TikTok video of the game Squid points out what English subtitles go wrong

A TikTok video made by a Squid fan reveals that the show’s English subtitles are often not accurately translated to their Korean meaning. Squid is a survival drama written and directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk with an all-star cast of South Korean stars, including Lee Jung-Jae, Park Hae-soo, Jung Ho-Yeon, Kim Joo-ryoung, and O Yeong-su. The history revolves around a contest in which 456 players from all walks of life play a series of children’s games in a bid to win the grand prize of ₩ 45.6 billion (approximately $ 38.7 million). The cash prize may be attractive, but players soon discover that the consequence of missing a task is immediate death. Despite this, the competitors fight enthusiastically for various personal reasons.

While its plot may be similar to other dystopian movies like The Hunger Games, Squid is praised for its impeccable production, exciting episodes, and complex themes that highlight economic disparities and human struggles. The Korean drama has been causing a sensation around the world since its debut on September 17. It is currently on the verge of becoming Netflix’s most-watched series to date, holding the top spot in the US and many other countries for several weeks. Squid The success has bolstered Netflix’s foreign programming and has drawn attention to other Korean dramas.

Despite its great success, there have been problems over Squid multilingual subtitles. There were several instances where the show’s English subtitles did not accurately translate the original meaning. TikTok user Youngmimayer, who is fluent in the Korean language, pointed this out in a series of videos and tweets. She cited many scenes that “be a botch” including those of Mi-nyeo (Kim Joo-ryoung) and Oh Il-nam (O Yeong-su). While most of the translation errors are minor, some dialogs do not capture the exact context in the Korean language. An example is when Mi-nyeo is trying to convince other people to play with her. The English subtitles say: “I’m not a genius, but I can figure it out.” the Squid fan translated it to: “I’m very smart; I just never had a chance to study.” Read his explanation of why this is a massive departure from its literal meaning:

That is a huge trope in the Korean media. The poor person who is smart and intelligent and is just not rich. That is a big part of his character. Almost everything she said was a bad translation, but you missed everything the writer wants you to know about her. It seems so small, but it’s the whole character’s purpose to be on the fucking show!

Another vital scene that Netflix’s English subtitles didn’t translate correctly is when Oh Il-nam says “gganbu” while talking to Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae). The subtitle translated the Korean term as “we share everything” that should be “There is no property between you and me.” These seemingly minor lines contain deeper meanings in the Korean language that foreign viewers cannot see because the subtitles are not accurate.

It is quite common that in foreign films and series some scenes are lost in translation due to cultural and language differences. Whether dubbed or subtitled, there will always be limitations when translating a spoken language. Fortunately, today’s viewers are more connected through social media, where fans can exchange opinions and thoughts in a healthy way about their favorite shows. Squid is a Korean production, but its worldwide success shows that universal themes of hope, family, and equality can be appreciated by audiences of all backgrounds.

Source: Youngmimayer / TikTok


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