Improving English subtitles AFTER they have been created

Addicted to Viki. Love it all. K-dramas, J-dramas, T-dramas, C-dramas . . . Wish I could binge-watch two at a time.

One thing I’ve wondered about for a couple of years. I have a background in proofreading and editing in English (alas, I am not really fluent in any other language though I speak like a baby in Spanish).

I do tend to notice spots in subtitles where English is not typical idiomatic daily use kind of English. I also notice where the English is good but waaay too formal.

Can Viki members make suggestions for improving subtitles after they have been made and added to a particular drama?

The need for improvement of English subtitles is pretty small. I’d say for 97 percent of the time I’m subconsciously convinced that, whatever I’m watching, the characters are actually speaking English. I’d just like to contribute suggestions where the subtitles are not quite so seamless.



Hi, Edith.

Usually, as teamwork goes, you would have several Korean-to-English subtitlers, which don’t necessarily have to be fluent in English, do their job first. Then one or more Editors would come in to fix the very things you mention. Sometimes the teams are small and all the responsibility of perfecting the language lies with just one person, one Editor. If the team is bigger (usually when the project is more popular), it will have several Editors who specialise in particular corrections and edits.

Editors are usually set from the start of the project. You can however, ask the Manager of that particular channel to do post-editing, if something is really bugging you.

From what I understand (having never been an Editor myself, mind you), is that Editors usually don’t like to change the subtitles to make them just tiny bit better (ie. less formal). Reason being they would like the original subtitler to be given credit for what is mostly their own work. Only in cases where the translation is very unnatural or the meaning is ambivalent will the Editor intervene. However, there are no firmly set rules here and each Editor works a bit differently.

With your expertise, though, and particularly if you have time, please consider becoming an English editor for some of Viki’s on-going projects. Help is always needed! :smile:


Disagree strongly, but this is thanks to a community shift in culture post 2012 I’ve been told.

If there’s a mistake please DO tell us. I noticed I transcribed some names wrong because they sound similar only to find out that this or that name was wrong based on context an episode later or something. I go back and I usually fix everything.

I have told Chief Editors I caught mistakes though the show has already ended. They gave me the privilege of correcting all of it myself. I also then sent out a notice to all the non-English mods with explanations.

Sometimes when i have time I’ll fix these small English grammar things like subject-verb agreement. For some people English is a second language or even a fourth. Which is wonderful. I only can do two. I’ve also written on team discussions some things I’ve noticed or found confusing and actually the editors would agree with me it is clearer in such and such way.

Some editors are really defensive of corrections and have asked me to report every change I make. Others give me absolute free reign. Like a novel we have many editors (ideal), so I believe the more eyes the better.


Yeah, yeah, don’t get me wrong, I agree the work done on Viki has always room for improvement. And editors must be brave enough to (politely) stand their ground when they know they’re right.

@edith_mcklveen_679, if you’re watching a show and you notice something way off, def mention this to the CM. Nobody said otherwise.

What I say the community seems to be against is when people want to change the subtitle because they feel it sounds better, when in fact it’s merely their own preference of expression (prettier as it may be) and the subtitle already sounds natural and is accurate and complete. 'Tis what I read in some guideline somewhere.

Also, as an other language mod, I prefer the English language used to be slightly “dry”, not to have very modern jargon. Not at the expense of a good joke or play of words, of course.



I can see what you’re saying. By all means contact the Channel Manager of the drama that concerns you. I, too, suggest you think of becoming an English Editor. They are in high demand and in short supply.

However, the subtitles are slightly different in English depending upon the native language drama you’re viewing. Just like the differences between British and American English, there are cultural differences in the way the drama characters speak and this will affect the translation. Also, the time eras of a drama make a difference too. Usually, historical dramas are more formal. So the request for a re-edit is not a simple one. Teams do go back at times to re-edit a drama if it’s necessary. But often they are just too busy to do a continuity type re-edit, to be honest with you. A new team can also ask Viki for permission to re-edit a completed drama if it’s really needed. Such as “Scarlet Heart”, in which the English is being re-edited now. Added to all of this, is the fact that the Other Language Moderators having to be notified is a big factor in any decision made.

As both my colleagues mentioned, English is usually not the first language of the translators. And even before the English Editors begin, usually a Translation Editor goes over the subtitles before them. The general rule is for the editor to edit a subtitle only if it’s absolutely warranted because it’s very easy to change the whole meaning of the words. Yes and let’s not even talk about idioms and regional humor. That’s a whole 'nother ballgame.

So I hope this gives you some insight into the world of Viki Sub Editing. Your expertise would be greatly appreciated. So please do think of volunteering if you have the time.


Edith, you can surely be a precious asset in projects. The only problem is that for now you are not QC (you need 3000 subtitles or segments to become that), therefore you cannot even view all the dramas of the past 10 years.
Of course, since you’ve seen some, and noticed those errors, it means that you can see those ones (and you might maybe contact the English moderator, if they are important enough for her to bother unlocking the episode and correcting them).
But what I’m saying is that for now you won’t be able to contribute to new projects, which is a shame.
If you like, you can go to some older films (for instance American comedies of the 40s-50s), which are free, without viki pass and even without moderator or Channel Manager, so you don’t even have to ask for permission, and subtitle there.
Two such films will get you to 3000 subtitles, and then you’re ready to go.

As choesook rightly said, here at viki we like to preserve a little bit of local flavour. Some people go too far, I agree. Some Korean-English translators make very awkward sentences with the verb at the end, influenced by the Korean sentence structure (“This person, I will definitely do my best to protect”). This of course should be corrected, and I often wonder why the English editors leave it alone, as it is really weird in Englsh - and sometimes plain wrong.
But on the other hand, if we’re talking about the level of formality - even in modern-day dramas -, it is a thing which may sound unnatural in English, but faithfully reflects the Korean culture and thus it is right to keep because it belongs to the whole mentality and worldview of this people. For instance, a grandchild speaks to the grandparents formally, or sometimes even couples in a love relationship refer to each other with Miss and Mister, and so on.
I am personally very irked when I see a secretary speaking to the CEO and saying “Yeah”. Careful attention should be given on hierarchy and status, because in East Asian countries it is very important, much more important than in ours (of course, even in the US or Europe, I believe he would say “Yes Sir!” instead of “yeah”).
Everyday language is to be used among close pals, former classmates, children, or street gang members. But it shouldn’t be abused. For instance, we have a translation rule which says to absolutely avoid “gonna”, “wanna” and all such.

What I’m trying to say is that there is a fine balance to be struck between natural/flowing and sloppy teenage/gergal/illiterate speech.


Korean has a lot of markers which indicate how parts of a sentence interact with each other. If words were always put in their most natural English order, it would cause speakers who watch with subtitles great cognitive dissonance as the subtitle is the reverse order of what you hear.

I hated it so often I would invert the sentence as spoken, but make sure each segment had good English word order.


I didn’t know English editors were in high demand and short supply. Yet another good reason for me to head for the Witless Protection Program before I blunder into any more projects!

GeNie of the Lamp (awake and transcribing rather early, accursed cold, vile, annoying thing!) POOF!

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Feeling just a bit stupid. I am getting your replies in my e-mail, and I replied to several of them before seeing the button that says “Visit Topic to respond.”

So . . . I am addicted to Viki, period. And it is the quality of the English translations that keeps me hooked. Generally, the English translations convey both the charm and liveliness of the original languages and cultures of different dramas. There are days when I am completely convinced that the characters in different dramas are talking English directly to me.

Occasionally I am jolted by English translations that are just not typical usage or are just plain bad usage.

Because I don’t know another language well enough to translate from English to that language, all I have to offer is my awareness of what strikes me as English translations that are “off.”

From what I’m reading, I cannot join any current projects as an English editor. It makes sense that I have to do tasks that will prove my sincerity and ability. But I am not sure how working on older dramas will prove that.

I can view a whole lot of dramas because I do have a paid subscription. Of course there are some I cannot see “in my country” because of copyright issuses and whatnot. But I’m not understanding what exactly I can do with older dramas, and how I can show what I do to administrators or whoever would give me permission to work on current projects.

Anyway, I am an addict and just want the drug to be of the best quality possible. If there really is something I can do to increase the street value, that’s great. :smile:


Actually as a subtitler and occasional translation editor, I agree with sophie2you and I try to maintain the original sentence order. Because the subtitles make more sense like that.

For example, imagine if this subtitle is broken into two segments, “This person,” and “I’ll definitely do my best to protect.” and the person is doing some actions “This person,” (points at person) and “I’ll definitely do my best to protect.” (stand in front of said person to protect him from whatever danger). It’d make the subtitles and the dialogue a whole lot more meaningful than if you just translate it as “I’ll do my best to protect this person.”

And @edith_mcklveen_679 please do join our subtitling community! Old dramas definitely need help! There’s loads with translations that are just slightly off somewhere (or sometimes awfully off), and an extra pair of hands or eyes to see and correct them is always needed. (Sometimes translations of old dramas put me off so bad I turn off the subtitles totally. :stuck_out_tongue:)


You can always post a suggestion, I think.

I can think of many instances where the original language word order not only goes along with the action, it underlines the sincerity or awkwardness or determination of the character speaking.

But there are some examples of English usage that are just really clunky.

Can you suggest an older drama that needs help? And how do I go through it and point out places that need fixing? And who do I send that information to?


some dramas need transcribing English hard subs, it could be not all require to be QC (qualified contributor). You can search in the “magnifier” on the upper right and contact the managers.
Also before starting to sub I recommend to read and inform yourself about the typing rules here: in the section: Subtitling Guide.
Checkout also this:

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The example was just off my head, but I’ve seen many sentences like this, and even stranger than this.
In case that that the actor points at the person he wants to protect (and it doesn’t happen often), I would compromise like this.

  1. This person…
  2. I will do my best to protect her.
    As if it were two different sentences, as if the speaker was trying to put his thoughs and feelings in order, so he tentatively said one thing and then the second sentence was not a continuation of the first, but a different one, started differently.

Yes, those few viewers who do understand a bit of Korean would be surprised if one changed the order completely. So what? They would probably infer that Korean has a different word order. You cannot write syntactically wrong English. If it’s wrong it’s just wrong.

As the victim saying to the murderer “Save me!” In English you don’t say “save me” to the person who is attacking you. You can say “Have mercy” or “Spare me” but not “save me” because how can he save you from himself? I am guessing that it’s a Korean expression, but in English it makes no sense. And yet editors are leaving it, I find it all the time.
Same for “where are you sick?” This does not exist in English. It is most probably a Korean expression which is translated word-by-word.

Editors are also leaving “I will go first”, “I will leave first” which doesn’t mean anything in English either - unless there is a very narrow door, and there is indecision on who will pass first.
But with these we are more lenient, as they give a flavour of the culture, just as “you have worked hard”, “I have come”, “Have you come?” (when the person is in full view, so obviously she has come), “I will eat well”, “Please eat a lot”, “Thanks for the food”.
Let’s say that these are quaint and we have accepted them already.
What is unacceptable, however, is the use of “pervert”. It is used in a completely different sense, for a perfectly regular guy who has some sexual thoughts, or is looking at a woman’s legs or breasts or something, something which in no way can be described as a perversion (we would say “sex-obsessed” and still it would be an exaggeration).
Is it possible that for Koreans a person looking admiringly at a woman’s legs and one who likes doing the weirdest things in bed (I’m not offering any examples here!) are one and the same and thus there is only one word for both? I have no idea, I leave it to the more knowledgeable people here to elucidate it for us. But international audiences reading this are left scratching their heads, so even if it’s only one word, for once fidelity should be abandoned in the name of common sense.



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It is not to prove your ability as an editor. It just makes you reach the required number of subtitles to be “awarded” QC status for contributing to viki. (For your information, there are many people here who have translated 100.000 subtitles, and they all suck).

I suggested old films because there is no moderator or CM and you can quietly do what you need to do without having to be accepted into a team. But since you have viki pass things are much easier, as you have a lot more scope. You can go into a team that will accept you, although if you present yourself as a complete beginner (in viki, although you are experienced in real life) it would be easier to ask to join a drama which is not currently airing.

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I agree. That’s why I love my English editors. They make what I say, nicer and smoother :smiley:

Off the top of my head, there’s The Little Fairy:
It’s really old, but one of my favourites. Only it hasn’t been fully subtitled yet… Go talk to the Channel Manager. Or if no one replies, you can apply to be Channel Manager.

Btw @deadliftdiva_548 interested? It has Ariel Lin and Hu Ge! :wink:

I’d say Chinese Paladin too. But I haven’t actually started the t-edit for it yet. Still stuck with the Scarlet Heart re-edits :unamused:

@irmar actually I don’t mind the “where are you sick” or “I’ll go first” or I’ll leave first". Does that not make sense?

Haha. And for pervert, think of it as different standards of modesty. Remember that in the past, it was a travesty for you to even see any part of the skin from the neck down (save the hands, although if a guy saw the bare foot of a woman in ancient China, they have to get married!). And in some Asian cultures and to some people, shorts or mini skirts are considered as dressing to sexily.

Also, in Chinese, not sure if it’s the same for Korean, sometimes you call a person a “pervert” (literal translation), but it’s not that he actually did anything vaguely sleazy, but it’s like that person’s too good at doing something, he’s not human. For example, “Usain Bolt 變態” would be translated as “Usain Bolt is a pervert”, not because he’s a party animal, but because he runs so insanely fast. Usually, I would translate it as “Usain Bolt is inhuman.” but I’ve seen people translate it directly as “pervert”.


You…are absolutely evil. You know my weakness for Hu Ge and shamelessly exploit it…and I really want to watch both of those dramas, I haven’t seen either of them and will need English subtitles to get through them because of the wuxia of course. All the fabulous intricacy of things in their martial arts skills and all of that…

I will assuredly regret my answer at some point, but yes, IF you get the TE portion of these two specific dramas done, The Little Fairy (Aka Seven of the Sky) and Chinese Paladin 1, you may call on me if you need me to do the English edit. That is, if no seasoned and superior specialist has come forward by that point, and if I do not find myself with a highly-desirable on-air, and I think you know which one I really want to CM. (Also work incessantly at, obviously, within my normal CM style!)

The only surprise here really when I consider the question is that you didn’t stack “The Young Warriors” on top of these two, given my obvious Hu Ge AND Yuan Hong admiration! Wait…uh…I didn’t just write that, no way…Am I too late for the Witless Protection Program? I see the cage bars closing in! “The Proud Dragon REPENTS!” (SWOOSH! RAWWRRRRR!!!)

GeNie of the Lamp POOF!


Muahahaha. Kowtow to my evilness.

I’m definitely doing the TE for Chinese Paladin, not for Little Fairy. But I need to get through Scarlet Heart first. It’s bloodsuckingly slow because it’s so tragic (or rather, I haven’t gotten to the actual tragic part, but I’m constantly bracing myself for it and so it takes forever because I need a break every 5 minutes or so to rest my heart)

Well… you can stack “The Young Warriors” too. :grin: I will NOT stack “The Young Warriors”. Because that one’s even more tragic than Scarlet Heart. I won’t be able to translate anything through my tears and snot :sob:

Oh…and with regard to the “I’ll go first” and all of that - formally taking one’s leave, what I say is we leave the “guys and goodbyes” in the modern world. The formality in many cultures before our current age is not only Asian, but English too. Consider Shakespeare. :slight_smile: Write the formality and idiomatic verse of the Bard poorly even in the modern mater lingua and you will give pain like needles run through the ears and eyes of the unfortunates who are subjected to this travesty…and cause the good Will to rotate as on a rotisserie, with what remains of his “mortal coil”.

The idea of being inhuman for being shameless in compromising a lady’s virtue is also correct - the word may be considered reasonable as libertine for that exact meaning, or inhuman in a sense of not behaving as an upright human should in others. :slight_smile:

A consideration should be given to the land from whence a drama hails, and we should not err in turning a Chinese historical drama into a sheared-down, shivering, soul-less remnant of a proud and strong being. Cut Samson’s hair, and he has no power.

The strength of language used and used ably separates great works from pedestrian ramblings. :slight_smile:

It is my hope that I am doing justice to the excellent works I am currently editing and I hope it makes the drama still appear as it is, truly a Chinese drama…and not something that has been removed from its home and given amnesia!

Crouching Dieter, Hidden Donut


I agree. I agree. I agree!
It is for us, the editors, to respect the native language patterns as much as we can. Sometimes we have to rearrange the word order, it can’t be helped. As far as “I’m leaving first.” and “I’ve Come / You came” and others, suck it up! It’s the nature of that cultural beast and we must respect that part of it. Maybe because I was brought up in an older America, formality and politeness went right along with good manners so it doesn’t bother me.

Also, there’s a little hitch to translating to English. Sometimes I have to explain to my team members that in certain instances the simplest English word may have more than a few hundred meanings depending on how you use it. Like recently it was using carousel rather than ‘merry-go-round’. Very few caught that using ‘merry-go-round’ a certain way in a particular circumstance, it could mean ‘rat-race’ as in ‘round and round’. So I had to ask for clarification from the TE. Also, word order in English can change the meaning of a sentence too. There are just some words, too numerous to mention, when put at the end of a sentence just don’t make sense. It happens a lot in Chinese subtitle translations. Then I have to switch the sentence most often from back to front or in the middle to keep the meaning. I know it’ll drive a native speaker crazy when they hear the dialogue, but then English viewers would be so confused they’d stop watching the drama.

I guess all these things make editing a challenge and fun at the same time. I learn so much from just doing my small job.