If you want to watch Squid Game or are in the middle of finishing the show, then you might want to change the subtitle settings as according to Youngmi Mayer, the English closed-caption subtitles of the show is inaccurate. Mayer, a fluent Korean speaker, added that the essence of the Korean dialogue was not preserved in the closed captions.
Mayer posted a scene breakdown on TikTok to show instances of mistranslation, with the video showing non-spoiler examples of a character's lines being botched by the English closed captions. Essentially, the translation mistakes can cause the audience to miss out on the point of an episode and a specific character's purpose in the show.
In one scene, the aforementioned character attempts to persuade another person to play a game with her and the closed-caption subtitles read: "I'm not a genius, but I still got it work(ed) out." Mayer said that the actual translation is "I am very smart, I just never got a chance to study," a line that references a popular trope in Korean media.
Aside from making it hard for the audience to grasp the essence of the story and its elements, the inaccurate translation poses challenges to viewers who want to learn the Korean language by watching Korean dramas (K-Dramas) with subtitles.
Mayer's comments are about the closed-caption subtitles, not the English language subtitles. The difference between subtitles and closed captions is that the former is for audience members who can hear and see without difficulty, while the latter is for people who have hearing problems. Hence, sound effects, audio descriptions and speech are included in closed captions. Subtitles include dialogue and monologue spoken by characters, narrators and other vocal participants.
Mayer said that the English language subtitles are better than the English closed-caption subtitles, but the former still fails to convey metaphors and what the writers want to communicate to the audience. Since English speakers can only choose between the two, the best option would be to use the English language subtitles.
Twitter user @seoulocello had a different opinion to Mayer, stating that the examples mentioned in the TikTok above were not glaring mistranslations. The user, who is a native Korean speaker, also wondered why Netflix doesn't offer users different options for closed captions.
"I'm confused as to why Netflix doesn't provide different options for CCs. More accurate translations that are used in subtitles, not just transcripts of dubs, should also be made available to those who rely on CCs," she tweeted.
Another user replied to this statement, stating that the challenge with making closed captions is that they need to be easy to read as they have to include background noise and music as well.
I am currently watching Squid Game with my family and recently learned of the possible inaccuracy of its closed-caption subtitles, which made me feel a bit short-changed as I already watched five of the K-Drama's nine episodes with the English closed captions.
Considering that inaccurate translation can result in the audience missing the point of a story, its characters, plotline and other story elements, it's important to include cultural nuances and the essence of the message when making closed captions and subtitles for foreign TV shows and movies.
Written by Sophia Lopez
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