‘Squid Game’: Actors, translator weigh in on subtitle debate

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Critics have pointed out that dialogue and episode titles have been changed in their translations from Korean.

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squid game“One of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time, but that doesn’t mean it’s without controversy.

The Korean-language drama has already become the platform’s most popular non-English show and is on track to become the biggest hit of all time. With the popularity of the show comes more attention to its subtitles, as it has been subtitled in over 30 languages ​​and dubbed in 13.

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Some viewers fluent in both English and Korean have been dismayed by English-language subtitles, claiming that their translations misrepresented what was actually said by Korean-speaking actors.

Among the more outspoken critics is Youngmi Meyer, host of the “Feeling Asian” podcast, which said on tiktok That when character Han Mi-neo is trying to persuade other players to team up with him, the subtitle says, “I’m not a genius, but I’ve got it right nonetheless.” What she actually says, “I’m so smart. I never got a chance to study.”

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Meyer’s video has sparked debate about the show and some critics have accused Netflix and other services of cutting out curse words and suggestive language to alter the meaning of a scene.

While differences in dialogue can be drawn to misinterpretations of the Korean language, experts on the subject have pointed out that translation is not a straightforward science and is often an underpaid skill in the industry.

Edward Hong, an actor who was part of the English-dubbing cast of “Squid Game”, said he was happy to see his fellow dubbing artists of Korean and Asian descent because they could help pick up on mistakes and changes that were made. should go. in script.

The actor, who played a priest in the series, said, “Korean actors – even if not fluent – can say something if it is not right.” nbc asian america. “The way Korean religious people – especially the clergy – have a very specific way of talking. It’s something I knew all too well from being stuck in those Korean church services as a kid.”

Dubbing is a difficult task, he said, as not only do the actors have to match their on-screen performance, but their mouth movements have to match as well.

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Additionally, there are limitations to translation and subtitles for television.

“Audiovisual translation – especially subtitles – is limited by space constraints on the screen,” translator Dennis Kriper told the outlet. Creeper himself has subtitled several TV shows.

“In general, subtitles can’t be longer than two lines – that’s less than one character from a tweet,” she explained. “The best of translations still need to be interpreted or adapted if it does not fit within those spatial limits.”

Each channel or platform, Kriper said, is limited by its own specific guidelines on offensive language and culture-specific references.

“The audio-visual industry moves fast, time is money on TV, so change can happen quickly for translation,” he said. “Translators work round the clock so that people can watch their favorite shows.”

the mayor told one more Video That the title of the first episode is different in Korean and in English.

In English, the episode is known as “Red Light, Green Light”, named after the children’s game played on the show. However, Meyer stated that the Korean title translates to “the day the Mugunghwa flower blooms”, which is the name of the game in Korean.

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While she realized at first that she was watching the show with English closed captions instead of subtitles, she said that there were still “big things missing from the narrative” because of the translation.

Greta Jung, who dubbed the Korean and Chinese show for Netflix, suggested that English-language viewers may be watching a watered-down version of “Squid Game” because of the translation.

“They should have made a parenthesis in the subtitle when the North Korean character speaks,” she said. Kang Sa-byok, a character who is a North Korean defender “has a North Korean accent and hides it around South Koreans. It’s important, it’s important.”

Keeping this in mind in the subtitles, Jung said, can help open up audiences to pronunciations in other languages.

“The world does not revolve around the English,” she said.

“A generalized lack of English speakers—and Americans in particular—exposure to other cultures” has presented a challenge when trying to preserve cultural references in subtitles, said Kriper.

“The more subtitled movies they watch, the more translated books they read, the better, in terms of being able to appreciate and learn from a different culture, which is the whole point of translation,” she explained.


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