Do the 'Squid Game' Translations Accidentally Change the Meaning of the Show?

'Squid Game'Credit: Netflix
Did you walk away from Squid Game understanding the ending? 

As the Netflix show Squid Game becomes the most popular series in the world, it's important to talk about how it happened. One of the main reasons, aside from availability on a platform, is that the show was translated into dozens of languages, with subtitles in 37 languages, and it dubs its shows in 34 more languages. That made people across the globe able to enjoy the show immediately. 

But what good is that if the subtitles are wrong? 

The BBC is reporting that TikTok user Youngmi Mayer went viral covering the mistranslations in the English language closed-caption subtitles. In one example, Youngmi explains that a line translated as, "I'm not a genius, but I still got it worked out," would be better translated as, "I am very smart; I just never got a chance to study."

That kind of tweak actually changes a character in our eyes and provides some backstory and questions that were never there before.

There's another big example when the lead character is playing marbles with an old man he's been helping. The captions talk about them sharing, but the actual translation is "there is no ownership between us," which puts forward an entirely different point of view for the episode. It directly addressed the class warfare at the center and shows an ideology being advocated. 

@youngmimayer

#squidgame translations are sooo wrong here’s a little example

♬ original sound - youngmi

Now, most people are not watching with closed captioning on, but subtitles. It's kind of weird they don't match but closed captioning is often automatically generated, where subtitles are written translations.

Youngmi has said English language subtitles are "substantially better" than the closed-caption ones, but she added, "The misses in the metaphors—and what the writers were trying to actually say—are still pretty present."

This opens up an interesting discussion into how these global streamers treat their translations. There maybe should be more overlap between subtitles and closed captions. Like why do you need the CC option if there are subtitles, just have the same words pop up for each? Also, there should be more collaborations with the writers to make sure intentions are translated as well as just words. 

Let us know what you think in the comments. We'd love to hear from some Korean speakers about their ideas on the show and the translations. 

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5 Comments

good translation are EXPENSIVE and need time. Probably they hire translators who work fast & cheap.

October 8, 2021 at 10:31PM, Edited October 8, 10:31PM

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Matt
266

right, like good dubs require great skill to adpt meaning and translation.

October 12, 2021 at 5:13AM

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Carlo Macchiavello
Director (with strong tech knowledge)
1000

Exactly. Netflix pays peanuts for translation. It's such a shame that translation is so undervalued for TV/film, it has such a huge impact on how audiences perceive works in other languages.

October 13, 2021 at 6:27AM

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MC
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Neither closed captions nor subtitles on Netflix are auto-generated.

Closed captions are for the hearing impaired and provide more than just dialogue. They provide audio cues and additional sounds. Closed captions are usually intended for an audience that has trouble or can't hear the audio (about 13% of the population), so they need additional information. That's why someone would have closed caption turned on versus subtitles.

October 11, 2021 at 3:25PM, Edited October 11, 3:25PM

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James
1

I wonder if I would have an issue with American movies that have been wrongly translated to other languages or would I be like "meh". I've never 100% trusted overdubs but I've just come to accept it. It's all I got unless I learn another language.

October 12, 2021 at 4:34PM, Edited October 12, 4:34PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Writer, Director, Content Creator.
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