This troubled me a lot, but I changed my Grammarly settings to American English so it would point out my mistakes :sweat_smile:. Of course, that causes a lot of annoyance when I’m writing school projects but oh well, I just call it an occupational hazard and move on :joy:


I love your approach!


I want to share something that I learned recently here.
Where I live, the part of the house which is level to the street is called ground floor. The next one (which you have to go one flight of stairs to reach) is the first floor, if it’s two flights of stairs the second floor, and so on.
Not so in Korea!
The ground floor, surprisingly is called the first floor, and the first floor is called the second floor!
When I noted this, the Chief Editor (US-based) told me that “yes, it’s the same thing for us too”. I was flabbergasted, because all these decades of my life I never knew that.
From then on, I have to be extra careful when translating into Italian, because the Korean translators usually write it the way they are used to and the American editors leave it as is.

But maybe you already knew that?

Here is the usage by country:


In Canada, we call the first floor at ground level, and the basement is below ground. We usually have all the living area on the first floor and the bedrooms on the second floor.


@irmar - Thank you for sharing the origin of first floor vs ground floor. I am Australian and I have lived in both Japan and the US. This was very confusing to me when I was first abroad at high school in Japan. Sometimes I still get confused, especially in multi-story car parks.


This is really handy to know and something to be on the lookout for as a GE.

I have personal experience with this… I’m not a very well travelled person. I like staying at home. That said, my partner and I went to Taiwan in 2017. Where we stayed in Taipei, we were one floor above street level: that is, a single flight of stairs. I got in the lift to go up with my suitcase. I pressed “1” and nothing happened. I pressed it again and still nothing happened. So I walked up the stairs dragging my suitcase behind me. I told my partner that the lift must be faulty. That was when I found out about the floor numbering system. It never occurred to me that what was “G” in Australia was “1” in this accommodation place.

Live and learn!


I’m new to the Viki volunteer community, but eager to get involved. I’m a native US English speaker.

The grammar debates here are interesting, but I find that sometimes the translations in kdramas can sound tortured when it seems characters are having a casual conversation but are using perfect, formal English. Perfect grammar is necessary in some forms of writing, but when translating spoken conversations which may be casual in nature, perfect grammar is not necessarily the best choice. If a character is speaking formally to an elder or boss that would be a time to bust out the textbook grammar, for instance. That said, you need to know what’s grammatically correct so you can make the best choice for the situation, even if it means breaking the rules. (I’m being less formal here and not talking about “one” making the best choice since most Americans would rarely do that unless writing a journal article.)

I’d love to get involved and help edit translations. I can comply with any style guide. I’ve got a masters in art history (read: tons of writing), and helped write a handbook for museum professionals on how to handle charitable gifts of objects that’s recently gone into a second edition. More applicable here, I love writing and reading and thinking about language. And I have some specialized knowledge (museums and galleries, the art world and artistic techniques, culinary writing and cooking, among others) that could help with certain projects.


These are different things.

  1. Tortured sentences are to be found when subbers keep Korean word order and don’t know how to transform it into fluent English, and the English editor doesn’t know her job. This has nothing to do with good or bad grammar or formality.

  2. Formal versus casual and perfect grammar versus grammar mistakes.
    There is a difference between perfect grammar and formal speech. Casual speech doesn’t “have” to be grammatically wrong, there are other ways to signal informality:

  • Preferring the short Saxon-based words to the Latin-based and French-based ones .
  • Using short, simple sentences, strung one after the other instead of having secondary sentences hanging from them.
  • Separating sentences with full stops, instead of a single sentence spanning three lines.
    But generally, formal or casual, the goal is plain English, understandable English that doesn’t make you scratch your head, even if it may contain a word or two that you happen not to know. Without “dumbing down” unnecessarily.

Because … what are subtitles, after all? They are the transcription of oral speech, which in turn comes from reading aloud a written script.
The writers try to make their written script natural to mimic life, and the actors try their best in that direction as well. Then, to make subtitles, we transcribe this speech.
But is it a word-by-word transcription? No!
Whoever uses subtitle reads it, doesn’t hear it (or rather, hears but doesn’t understand). And when you read something, it cannot be exactly as spoken. Otherwise you’d have to also transcribe all the uuh’s, ooh’s, ehm… repetitions and false starts. Obviously this is not possible nor desirable. There wouldn’t be the time to read a really full transcript, as of course reading takes more time than listening.

This means that the subtitle sometimes has to condense what’s said (to keep everything within two lines) and often also slightly simplifies it, to make the meaning readily comprehensible in the short time available. Sometimes it also purifies it.
For instance, swearwords seem much more serious when you read them than when you listen to them. (Think about it!) One reason is because, when spoken, they last a fraction of a second, they are uttered and gone, whereas while written the word stays there for longer, to be “savoured”, and has much more of an impact.

It’s a fine balance.
We obviously don’t want everyone to speak in the same way, a CEO, a street sweeper, a gangster, a teenager, a child. The language should become simpler or more formal accordingly. Sadly, English doesn’t have politeness markers like European languages or Asian languages. It has, nevertheless, other subtle ways to signify respect to figures of authority.
But, again, “simple” doesn’t mean introducing mistakes for the sake of realism. After all, not “everybody” does them, in real life. And it wouldn’t benefit anybody. Why encourage bad habits in the viewers by writing plain wrong words like “anyways” instead of “anyway”, just because a lot of ignorant people in real life say it like that? Or American slang like “wanna, gonna, gotcha”. This is not English and we never write it.

Another question to consider is that here at Viki, many people who read the English subtitles are not native English speakers. They choose English because there are no subs in their language, or because the subs in their language suck.
Therefore we try to use a clean, neutral, international English, avoiding excessively local usage and all the references that only Americans would understand - and we always explain acronyms. A viewer from Russia or from Indonesia wouldn’t necessarily understand “Ah, your sister went MIA” or “Monday we have to go to the PTA meeting”.

The bottom line:
When you find it tortured, it’s just bad, it’s not intentional. We aim for grammatically correct but not tortured. If you have to pause to re-read it, then someone hasn’t been doing their job well enough.


I agree with most of what you’re saying, but I think you were reading a great deal more into my comment than was there. This comment gave me pause:

“There is a difference between perfect grammar and formal speech. Casual speech doesn’t “have” to be grammatically wrong, there are other ways to signal informality”

I didn’t suggest that perfect grammar and formal speech are the same thing, nor that casual speech must be grammatically wrong but they can go hand-in-hand to a degree. Sometimes imperfect grammar can go a long way to adding nuance to a sub without making it too long.

The examples above of “who vs that” are a perfect example of grammar usage that is not textbook perfect but can sound more natural to a native speaker and indicates casual speech, and were exactly the type of casual speech I was referring to. Words like “anyways” were yours, and I don’t appreciate the extremely condescending tone of your judgment and assumptions about how Americans speak.

I never insinuated “everyone” speaks any type of way, but perfect grammar in speech is a rarity. Some imperfections are normal and perfectly acceptable in everyday speech, and that is often what subs are capturing.

You noted here that the Viki subbers use an “international” English, but you said in an earlier post that American English was the standard and lamented it. My comment noted I am a native US English speaker because it sounded like my knowledge of US English might be beneficial. I did not mean to imply that Viki subs should be peppered with obscure Americanisms.

I’d love to learn from you, but it’s hard to absorb your mesaage when it’s laced with so much condescension.


How interesting! I grew up in the States so I am familiar with the variables of American English. (And the fact that the English do not think we speak English at all. :rofl: But what can I say? We are a conglomerate of non-English speaking foreign immigrants whose great/grand/parents learned to speak fractured English as a second language. :sunglasses: ) As we told our English co-worker. “We’re 'Mericans. Not English.” :rofl:

In elevators, I’ve seen ‘ground floor’ as well as ‘1st floor’ as the name for the ground level floor. The ‘second story/floor/level’ is the one directly above the ground floor. Due to superstitions, some buildings will omit naming a level the ‘13th floor’ the same as elevators in some countries won’t list the numeral ‘4’ as a level and use the letter ‘F’ or other designation instead. Why? Because ‘4’ and ‘13’ signify death and misfortune. (Poor innocent numbers, having to carry such a heavy burden.) :grin:

What is funny is that the 13th floor actually exists even if it is not called that. Does that mean the people on that level are unlucky? What results would a ‘luck/misfortune’ survey reveal?


I’ve thought about that as well. The people on the 14th floor must understand that it’s actually the 13th, and be fine with it, right? Or maybe since they didn’t have to see that number in the elevator or on their stairwell, they feel the power is lost and they’re safe? I don’t understand the rationale, but I enjoy the quirk.


I struggle with this a lot since I’m an Indian who uses British English. I’ve noticed that because of our Asian word orders, we’ve unconsciously modified English to suit our SOV based language backgrounds. I understand what the TE/subber really means because we use the same style when we speak, but it’s hard to change it to “proper” English because I feel like it loses a little of the meaning behind the sentence. However, it looks and sounds weird to Western viewers.

An example is the way we “ask” statements. Using tone changes, it becomes a question, not a statement. And when I change it to a proper question, it seems to lose meaning.
You are asking me to sell products to you?”
I’d have to change it to “Are you… ?”. Then it loses it’s original meaning: The speaker is shocked that someone who has always discouraged him from selling products is now asking him to do so. So I try changing it to “Are you the one who is asking… ?” but it still doesn’t convey the meaning fully.


This is a great example of why I always think of English subs as a team effort. I can only speak English. I have a fairly extensive vocabulary from years of teaching and, at one point in my life, I discovered that I like reading books on English grammar. The result of this is that I have a knowledge of grammar that most native speakers do not have.

The bottom line, though, is that however much I know, I cannot create the subs from scratch. I’m totally reliant on the TE. I have no idea how accurate a TE’s translation is. I put all my confidence in a TE and trust him or her to do the job to the best of his or her ability. Then our roles switch. The TE then trusts me to take care with the translation, which has taken many hours of work, and present this translation in the very best light possible from an English perspective. When I watch the final subs, I never lose sight of the fact that the subs are the result of two sets of expertise mixing together to create a single product.


That is interesting. The same can happen in American English in conversation-- bringing the tone of the sentence up at the end indicates a question, even the words aren’t formulated properly as one.

In your example, “You are asking me to sell products to you?” I think that could be easily understood by a Western viewer because they would also have the benefit of the actor’s tone modulation and expression. Even if the viewer is deaf, they’d have the actor’s open mouth and raised eyebrows to give a clue that this question is asked incredulously.

This is also an example where it would be natural to my American ears to use a contraction. “You are” at the beginning of a question sounds stilted, unless someone is purposefully enunciating very carefully to further indicate disbelief, in which case it could be useful. “You’re” would be far more common in speech. But maybe a contraction would be avoided because they are less commonly used by non-English speakers?


International as in removing everything that has too much flavour of one particular country.
American in the sense that when we have to to make a choice between AE and BE, AE is chosen (i.e. “flavor” vs “flavour”, “trunk” vs. “boot”).

I spend lots of time online and I watch lots of videos on youtube by “real people” (I mean spontaneous, not scripted speech). I noticed many, many Americans use “anyways” and such. I also see such things a lot, as an editor, here, by Korean-American subbers.
And as you also note, perfect grammar in speech is a rarity - everywhere, not just in the US.
Of course, when we’re talking of a countries of many millions, it’s obvious (or should be) that I’m not talking of every one of the citizens of that country.
But you can choose to be sensitive about it and not like my tone or whatever. It’s totally your prerogative and totally all right with me.


Thank you for allowing me to have and express opinions. :+1:


Personally, one thing I try to do as an editor is to make sure that sentences can be translated easily into other languages.

Sometimes I encounter sentences that are grammatically correct for native speakers, but which use informal words and phrases that can be difficult to understand for the other languages. And on Viki, the English translation acts as a basis for all the other language translations.


Which editor do I contact when I think there was a translation mistake?
I’m an editor in Dutch for a show and I think the translation of one sentence (in English) is incorrect because it was completely different from the Korean sentence. For now, I sent my question to the chief editor, the general editor and the translation editor, but I would like to know who will (should) answer my questions.


As an other language moderator I first contact the Channel manager and if she is busy I will pm the chief editor and the issue will be solved mostly after pm ing chief editor. And if you yourself know that the ce is busy you can contact the general editor.
Regarding any(mainly problematic ones) translation I know that all the three editors discuss and write the final one so I suggest to pm the ce



I sent the message yesterday or the day before, so I probably just need to wait a few days for a response. In this case, the CM is also one of the editors, by the way.