Improving English subtitles AFTER they have been created


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:


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.


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.


Well, and tonight the technical vikibug hit again on all of mine sooo my cold and I are going to watch rather than edit something now. I was 5 parts complete of 6 and then 6 decided it did not want to be worked on, instead it told me of “other things” I should edit or sub instead. (yesterday it was one of my dramas - now all of them are in denial tonight!).

I have sent up the flares, and done what I can. Now…I will go watch something and maybe get some rest. :slight_smile:

GeNie of the Lamp. the slow wisp of smoke drifts lazily back into the lamp…


According to the Oxford dictionary: “A person whose sexual behaviour is regarded as abnormal”
According to the Oxford dictionary: “a person whose sexual behaviour is considered strange and unacceptable to most people”
Perversion in wikipedia:
Perversion is a type of human behavior that deviates from that which is understood to be orthodox or normal. Although the term perversion can refer to a variety of forms of deviation, it is most often used to describe sexual behaviors that are considered particularly abnormal, repulsive or obsessive. […] Originating in the 1660s a pervert was originally defined as “one who has forsaken a doctrine or system regarded as true, apostate.”[3] The sense of a pervert as a sexual term was derived in 1896, and applied originally to variants of sexualities or sexual behavior believed harmful by the individual or group using the term.

Sorry but the universaly accepted meaning of the word is for sexually deviant behaviour. Meaning paedophilia, bestiality, exposing oneself/flashing, sado-masochism, fetishism etc. Things that are not “normally” done by the majority of the population. (although nowadays it is not politically correct to refer to normalcy anymore). And we’re talking about behaviour, not thoughts or glances.

For a male to feel admiration and desire for a woman you just cannot use this term, sorry! It may be socially unacceptable to show this desire, but you cannot say it is abnormal since it is a natural feature of all beings on this planet!
Therefore this usage is a bad usage, or wrong understanding of the English word (I don’t know).
As I said in my previous post, a more suitable alternative would be saying “Oh he only thinks of this”, “he has a dirty mind” (although I disagree that sex is dirty, let’s say that the characters in the dramas consider it so), or “he is a sex maniac” (a gross exaggeration in most cases, but still not in the lines of deviant or perverted behaviour)

As for the “polite” expressions, I never said we shouldn’t keep the politeness.
Why is “I have come” or “You have come”, more polite than saying “Hello, good evening everybody!”?
And “I’m going first” can be easily translated as “Then I’ll be leaving. Goodbye/Goodnight/See you”.


So, about what Choesook said: “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 know that we all have various levels of awareness of how other languages are structured. Subject verb object is the most basic English structure, right?

It seems to me that, if someone knows enough of another language to be able to translate his or her own language into that language . . . then he or she would not get driven crazy, would they, to hear a translation that accurately represents the language they are translating into???

I learned, or rather absorbed, some Spanish when I was a tiny child growing up in Texas. Not a lot, but because I learned them at the same time I was learning my own language, I somehow was able to just get those words and concepts in my head AS SPANISH. And I think them in Spanish.

Later, when my English was well-established, and I took Spanish in high school, the Spanish I learned was always stuff I had to read in Spanish, and translate in my head–including grammar and sentence strucure–before I spoke it. I never got to a level of fluency where I could just think in Spanish.

So there has always been a kind of disconnect between English and Spanish for me. But I wouldn’t say that it drives me cray cray.


“Respect the native language patterns as much as we can”
What about respecting the target language as well?

Here is a sentence from an episode I’m working on right now:

“Because of the numerous obstacles you’ve created, it’s hard to get over them.”
Obviously someone was trying to be respectful to the structure of Korean here.

I would change it to:
"You have created so many obstacles that now it’s hard to get over them. "

Whenever I go to Seoul, of all the words we’ve spoken,
I only see your smiling face.

(Is a smiling face part of the words?)

Viki's standards being low af

the word pervert is more focused on the word abnormal behavior? So that could be a reason.


it is easier to keep English order, but I saw that I didn’t have to flip each sentence. The seggers tend to cut the sentence in half so I just need to make sure each segment is in good English order. The amt of cognitive dissonance that comes from flipped sentences is so strange. You hear one thing but see another. It’s being spoiled at times so I dislike it immensely.


My dear, you see this from the perspective of a Korean speaker.
Just think that the vast majority of the people reading those subtitles will not be Koreans or half Koreans or Korean speakers.
If they are Koreans or know good Korean, they will most probably disable the subtitles altogether. Unless they see them as a tool to help them learn better English, a purpose which won’t be served by preserving Korean sentence order.

What about the opposite? Suppose you have to translate an English show in Korean. To which language pattern would you like to be faithful, so that your viewers can fully understand it and enjoy it the most?


NEVER! Because that might force me through the error of kowtowing to become your disciple and I already have a Shifu…! Denying once’s Shifu is a capital crime! Although TECHNICALLY my Shifu is all about segmenting…but no, I will remain steadfast! (ready with the 18 Dragon Subduing Palm stances!)

(muttering) Okay. This deal only involves Chinese Paladin 1. I will, if no other suitable candidates arise, work the English editing on that one following in your TE wake. But I will not follow you as your disciple!

(snaps fingers) There! HA! And that’s if I don’t get Advisors…which if I get that, I seriously need ALL hands to help with that one! It will be worth it… :slight_smile:

As for the SH problem…queue up LGX’s sword display and watch that to help dissolve your tears. :slight_smile: I can play that tune on my guzheng. :slight_smile: Or queue up the Mongolians singing and Yuan Hong’s singing at the gathering. :slight_smile: There are fun moments in this drama along with the tears. It is a great drama though - and that’s why they make us cry too. Liu Shi Shi really does earn it there. :slight_smile: Bit of romance too… :slight_smile: Worth your efforts to correct it, and I will assuredly watch this again when you finish it, let me know. :slight_smile:

Sigh. It’s not just SH that gets a person crying, you know. I was editing Episode 19 Condor and Hu Ge and Ariel Lin got me. Sigh. Heck, even Mei Chaofeng got me…the blind crazy woman calling for Shifu…desperate for forgiveness and knowing who saves her. Sigh…Chinese Drama seems to make a point of making us know even the “bad folks” in a way to see them as people too, with feelings, and even sometimes excuses for what they have done…

Editing can give us an even better respect for a drama we’ve already seen. I had seen Condor once with a reasonably watchable English translation - but what I see now in ours has more depth - I now know the translation wasn’t anywhere near as good as what we as volunteers are putting forward here as our version. The poems. The history, properly shown. All of it. The real complexity of what might be dismissed blithely as “wuxia”…but in reality has actual history (correct history) in it along the way! Cultural lessons…and cooking. :slight_smile: Yes, the Huang Rong cookiing show!

MUAHAHAHAHA…I’ll raise your laugh and add a Rukia laugh from Bleach. :slight_smile:

And my usual cheerful Naruto “we can do that” look. :slight_smile:

GeNie of the Lamp More rest of the cold before I finish Condor 20…I hope! POOF!