Squid Game Subtitle Debate Breaks Out After Claims Some Dialogue Has Been Lost In Translation

·4-min read
(Photo: Netflix)
(Photo: Netflix)

A debate about Squid Game has erupted on social media after fans picked up on the fact some of the English subtitles have changed the meaning of certain sections of the show’s dialogue.

The Korean drama – which centres around people in debt competing in a series of dangerous games to win a big money jackpot – has become a huge hit on Netflix, and is currently the streaming service’s biggest show in the UK.

English-speaking fans can watch the nine-part series in a number of ways – with an English-language audio dub, with subtitles or with closed-caption subtitles, which are intended for people who are hard of hearing, and are often automatically generated to include descriptions of audio sounds as well as dialogue.

Social media user Youngmi Mayer, who speaks Korean, claimed last week that Squid Game’s English closed-caption subtitles are “so bad”, and that the meaning of the original dialogue is often lost in translation.

In a post on Twitter, she wrote: “If you don’t understand Korean you didn’t really watch the same show. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved.

“Such a shame. Translation is extremely important.”

Youngmi also shared a TikTok video demonstrating a number of examples where the translation has affected the meaning of what the characters are saying.

She clarified that the English subtitles were “substantially better” than the closed-caption ones, but added: “The misses in the metaphors - and what the writers were trying to actually say - are still pretty present.”

However, this has since been contested by another Korean speaker, Twitter user @seoulocello, who said the English subtitles were “actually well made” and suggested: ”‘Perfect’ translations don’t exist, particularly between Korean and English, which are two completely different languages that come from such different cultures.”

They added: “If it preserves as much meaning/intent of the original language as possible and delivers it in a way that the target audience can understand, it is a good translation. the eng subtitles of Squid Game achieved this and there were no glaring errors/mistranslations.”

They also noted: “It’s a pity that things get lost in translation in dubs/CC, but it can’t be helped and is a natural tradeoff in the process bc they must also prioritise minimising the disconnect between the on-screen actors’ lips moving and the english voice overs, not just translation.”

News.com.au has noted that other viewers have pointed out that the English dubbing track was near-identical to the closed-caption subtitles, suggesting the English subtitles with the original dialogue may be the most authentic way to enjoy the show for those who are able to.

The outlet also pointed out that Netflix defaults to the English-dubbing track on non-English language titles, meaning many users don’t realise they have the option to watch something in the original language coupled with local subtitles.

Netflix previously reported they’d found that users in the US are more likely to finish a series or film while watching with a language dub, rather than with subtitles, perhaps explaining why this is the default setting for English-speaking users watching Squid Game.

HuffPost UK has contacted Netflix for comment on this story, and is awaiting a response.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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