“O once you have overcome the one inch high barrier subtitles, you will discover so many other amazing movies. So said the director Bong Joon-ho , accepting the Oscar for Best Picture for Parasite en 2020, in a not-so-subtle dig into the dominance of English content. The success of Netflix's Korean series Squid Game, where contestants face off in deadly playground games for a cash prize, has given him more than reason. It became The biggest Netflix success to date , earning the title of its # 1 show in 90 countries, mostly within days of its release and even eclipsing the mighty Bridgerton . But it also sparked an intense debate about what is lost in this block of text.of an inch - and raised questions about whether Netflix is investing enough in creating accurate foreign language versions of s.
Even before Squid Game, some of Netflix's biggest hits were "foreign language " series, including Lupine (France), Elite (Spain), Dark (Germany) and Casse d 'argent (Spain). Part of this is that viewers around the world are increasingly open to seeking the best entertainment experiences. But this bythe also, perhaps, of some kind of secret fantasy that we could understand better in another language than we think. In the same way as all those who lapped the Danish series Borgen convinced themselves that they could speak Danish just because they could say "Tak, tak, Staatsminister " ( "Yes, yes, Prime Minister " ) with a shady Scandinavian accent, so viewers turned to the French slang YouTube videos to try and decode their best snippets from Call my agent . The optimistic "Can I speak a language fluently just by watching TV?" "Generates 10.4 million Google results.
Although we wantthat to be true, the debate surrounding Squid Game's subtitles suggests that the answer is no. "If you don't understand Korean, you haven't really watched the same show," concludes Youngmi Mayer, the New York podcast co-host Feel Asian . She posted a TikTok video revealing the flaws in the subtitles of Squid Game, which has had over 12 million views. His complaints? One of the main female characters (Han Mi-nyeo, played by Kim Joo-ryung) is portrayed as more submissive and less intelligent than in Korean. The first game "in the footsteps of grandmother" (Red Light, Green Light) is not correctly translated either, and the concept of "gganbu" (a link between two equals - which becomes a major point of the game). 'intrigue) passed under silence.
The moments "lost in the translation " of Squid Game have even turned into accusations of cultural and political bias. "Netflix is known for its poor translations of Korean dramas ", writes Sharon Kwon in Slate. Along with many others online, Kwon underlined the translation of "sir" instead of "boss" - as used by Pakistani character Ali Abdul (Anupam Tripathi) to recover. to others - arguing that by not using the latter, it lessens the impact of the show's anti-capitalist message. Vice 's Eileen Cho wrote: "How will people learn about our culture if the streamer translates the language incorrectly?
Watch the show as non-coAs a speaker again, I experienced the joy at the Staatsminister hearing the words "steakhouse", "chicken" and "ice cream" and momentarily deluding myself that I could understand Korean. Then I realized that, yes, some of those subtitles were annoying. Is "shit " a word anyone would say? He appeared several times. Likewise, in the first episode, Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) uses the word “gosh” four times. What you might think, if saying “gosh” was something the character was known for. But it doesn't repeat that for the rest of the series.
The debate over Squid Game's subtitles has done a service, however, by revealing the difference between the subtitles, closed ca options and dubbing. Netflix's algorithm automatically sets your choice on dubbing, which is why if you click on foreign language content, the actors will mysteriously appear on the voiceover.r your screen fluent in American English which almost but not quite matches their mouth movements. “Closed captions” were originally designed for deaf viewers and include audio deion. ("A door slams.") The dialogue used on closed captions is usually a direct translation of the dubbing. Subtitles use one another entirely. These too are subject to constraints: the translation must adapt to the screen and correspond to a predefined reading speed. But they are often considered a more accurate translation than the dubbing. Captioning legend and movie critic Darcy Paquet, who worked on Parasite, tweeted: "I didn't do the captions for Squid Game , but note that for this show there are two setss with English subtitles. There's the “real” English subtitles, and there's the dubbed version [closed caption]. Choose the real subtitles! "
Deaf or hard of hearing viewers, however, do not have the choice between subtitles and dubbing. many fans are irritated that Netflix seems to invest more in dubbing than in subtitles. Between 2015 and 2020, Netflix invested $ 700 million over five years in films and Korean television. After the success of Squid Game, this year alone it is investing $ 500 million in Korean content. You would think the issue of exact translation would be a priority.
These conversations have been going on in the subtitle job. ld for some time.on dubbing will always be less precise because it faces two challenges. First, he has to translate a sentence in such a way that it takes exactly the same time to pronounce it aloud in both languages. Second, if there is an opportunity to copy the movements of the mouth, then you are supposed to take it. This is why in Squid Game the honorific Korean "oppa" was translated as "old man" in the voiceover. It's "baby " in the subtitles. In fact, in Korean it is a respectful term meaning "elder brother.
Max Deryagin, based in Perm, Russia, is the president from Subtle , the Subtitler 's Association, an international group of independent subtitlers which campaigns for the recognition of subtitling as a professional profession and essential art form. Deryagin subtitle ofEnglish to Russian for 11 years and has directed Russian subtitles for Netflix movies Birdbox and Mank, streamer series Orange Is the New Black, and David Lynch short What did Jack do? , also released on Netflix. He watched the latter 15 times before trying to translate it ("I was so excited I could barely sleep. Any complex movie is exciting to translate because you have to understand it to convey it. Imagine doing that for Twin Peaks. ”) The abundance of content has caused a“ talent crisis ”in captioning in recent years, he says. There are just not enough translators for everyone: “Netflix has so many shows that they have profoundly changed our industry.
Deryagin explains how the differences between different languages present challengesfor him and his peers. “English is considered compact, like Japanese and Chinese. Arabic and Spanish not so much. These differences have huge ramifications if you try to fit a few word translation on screen while respecting the viewer's reading speed. The Scandinavians are the most experienced in all of this, he says. “In Scandinavia, they believe in longer subtitles that persist. The reading speed is approximately 12 characters per second. But in other countries, they want shorter subtitles that preserve more dialogue but retain the gist. (If that seems like an impossible task, then that's pretty much because it is.) Closed captioners constantly cut out the "filler words " (uh, uh, you know). With closed captions, the constraints are even greater: “You need the translation to adapt to the movements of the actor's lips. Sometimes hemust take great liberties.
Youmee Lee, a Korean-American deaf artist, wants Netflix - and other streaming services - to do more to monitor the process of translation. "For non-English language films, closed captions should be an accessible version of the official English subtitles," says Lee. "I watched the first episode [of Squid Game], and it was painful for me to see [the differences between] the subtitles and closed captions. Both were missing specific information. . Streaming services must be consistent with translation and accessibility. We deaf viewers deserve to have access to the same information as hearing viewers so that we can all share the experience. "
What these debates really reveal, perhaps, is the depth of emotional investment in these must-see showsquer. Of course, non-native speakers will lack nuance. This can be evident from the subtitles themselves and it only makes it even more difficult for you to study the performance of the actor to compensate. Which is extremely satisfying in Squid Game, because the acting is extraordinarily good. After all, any English speaker would have flinched at the expression used in episode eight: "You always have to be in trouble to know there's a problem." (What?) The real translation is: "You always eat it before you can tell if it's shit or doenjang [brown fermented soybean paste]. " You don't have to speak Korean - or even trying the doenjang - to get it.
With shows like Squid Game becoming as successful as they are, some may wonder why people care so much about translation. Said Youngmi Mayer: "I guess you couldask, do people really care about Star Wars? Some people will tell you that they don't care about Star Wars at all. And others would respond that they have based their entire lives on it. If a word was translated incorrectly, they would be incredibly angry. "