Quality over quantity: how to avoid bad translations in subtitling

  1. Because sometimes translators will think they are right when they’re not, and will edit a good subtitle to make it wrong.
  2. Because it would harbour resentment between team members.
    Editing should be the responsibility of one qualified person.


Two sides to every coin, right? Because on some projects I’ve worked on, there are some subbers who can fill in like 50-80% of a part, which another subber then has to finish up. Sometimes sentences are split over multiple segments and Subber A only translated the first half. Sometimes, after translating some of the harder segments, the previous subs don’t match or flow right. And in such cases, I think it only makes sense for Subber B to edit the subs.

I mean, if there’s a translation editor on the team, there’s usually only one, and it’s not unlikely for them to miss some things. I still think that it makes sense for a subber to edit something if they catch it.

This depends on who the team members are. Because personally, if I made a small slip up with my translation, I would like for someone else to catch it. And if I were to majorly mess up a translation, I’d definitely want it to be fixed and then have someone tell me so that I don’t mess up again. That’s kind of the reason I like to work on a team; otherwise, I would just sub all by myself, you know?

I just don’t like the idea of telling every subber to butt out of editing because it’s not their role and someone (though not necessarily them) might mess it up. It’s a little bit like condemning all subbers because of some troubling ones.

But another part of working on a team is that you cooperate and compromise. If an editor on the team I subbed on didn’t want me to make edits, I wouldn’t. In the end, it’s less work for me and more for them, so what would I complain about.


slightly under the cover, but more of a mutual understanding:

1_If the sentence covers say 10 segments, we say DO NOT TRANSLATE AT ALL, unless you know all 10. Why? The other 9 may depend on 1 and even the one you subbed may need to be changed. However a bit flexible as… if you get the tail end of the sentence it is very easy and definitive ex: that is all I want to say, or I am sternly warning you. etc. Something clear and easy.

2_In beautiful mind we all edit each other (spot edits) but we do not do it excessively; only if we catch something. THIS IS BECAUSE WE ARE ALL EDITORS here or there. We have all been given clearance by the chief. There are other “normal” subbers who are only “subbers” on the front page but do spot edits. In fact we ask each other to please do correct when we see errors. For example, I am not an actual “translation editor” on beautiful mind, yet I do these edits as needed according to our show’s time table and when I do see something. Save for maybe a handful of the subtitlers, we are all good editors on other shows and have been cleared with the chief.

I think when that understanding is uncertain you run into trouble. The second reason might be an attachment to one’s work. Some people get mad or sensitive about their work getting altered. I would suggest those people be chief. That way their edits would tend not to be overridden.

I used to be more defensive about my own subtitles but quickly realized a lot of people here are better than me. Better mastery of Korean, I can name at least 7 id’s right now. I can name 5 truly fluent subtitlers in BOTH (English and Korean) languages. I can name at least 5 who have better English than I do. I’m doing pretty well in terms of skill level but I know that I am not “the best” nor the “only one.” These are out of the id’s I have worked with 1:1. Anyone realizes quickly where you stand. If I were to continue to be defensive (in my heart though I never expressed it), it would be counterproductive to our community development and idiotic of me. It’s stunting my own growth. So… I have learned to let go and not be so controlling. Besides!!! I don’t have that much time to chase after everything! So only 1 show at a time for me. The others are spot things here and there.

For example I got 2nd place for 2nd most subtitles in Lucky Romance. I did not need to be there, but I did just to fill in when needed. 830 subtitles. 1st place was over 10,000. She did most of the show.


In the first example you have given, the 2nd subber can definitely change the original sub in order to make the entire sentence flow better. So that’s acceptable.

Ideally, if we are all mature and have a good understanding of what our own level is, there shouldn’t be any problem. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. In addition, some people might be good with historicals, while some older working people might know more about legal or business terms, and some younger subbers (or people who lived in Korea recently) may be more familiar with modern slangs. Sometimes, a subber may be more fluent than a designated translation editor. There is no one perfect solution to fit every situation.

However, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there are way too many scenarios when some subbers just overwrite other subbers’ work when the original subs were correct to begin with. Sometime, they replace the correct sub with incorrect subs because they think they know it better than they actually do. Other times, they just change some wording just because they prefer another word with the same meaning. Other times, they just make some grammatical corrections (like punctuation or capitalization), but they still miss something. So editors will have to edit that sub anyway. Some editors look at every single variations of subs written for each seg to find the best sub and it takes too much of an effort if there are multiple subs within the same segment.

So, yes, I agree that there are times that it would be beneficial for subbers to change other subbers’ work. But the risk outweighs benefit and we typically tell subbers not to change others’ work, unless if the translation is completely wrong or incomplete.


Maybe, one solution would be having linguistic proficiency badges?
They can set a standardized test for each language so that others can know your proficiency level, and editors can take that into concern when editing subtitles?
So for example, if the subber has a higher proficiency level than the editor in a particular language, his/her username will be highlighted in red so the editor might take that into account and be less likely to replace a correct sub with incorrect subs?


Sophie’s example is a bunch of experienced high level editors who work as a community with intense communication between them. I’ve seen this in the English team of Jackpot, they were all amazing, it was exciting just to read their comments, although I didn’t understand half of the intricacies of Korean nuances of meaning. But this situation is far from being the norm!
I’ve seen a moderator change for the worse a subtitler’s work. I’ve seen a subtitler change my own subtitles when I’m moderator and editor, without even asking, and I had to change them back when I happened to go back to them just before locking the episode. Yes, what if the editor is doing the edit little by little, and in the meanwhile there is a subtitler who is surreptitiously changing stuff?
I mean, there are all sorts of scenarios.

All in all, I feel that in most “normal” cases the final responsibility should lie with one person, to avoid misunderstandings and so that there is unity of style.
Every translator has not studied in depth all the parts of all the episodes, to know what word and style choices have been made for each little thing.

So I’d say, let each team leader make the rules for each specific drama according to the type of team they have.


I think what is meant is that sometimes direct translation is fine, and other times it makes the subtitle incomprehensible to, or at least very unnatural for, the target audience.


A good text about stuff we struggle with daily. Feels nice to think I’m not the only one :laughing:


Interesting article, thank you for posting it. :slight_smile:


Thank you, everyone that posted here, for this information. As a somewhat recent user of Viki (I signed up in the summer of 2018) and a novice subtitler (I’ve only been subtitling for a few months), I found this information to be helpful in reviewing my own subtitles. I don’t get feedback on my subtitles although I would like to, so I just have to be critical with myself and double check my work. So far, the teams I have worked with have been amazingly polite and quick in answering my questions on how to subtitle certain phrases. Before I started volunteering on Viki, I never knew how nuanced subtitling could be! Now I appreciate subtitlers even more for their hard work.


The original first post was from 2014, and 5 years laters it’s also helping you, so that’s a nice thing to see/read here. Good Luck in all your future projects, and remember to always put Quality first, over Quantity. Thank you for your volunteer work/subtitles in the dramas. No matter what Language we know, is a precious thing to share our gift with others all over the world.


I think the rating system and the suggestion system is diabled now isn’t it?


There never was a rating system just for the quality of the subs, which is what was discussed here.

It would offend far too many GT offenders :smirk:


I don’t know who are GT offenders

I asked in general whether that(rating and suggesting the subtitles) is disabled now because I’m new here.
I have seen some profiles who are active years ago(my language).Their recent contributions showed they suggested a subtitle. And i saw @leerla73 's profile she rated some subs.


My language



I asked @leerla73 a while back the same thing how she did that rating bc since 2013 that I’m here, and I never saw that before, but I don’t even remember what she answered lol. Then, it hit me and my memory fog dispersed.

YES, rating and suggesting subtitles
years back was called a ONE LINER: a person would suggest a subtitle and we would give it a like or change (edited) our own version. I would never RATE One Liner for a language I didn’t know, only my native Language Spanish and Second Language; English. Maybe, leerla knows your language? Btw, I am so grateful for whoever eliminated that One Liner bc abusers that wanted subtitles count would give the same subtitle a person wrote, and add a period/change a word, and would get it as subtitle count in their page.

I hope they never, ever, bring that One Liner here again, not productive at all.


So they count as a contribution too isn’t it. And i didn’t check all but from the screen shot i took out of 5 on it 3 have spelling mistakes and it counted lol.

No! She doesn’t know my language. That was a screen shot from my language’s subtitler’s profile.both are different screen shots.


Well, if I haven’t said so WELCOME and GOOD LUCK in all your projects, and Thank you for your contribution as a volunteer here at RVIKi.

I remember how angry I used to get with those ONE LINER that created so much chaos here. I think you should concentrate on applying in dramas/movies/shows as an Editor in your language bc my experience tells me that volunteers like you, are hard to find. The concern you show when you see misspelled stuff in your language shows me you really care to see quality subs in your language.


Ah, thoooose… Yeah, one-liners were sporadic subs a newbie subber would write in order to get accreditation for his profile in the old Volunteer Finder.

The most problematic part of one-liners was the fact that they were completely without context. If I remember correctly (and it was so long ago), you just knew which drama you were translating. And if you haven’t watched that drama… well, tough luck.

Google Translate posse. Those who don’t really know how to translate, so they copy-paste it from GT. Also known as the Evil Googlators™. :roll_eyes::upside_down_face:


Well, I think you only knew it later, when you looked at your contribution, but I might recall that wrong.

There are 2 threads from 2013 and 2016, it might give you an idea of what a mess it was

P.S.: Don’t ask me why one is boxed and the other isn’t I have no idea



Yes, it was after we did the one liner, and saw it in our page that we would know what drama it came from (that is why in Spanish they would do the sub as female when it was suppose to be male) etc… I stopped doing one liner when I realized I was making that same mistake too.