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Having partly been inspired by this question (and partly by my recent experience in life), I am trying to translate the alternative title of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, which is There And Back Again, into Korean. I figured a full sentence might be I went there and came back again, and since the person is no longer "there", went would correspond to the Korean remote past, which is succeeded by came back, a "normal" past tense in Korean. I'm not too sure how to translate this, and this is my attempt:

저기로 갔었고 돌아왔다

Questions:

  • Is this translation correct / sound / natural? What are some things that may improve it?
  • Is the -었 in 갔었고 actually necessary, or if not is it a good thing to have in the translation? If not, why?
  • Also, can I just omit 저기로 and use the context to imply the notion of there?
  • @Rathony This is essentially one single translation question, and I'm trying to break it down to make it clearer / easier to answer. I'm not too familiar with SE yet, is it bad to word the question this way? – busukxuan Jul 12 '16 at 13:47
  • @Rathony To me the second and third are my own ideas of what could be good/bad for the translation, but if you still think I should separate them leave one more comment and I will, thanks :-) – busukxuan Jul 12 '16 at 13:56
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    It's OK. We are in Beta. – user7 Jul 12 '16 at 14:01
  • @Rathony I wonder if this is a bit similar to my question korean.stackexchange.com/questions/293/…. I had more than one actual "question-marked sentence" in that post, but rather than really being distinct questions, I felt they were guides to the kind of information I expected to see in the answer. One could argue that such guides shouldn't be necessary and the content of the answer should be a matter for the answerer, but if we are want full answers then possibly such guides could be helpful for less experienced users. – topo Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '16 at 8:10
  • @Rathony the accepted answer in that meta post makes excellent points, but in the case where the separate questions are actually 'sub questions' of a not over-broad title question, I'm not sure how many of those points apply. As you say, we can use our judgement. – topo Reinstate Monica Jul 13 '16 at 8:25
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  1. Is this translation correct / sound / natural? What are some things that may improve it?

It doesn't sound wrong, except that it is better to use '거기에' than '저기에' and 'again' is not translated to '다시'. You need to note that interpretation of any title is subject to personal understanding of the story and preference. Please see the related question, Is '노인을 위한 나라는 없다' a sensible translation of the film tile 'No Country for Old Men'?

The first question that comes to my mind is "What is there?" Is it a war zone, heaven, hell, dream or a place where your girlfriend lives?

The second question is "What have you done there?" Did you fight a war, have romantic relationship, or get tortured by the devil?

There is no way you can know unless you read the story.

It can be translated to "거기서 싸웠고 돌아왔다 (I fought there and came back again)" or "거기서 헤매다 돌아왔다 (I wandered around there and came back again)". There are more possibilities.

  1. Is the -었 in 갔었고 actually necessary, or if not is it a good thing to have in the translation? If not, why?

As the linked question in your question explains, '-었' is used to indicate an action that occurred before a certain point of time in the past. It is not absolutely necessary and "거기에 갔다 다시 돌아왔다" or "거기에 갔다 다시 왔다" could also work.

  1. Also, can I just omit 저기로 and use the context to imply the notion of there?

It is neither idiomatic nor natural to say "갔었고 (다시) 돌아왔다". Whoever listens to this will ask "어디로? Where?"

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  • Does 다시 capture the meaning of again though? The again here is more like "to change back to a former place or state" rather than meaning "once more". – busukxuan Jul 12 '16 at 14:24
  • @busukxuan The closest Korean word to 'again' is 다시. You can look up the dictionary. The problem is nobody knows what 'again' is supposed to mean. For example, it could mean "I fought a war there and fighting a war here back again". – user7 Jul 12 '16 at 14:26
  • If you assume the meaning is "went there and came back again" so it wouldn't mean "once more", would 다시 be accurate then? Also, why is it better to use 거기? I didn't suggest the position of the listener, so are you assuming the "there" is close to the listener? – busukxuan Jul 12 '16 at 14:43
  • @busukxuan The difference between '거기' and '저기' is not that distinct in Korean. Since you didn't suggest the position of the listener, using '거기' sounds better. – user7 Jul 12 '16 at 17:31
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I think that while your translation is most likely understandable and conceptually correct, it would make for a bulky title.

As I wrote in my previous answer on -었/았 었다, the past perfect tense is not commonly used in practice. (I do not have anything hard and fast on this, but it is just my personal observation).

I feel that many translations of the phrase "There and back again" would include the verb 갔다왔다 (literally 'went and came') in some way. When I went to a place and returned, I usually told people something like

서울로 갔다왔어요 (I went to Seoul and back)

So to look at this from just the perspective of translating a phrase dealing with going and coming, 갔다왔다 (or in another form, 갔다오다) is going to be a go to verb for me.


Since we specifically are interested in this concept of going and coming in relation to a book title, our translation becomes ever harder to finesse. Titles of books are not always translated directly (and sometimes they are translated very loosely, if even given the same title at all). A book title needs to sound artful yet somewhat pithy. Often a book title is not even a complete sentence. For example, which book would you pick up off the shelf?

There and Back Again

I Went to that Place and then I Returned

Or another example:

No More Rain

It Stopped Raining

Somehow the first titles in each pair just sound more inviting to me. They sound more like books.

To make a long story short, perhaps the best "translation" of the title There and Back Again I was able to come up with was 거기 및 다시 다시. Since book titles are almost more akin to poetry, this phrase is not even necessarily grammatical in the strict sense. But it seems like a book title.

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Korean language is to uses -ta suffix to denote that action A was done/completed immediately before action B:

갔다 왔어  # went there and then came (back)

Which is, in itself an idiomatic expression, meaning just that.

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