“Squid Game” on Netflix is the South Korean sensation right now. But its exploitation abroad poses a problem because of … translations. A recurring flaw that the woman analyzes in “Pop it”, her new weekly pop culture decryption.
We no longer present Squid Game, the hit of the moment on Netflix. The South Korean series meets with unexpected success around the world. However, its exploitation abroad leaves much to be desired since the translation from Korean into English distorts the story. It was Youngmi Mayer, a user fluent in English and Korean, who noticed several translation errors and not the least. “I don’t want to sound snobby, but I speak Korean fluently: I watched ‘Squid Game’ with English subtitles and, if you don’t understand Korean, you haven’t really watched. the same series. The translation is so bad. The dialogues were so well written and nothing was preserved “, she explains on Twitter.
She gave some illuminating examples on her TikTok account. According to her, the English translation swept away a lot of information about the character of Han Mi-nyeo, played by Kim Joo-ryung. When she wants to join a team to play marbles, for example, the subtitles literally indicate in English, but also in French: “I’m not a genius but I can manage”, when in reality, Kim Joo-ryung expresses himself differently in Korean. “I am very intelligent, I just never had the opportunity to study”, she says. A hazardous translation that makes the public miss an essential point of South Korean culture. “That’s basic information about her character. And it’s a huge topic in South Korea: poor and smart people who aren’t rich.”, details Youngmi Mayer.
Information that we also miss: the accents, in particular that of the character of Jung Ho-yeon, a young North Korean woman refugee in South Korea. There is no indication that she has her native accent when speaking with her little brother, but that she conceals it the rest of the time. Another “detail” which says a lot about her immigration status and which deserves to be explained in the subtitles.
Read also : “Squid Game” on Netflix: 3 amazing facts about the hit series
Netflix and its low cost translations, a bad habit
This is not the first time that the translations of Netflix on its original productions is singled out. The film Roma, produced in 2019 by the Mexican Alfonso Cuarón, had for example been in the sights of professionals. Sylvestre Meininger, vice-president of the Association of Audiovisual Translators-Adapters (ATAA), had at the time denounced Netflix’s shoddy job. “I believe that the platform is outsourcing this work to low-cost, unqualified professionals, maybe even fansubbers. (fans who provide free subtitles, Editor’s note). Which is incomprehensible from a technical and artistic point of view. Netflix, which invested $ 25 million in promoting the film, clearly did not want to spend $ 4,000 to $ 5,000 for a good adaptation and quality French subtitling “, he confided to Point.
So does the streaming platform appeal to fansubbers? Not sure, because their work is often much better than the one it offers, as twittos.as pointed out in the comments of Youngmi Mayer’s post. In any case, 80 to 90% of the Netflix catalog would require adaptation work, according to the ATAA. If the streaming giant is spending so little on subtitles, it is undoubtedly due to mass production and in a hurry, but also to save significant sums. However, the public, thanks to social networks and alerts from professionals, is no longer fooled. And that he just might push for his favorite shows to get the investment they deserve.