"I will leave first..."


I’m new here so I didn’t know such a thing existed. But you have no idea how many times I wished it was there. :neutral_face:


There will always be subbers who translate literally. In my languages (Italian and Greek) I give extensive feedback and sometimes we do 1:1 Skype sessions where I edit their translation with “Share screen”, while on the microphone we discuss why this is not correct or how it can be made better. Word by word translating is a habit which is very hard to correct, especially if the person isn’t interested in correcting it.
In my experience, few Korean-English subbers read the Subbing Guidelines or Team Notes - other than to see the characters’ names and job titles. And no editor would dare to suggest a training session in writing more natural English. Even the thought of it is preposterous. You just edit quietly and gratefully and that’s the end of it. These people are precious so they are to be treated like royalty. Without them there would be no English subtitles, we’d all be in deep sh***, unable to understand our beloved dramas.
Some people I’ve spoken to are active proponents of literal translation, because they feel that otherwise the meaning is lost.
A T.E. who used to be very active here a couple of years ago went and edited my edits to make them more literal and the resulting English was unacceptable. She even told me “I don’t care about grammar, I want it to be faithful”. We had lots of discussions about this, but we were friends too, so we agreed to disagree and I took care to avoid projects where she was on. She’s a smart and lovable person otherwise.
Once I was editor in a drama where the T.E. (not her, another one) and the C.E. badmouthed me behind my back for always wanting to “make it pretty” - I suppose they meant I was trying to make it sound like regular English instead of a fabricated idiom that will make viewers scratch their head.
I assure you I take super extra care that the meaning is not lost or altered when turning a sentence into decent English. I don’t do “localization”, and I use many original language words with notes underneath. And sometimes I err on the side of caution, especially since most of the time I am not Chief Editor but General Editor.
But some people still say: “yes, but the screenwriter used that particular word because they wanted this precise meaning, which is not exactly like the one you put”. As if the screenwriter were Shakespeare! We all know in what a hurry scripts are written, at the very last moment, so much so that the actors don’t even have the time to memorize them precisely and sometimes they paraphrase, saying their own dialogue, as long as the meaning is the same. Yet we should feel bound by every comma as if it had a deep importance?


“However” is a perfectly legitimate word that can be used when it’s needed. In the first sentence you say something which is reasonable and accepted. But there is also the other side of the matter, which you want to express in the second sentence, so you join the two sentences by “however”.
“Yes, dating can take away precious time from studying. I am aware of this, mom, and I can see why you are forbidding me to see my boyfriend. However, since I started dating him, he’s been encouraging me to study and you’ve seen that my grades have gone up”.
“However” is not wrong. What is wrong is “but,” with a comma, at the beginning of the sentence. “But” in English goes with the next word, no pause, no comma after it. The comma goes before, because “but” is not used at the beginning of a new sentences, only as a joiner.
“You said dating will distract me from my studies, but hasn’t happened in my case.”
The only instance where you can see a comma after “but” is if after it there is a subordinate sentence between two commas.
“You said dating will distract me from my studies, but, as you’ve seen, my grades have actually gone up”.

In Korean, however, there is a big pause after “hadjiman”. This means “but” can’t be used. Then “however” saves the day, because you can put a comma and imagine a speaker pausing after it.

(Can you tell that I’ve been watching “Moment of Eighteen”?)


This comma behind a time adverb in the beginning of a sentence is a new American invention. British English has almost none of those. When translating you should always follow the rules of your own language, including punctuation.

My God, onomatopoeia is by far the worst! Skip! Skip! Skip!

Also, if friends with them, notify Eng Mod to ask the Chief segmenter to delete those segments (if they only consist of sighs) before many other languages have created translations for it. This is sometimes a team communication error.

I would say assassination implies somebody ordered a murder and a payed assassin executed it. Killer would be someone who commit murder on his own accord. Was this what you were referring to?

And then come the OL subbers who have zero clue what the sub actually means. To the Kor-eng subber everything is clear. To the rest of us not so much.


The official wording was “killer string” (it is like killer clam, but a music instrument in this case). Clear and short. The assassination does not make sense in this context because - as you said - assassination is an order to murder someone while in this context it was about a certain kind of magical attack but also in a defensive way. It was not for assassination in first place even though it may cause severe injuries or death to protect something/someone. So assassination causes the wrong impression for me when I read it and it is about protection…

I sometimes show certain scenes or sentences to my origin language friends and the somehow funny but sad thing was that they said my version was closer to the origin version (meaning) than the English version even though I did neither translate English to my language wordly nor did I understand 100% of the origin language (but I translated more context wise so I transfered the meaning of the origin scene into my language).

But that needs like 3-5x more time than just translating English to my language without additional proof…

It’s not a thing for easy lines/scenes but for more complex ones (the simple scenes are usally okay here, but I often had quite complex scenes).

Maybe I should not think about it and just translate but I always feel that if I think there might be a lack I should prove it (that includes also the sentences with wrong negotation forms because it can give the story or a character a wrong direction/impression for the viewers).

So I think if there still would be something like lutra wrote here I’d feel more comfortable:


There are a few Chinese drama OSTs that I not only love the beautiful music but the lovely lyrics. On YT the lyrics are translated one way, but on Viki they might be translated in such a way as to give a totally different meaning and context. On the other hand I have a Chinese friend who also speaks fluent English and I’ve had her translate the lyrics as well. She gives another deeper meaning. Some translations don’t quite get the subtle differences and something is definitely lost in the translation, and I’m assuming English just does not have the subtlety (even with all the non-essential phrases) that the beauty of Chinese has.


I knew an old German teacher, and she used to say that English is a barbarian language.


I’m not sure if what’s really lacking is the subtlety. Rather, it’s more likely we lack the cultural context.


Maybe that’s the reason. Some of my Chinese friends with whom I talked about different languages told me that they really love German but don’t like English that much. They also said in their opinion German and Chinese language is similar in certain aspects (e.g. they like the possibilities how German words could be combined to create something new in a similar way as signs even though we have letters).

Some combined verbs are also not available in English in the way they are in German, e.g. “versuchen”. I once read an English sentence with “tried”, “search”, “find” but the German line just needed “versuchen” and “finden” because “versuchen” already included trying and searching in a way.


In Saimdang Light Journal they say, “Are those the newbies?” and similar expressions which are jarring and takes you out of the drama. Couldn’t there be guidelines for historical dramas?


The guideline is common sense. If the Chinese or Korean is archaic language, then use old-style English. Not Shakespearean language, but at least don’t use words which came into use in the last half of the 20th century or later.
Korean-English subbers often don’t know how people spoke English in the old days - and when i say old days, again, I’m talking about the 1950s, not anything decrepit - because they don’t have the background from their parents and grandparents. So they translate in the only English they know, today’s English.
I’ve seen “okay” spoken to a member of the royal family in a sageuk, and to a company chairman by a subordinate!
See, it’s not only historical dramas… Koreans think that because the English only has “you” and not five or more different nuances of politeness/formality, it means that everyone speaks in any way they want even to high status people. Which is just not true. You don’t speak to your company president or your friends’ father as you speak to your buddies. The verb does not change but there are other ways of showing respect.
For instance, whenever I see a young person speak to an elderly or a subordinate to a higher-up, I correct “okay” to “alright”, “yes”, “fine” or “yes sir” I keep “okay” only when in Korean they are speaking in banmal, among friends or family members close in age.
If they someone orders a subordinate to do something and they agree saying “ye” instead of “ne” (=the two equivalents of yes, but ye is more formal), or 알겠습니다 algesseumnida (=I understand, I got it, alright, it will be done), then we know it’s formal and you absolutely cannot use “okay” or “I got it”, unless it’s playful/ironic. It should be “yes sir/ma’am”, “It will be done”.
You don’t need to know the intricacies of the language. It’s enough to use common sense and know the relationship among the characters.
For Other Language translators it’s difficult to understand where to use formal and informal. I know I struggled with this a lot, and I always sought help in Team Discussion.
Most of the times you’re good if you use formal for everyone except close buddies and immediate family (although most of them do speak formally to their parents). Higher-ups often use informal towards subordinates, but even if you miss this, nothing terrible will happen. And it will sound weird because in Europe we speak to the cleaning lady formally.
The difficulty is with couples, knowing when they pass from formal to informal, since the English gives no clues. When I didn’t know how to recognize it, I had made my own rule-of-thumb: once they kiss and start dating officialy (and or have sex), I pass to informal. Although I know pretty well that it’s not really true for the Korean (in “Encounter” the couple didn’t switch to informal until the very last scene of the last episode, after the time gap and in "The Secret Life of My Secretary she keeps calling him “Director” even after they sleep together!), I know it would make zero sense to Western viewers to have a couple kiss and make out while using formal speech, so I usually choose not to be too faithful.


That’s true. You would use a different tone of voice and the respect is shown in this way and through your body language. You wouldn’t roll your eyes or look half bored or yawn in front of your boss for example. Generally speaking you would maintain eye contact, listen well and be more calm yet alert when speaking to a superior at work.


Are most subbers from Korean into English native Korean speakers? Or if they are British, American or other native English speakers why do they not have the background? Some of the words I’m talking about have only been used in the last 10-15 years so their parents, teachers, employers should understand standard English. Why wouldn’t they have the background from their parents and grandparents?

When I was in school we used slang but we still knew how to speak without and wouldn’t have spoken that way when writing a paper for example. We understood the difference. In fact most subbing I see doesn’t use common slang or internet slang. Much of the subbing seems excellent. I just thought maybe making a guideline stating, “Please don’t use slang for historical dramas” and possibly giving examples would encourage the ones who do use present day slang for historical dramas to stop. But perhaps there’s something else going on that I don’t understand.


Side-tracking the thread for a second :blush:

This summer I was riding in a bus, sitting next to an older lady who kindly explained to me that English “you” is a highly respectable form of addressing a person. It is not the German “du”, it is “Sie”. English “du” was “thou”, which was at some point completely dropped in an effort to simplify the language. So, basically, Englishmen have been addressing everybody with utmost respect for centuries, having no informal pronoun, but somehow people forgot about it.


Most of them are Korean-American. Of course there are also people of other nationalities who are advanced students of Korean language. Some would be English-speakers, but many others could come from whatever country.


I don’t mean that at all. Of course body language will also be used, but I mean actual way of speaking to them.
Let me try to find an example of things you wouldn’t say to people you are supposed to respect, and what you would actually say:

Yeah, sure, whatever! — Some people would say that, but I don’t agree.
You wanna bet? — I’m not sure about that. The opposite might be true.
Cut the BS! — I don’t think that’s relevant.
I don’t give a damn — Although I do understand your point of view, this matter is not that important to me.
Are you f**** serious? ---- I’m sure you don’t mean that, sir.


Interesting from a German teacher, knowing that English is heavily borrowed from the Germanic languages.


Even though it is part of Germanic languages you can’t really compare German grammar with English grammar since German is a precise language with complex grammar while English is one of the most imprecise (“Western”) languages. Compare German, French, Latin, Italian grammar… and then look at English…

English and German do have several words with the same letters but with complete different meaning or opposite meaning like “lies” and “Lies!”

So today when languages are mixed or one sees more English than in the past it can be really annoying because of eventually not understanding what’s really meant at first second because same spelling but different meaning. Or the new Denglish when even journalists use partly English words and then add the typical German endings like -isiert, -in, etc. Doesn’t look nice anymore.


I believe I understand your point now. Yes, the second version is what would be said in more formal situations.


Double negative -
example someone can’t stop himself from working:

It’s company work.
I received my salary.
I can’t not do anything.

I am not a native English speaker nor is this used that often but is this grammatically right? Or maybe it only feels wrong because of the addition of the word anything?