure they will help you.

Mila said...

Thanks again everyone for your suggestions. I truly do appreciate it!

I mentioned in a follow-up post (a Metaphor for "the Price of Translation") because I forgot to mention it in this post.

I actually personally am not in need of a translator. I actually have a friend who does all my translation for me.

I wrote this post mainly in response to the principle of the issue. Although I am fortunate enough to not to have to pay these fees, others are not similarly lucky. For anyone who does not have the luxury of having a friend who volunteers to do all the translating, it's a tough situation...

So, I actually wasn't blogging for my sake regarding this particular issue...

And in particular, it's less the actual translation and more the PRINCIPLE of the matter that irks me...

Please read the follow-up post, if you want further understanding...


Mia_h_n said...

Haha, you finally spoke of a concrete problem and people lept to aid you and then it wasn't even personal! ;)

It's not personally relevant for me either, but I sure know where you're coming from. I, too, find it quite mindboggling that adoption agencies doesn't have translation services as part of their PAS. Perhaps it hasn't been relevant always, but in the past several years where it's been obvious that more and more seek, and therefor more and more find birth family, it should be pretty apparent that help with translation would be in great need.

You're lucky to know someone who can help for free. I don't have a problem with a third party knowing my business, but the not being able to be 100% sure that they have translated what I meant to say, will certainly be a killer! And it's not only because I'm a control freak! ;)