How common is second-hand subbing?

So far in my subbing experience, I’ve always translated videos in which I could fully understand the original language, insisting to understand the original phrases, and using the English subtitles only as a reference in case of need.
This made my subtitles closer to the original, although sometimes quite different from the English subtitles.

On the other hand it also made the process a slower than it could be, since I’m much more fluent in English than in Chinese, for example.

So at a certain point, just for fun, I was thinking about doing some translations based only on the English subtitles, without actually delving into the source language. Something like a Korean Drama, while I know nothing about Korean except for partial reading of the Hangul characters :smile:

On the practical side, It seems to me that such second-hand subbing will still enable the viewer to understand the video well, although being inaccurate. So unlike a book translation, this might work well. But I would be happy to have the opinion of more experienced people on this.

So my question is this:
How common is it in Viki to translate subtitles directly from the English subtitles (while watching the video, of course), with no knowledge whatsoever of the original language?
Is it even considered legitimate? Or does it bring down the subtitles quality to a level of disaster?

Thanks to all those who will share their experience on this.

I have to say, I am a bit surprised by this question. Because I only do second-hand translating and I think it’s very common when translating into languages other than English. As you say, it’s less accurate, but it’s not a disaster at all. Now, that I know some Korean, I can also (for the lack of a better word) “feel” what’s being said better, I’m more familiar with the context.

Because we do second-hand translations, the English translation must not only be accurate, but also unambiguous, natural, easy to understand at first glance etc. Meaning, it should pass through at least two experienced Editors.


It’s definitely super common. Like you said, overall, it’s less accurate, but I think many translators really only know two languages - either source and English, or English to whatever they’re translating to.

I don’t really think it’s a major problem. I mean, sure, it’d be nice if everyone translated from the source language, but it’s not the most viable option. And assuming the English subs are accurate, and the second translator is fluent in English and whatever they’re translating to, I think most of the meaning should carry through. (Although I can’t exactly speak from experience, since I don’t/can’t really do this second-hand subbing thing.)


Oh, it’s my favourite pastime to compare second-hand translation and the original… :slight_smile: (Don’t get me wrong - just to entertain myself, no claims and no complains). As I’m almost deaf and can lip read only Russian and English, I compare only series where I can see hardsubs and other languages subs, like Chinese original - English first subs - Russian second subs, or Spanish original - English first subs - Russian second subs.
Yes, every subsequent translation is a going away farther from the original meaning. Mostly because of lacunes, skips, mistypes, carelessness… There are also inaccuracies of other kind: like a second-hand translator (sorry, no pun intended) have not found in his/her language a correct word for some dish name, or Chinese court rank, or even a proverb.
(It would be curious someday to make a big article with such comparisons and post it here… but I’m afraid, I would be banned forever then :smiley:

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A little illustration to my point… a sub to “Definitely Neighbors” -
“I don’t know if it’s okay for me to be happy leaving my mom like that”.
And it’s translation to Russian:
“Я не знаю, хорошо ли для меня быть счастливым от того, что живу с такой мамой” ('I don’t know if it’s okay for me to be happy living with such a mom").
Proof link:

Accidently I’ve just had a bad experience with second-hand translation.

I watched a Chinese video with Hebrew translation, and realized that most names were misspelled (on the level of ignoring the pronunciation in the video). The translator didn’t know Pinyin.

In addition, every mistake in the English translation was duplicated into the Hebrew translation (names inconsistency, transliteration of terms which should have been translated etc.) As if the translator was doing bulk translation, ignoring the video.

And beyond that, the English subtitles on this channel had (and still has) holes due to hard sentences, so you actually get a translator which was not aware of the whole story.

And this goes for 9 chapters (plus typos. At least the Hebrew grammar was in good quality).

Actually, I don’t know if that’'s more of a second-hand issue or a quality issue.

Now I’m not sure whether Korean moderators will find chasing my Second hand translation mistakes much fun :wink:

So what do we prefer here? as much subtitles as possible, with moderators running around and having fun fixing things? or mostly subtitles of good quality, but many languages missing?

And I’d vote for a thread of second-hand accidents. Should be funny :smile:

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I dare to say that more than 90% of the subtitles are second-hand subs. Just have a look at ongoing dramas, at least all the Korean ones have “Episode 1-6 are released.” or something similar on their community walls. Which just means even though episode 7 and 8 might also be 100% subbed in English, they are still doing corrections. And only episode 1-6 are edited enough to be subbed in other languages with what you call second-hand subbing. Of course there might be mistakes but I dare say that if you would leave all the “second-hand subbing” out then there would basically be no subs in any other language at all and there would only be very few subbers.

Also I “work” as a German mod and I am currently studying Korean. I would never be able to translate directly from Korean to German at this point and I trust the Korean-English editors to do their job well as I am good with translating correctly from English. As a mod I have enough to do with fixing German grammar mistakes/ misunderstandings from the English language and I know I would find no subbers if I told them to directly translate from Korean because there are barely any people who are fluent on here, at least as far as I know (speaking of Korean-German) and the fluent Korean ones are mostly needed for fast English subs.

So in my opinion it’s not a question if you prefer “second-hand subtitles” or not, it’s simply needed because otherwise this whole page wouldn’t work. Also that’s what the system of “releasing” episodes tries to ensure, making the English subs as correct as possible to avoid bigger mistakes.
I have to admit though that especially on shows that are not that popular and don’t have active Channel Managers, there could be a problem if not even the English subs are accurate :wink:

But all in all I think it’s interesting that you think of it as “second-hand subbing” because I have never thought of it as that since I always subbed like this. Also, just take a look at the thread where people want to subtitle, 99% it’s language XY into English or the other way around. Because English is THE communication language on the internet and also the basic language of Viki I guess, may it be for communicating or translating/subbing. That’s why I would have to agree with bozoli, I am, too, a bit surprised by your question :smiley:


Seems to me we are talking about an inexperienced subber here. I can tell you that due to my “slight OCD” I am intolerant to inconsistencies and, even without knowing Korean, I would have only used one name spelling for one character, the same translation to the repeating music theme, corrected bad syntax, such as italics, in the English translation and so on.

Now, that is the question! :slight_smile: [*quietly chants: “quality, quality, quality…”]

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I meant to tell you something on your last discussion thread. Try not to publish publicly personal information of Viki users, not part of the current discussion, whenever you can. If you wish to illustrate an example, make a screenshot without the user name or say “this one user told me…”

Ok, got it.

I think that not only on Viki but also the professional subs by subbing companies is done from the English instead of the original quite a lot. I’m more bothered by ‘bad’ subbing by professionals then volunteers on Viki (unless it’s really bad). How often they simply forget to translate bits or how they chance things. And to make it worse, since I’m a segger I’m more aware of some sloppy timing/cutting done by professionals. How often I already did read what someone was about to say or that the subs appear on screen a split second to late.

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In my opinion most of the subbers (same with me) can’t speak the original language, we may understand some phrases or commonly known sentences, but not the whole. We are (probably) not professional translators, only doing it for appreciation and that’s okay. ^^ So, well yeah, I’m also a second-hand translator and if the english sub sux and has no meaning for me (it’s rare, but happens), then I use my fantasy (it would be useful in these cases to know the original language, but I can’t do much about it, since I work, lead a household and in my freetime I rather translate than learn more languages ><). :stuck_out_tongue:

China, population 1.357 billion
India, population: 1.252 billion
Indonesia, population 249.9 million - which I thinks ranks third in terms of Viki viewers, after the US and Canada.
Romania, population 19.96 million - including my own Mom, who speaks only French, no English. :)))))
Should all these people + the rest of the non-English-speaking inhabitants of the planet have access and be able to understand the content that Viki provides, if they so choose? Yes.
Must all these people learn either the source language or English to be able to understand it? No. Hence, "second-hand"subbing.
Click on any episode of any Korean drama - if it’s released, on average it’s subbed into at least 20 other languages. So we could say that “second-hand” translations are 20 times more common, couldn’t we?
This translation from a language other than the original wasn’t invented on Viki… let’s just think of the Rosetta stone, and how they “subbed” that one…


Rocsanna: No doubt that translation to as much languages as possible is good.
But this requires second-hand translation only if there are not enough people who know the original language and a non-English language.

Anyway, according to the replies we indeed do not have enough original language speakers in Viki. So the second-hand translation to non-English languages indeed seem to be a must here.

for me 100% accurate sub not always good
my priority is nice-logical sentences and flow nicely like the content
and my viewers seem doent really need 100% accurate of sub… they mostly like just need somethng to help them to enjooy the show


for me 100% accurate sub not always good

That’s also “my problem”, but I call it “mirror translation”. It is when you translate the english (or whatever) text the same way as it is in the original, so you copy the same word order, you use 100% of the words of a sentence (for eg. in hungarian you can just skip personal pronouns a lot times, because they are not just unnecessary, but look ugly and lame - unless if you wanna emphasize something -, but a “mirror translater” never ><) and there are more failures, but it’s kinda hard to explain them in english and without you knowing hungarian grammar. :stuck_out_tongue:

i see, i did that too actually… :heart_eyes:

Second hand translation wouldn’t be a problem if the editing of the reference language was done by speakers of the original language.

In some cases, editing is only about spelling and grammar, while the translation doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. So, if the translated phrase conveys the wrong meaning (chinese: ‘I’ll kill it’/ english: ‘I did not hit them’) but is grammatically correct, nobody touches it.

Other times, the subs are litteral translations of the original, without any logic or structure, which makes it terribly difficult to ‘translate the translation’ into a third language.

Second-hand translations isn’t the real problem here. Ensuring the quality of the reference subs is more important. Also, access to the original subs for those who can consult them.

Of course, I put most of the blame of the “subs, suuuuuuubs, suuuuuubs pleeeeease” people, who demand speed over accuracy.


I heard Magyar and Korean are quite similar in grammar! Yeah I end up saying way more in English than the Korean cuz the English viewer wouldn’t understand!!
The teams I’m on try really hard to provide the best subtitles. Though sometimes we want to get carried away to 100% satisfied. We release at 98 or else it would never be released! That is what one editor told me :slight_smile:

I wish I was trilingual so I could compare Original and another language sub.