Sacrificing Speed for Quality in Subtitles

The question is if you would choose to completely remove cursing in situations in which two gangsters are angry with each other? Or two teenagers speaking in slang because they want to be able to speak to each other without the adults completely understanding them?

In those two situations, as an OL mod I would welcome you leaving the cursing and the slang in. Because otherwise the dialogue would seem unnatural.

I’m all for dryness of English as a means of easier translation to OL languages. But there is a base minimum an OL Mod needs to understand to be able to do their job. If an OL Mod can’t translate even the simplest of the slangs, they should not be Moderators and in charge of accuracy of their own language.



As an OL mod, I want the English teams to retain the original dialogue. Sometimes, while editing/subtitling, I come across so many instances where the English subtitle is missing part of the Korean dialogue, or the wording has been changed.
I came across this one recently –
The English subtitle translated “in our country” to “in Korea.”
This does not change the meaning, but something is lost in translation still.
Another example I can add:
Let’s say the listener’s name is Kang Min, the speaker is his younger sister. She is angry at her brother and calls her “Kang Min” instead of “Oppa.”
The brother angrily says in Korean:
“You call your Brother “Kang Min”?”
The English subtitle translates this to –
“Is this how you talk to your brother?”
Viewer can clearly hear “Oppa” and “Kang Min” in the dialogue.
This is another case of lost in translation.

If the show is R rated, then subtitles should contain the original (related) curse word. One can tone down curse words in case the show is not R rated, but when it is, do not shy away from using the actual words.

To convey original work’s meaning, slangs are okay as long as they are not region specific. We talked about “divvy up” in another thread, which is an American slang. English viewers are not only in US, but also in Canada, UK, India, Australia, etc.

If an OL mod does not know several widely used slangs, then maybe the mod is not fluent enough in English.


I just wanted to add my perspective when translating in Polish.
When the drama is <18 rated and it’s about something wholesome, I either censor the cursing or add some light alternatives.
When the drama is >18 rated or if it’s about something heavy, I leave the curse words in.
I think this issue heavily relies on the context.


As a Chief Editor of K drama and also a subber, I do strive to retain the original dialogue – not word for word, but the content and the style. So if Korean slang is used, if there is well known English slang which is comparable I am going to use the slang. If foul language is used in Korean, then I will use foul language in English. But sometimes a word which is often translated as a curse word is inappropriate in the mouth of the character. So one word which is frequently translated as "bd" should not be said by a mother to her son. (If she calls her own son a bd, or a son of a ■■■■■, what is the mother character saying about herself?) That is what I encountered in a pre-sub today-- the use of the word out of the mouth of the character bespeaks the quality of the subber’s work, not because it is a swear word but because it is not appropriate or a mother to call her own son that! Fortunately in the drama, we are allowed to edit the English but what would happen to the other language subs if it were a drama where editing English is forbidden?
By the way “divvy up” is in both the Oxford and the Cambridge dictionaries.


The ownership, the sense of, it’s my home country, it’s where I’m from, and I miss it, or hate it, is lost in translation. This is where the audience emotionally loses out, and a disconect happens, even though it’s minor.


Korean (and Chinese) dramas already take care of this for us. If they are rated 15+ (or 12+), they won’t have heavy curse words anyway. I think their standards are equal or more stringent than those of most Western countries.
Most of those curse words in the pre-subs do not represent what’s said in the original (I don’t know about Chinese, but I’ve done a whole study on Korean curse words, so I can clearly see that)
Films, though, are often for an older audience, thus one can freely translate all the curse words.


I think we previously already discussed that the rating system is not the same in every country. And same can be applied to the sensitivity of the viewers to cursing.

Referring to what @zyxw said about ratings guiding the translation on profanities, a rating system should already take that into account.

But I really think that none of the translations should either be softened or made more derogatory. It just needs to be accurate to the meaning and the spirit.


I’m not fluent in Korean/Chinese/Japanese, so I can only guess the original “level of insult” and translate it according to that (the English version is not always perfect).
I’m translating from English and what I hear doesn’t always match what I feel from the screen? For example a girl calls her friend “b.itch” and from the scene I feel it’s more like “girl”, so I translate it as a “girl”. If a gangster calls his enemy “crazy something” and it’s a scene, where everyone is dying, the translation without a curse might be too weak and even though it’s accurate, it looks and sounds bad.

You said meaning and the spirit. I agree with that. It’s just that the “spirit” might make you use something lighter or heavier.

Each language has it’s specifics, so in some the cursing might be more acceptable than in others.
Honestly the insults in the dramas give me a headache when translating. The characters either sound like grade schoolers or full on offensive. It doesn’t help that Koreans love using “crazy” as a universal word T.T

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If I’m not mistaken, that situation may refer to the following word which is a famous and, unfortunately, repetitive error in English, influenced by the US culture.

The really good OL Mods can “read the room”/context in the series and adjust the expressions accordingly. The average Mods need the English to be on point.


The cultures where even the word “girl” is a derogatory word…


Here’s another example that I wrote about in the below thread/link.

“Another example is ㄴ ㅕㄴ (nyun) or 미친 ㄴ ㅕㄴ michinnyun (crazy girl/b itch). It could mean something like b itch, crazy biatch, or it could just be a sarcastic or playful or scolding term used by her own mom and obviously her mom isn’t calling her a b itch! So I really hate it when people just blankly sub Nyun as B itch and Jjashik/Saekki as SOB. I honestly don’t think Koreans in general doesn’t curse as much as Americans, unless if you are part of a gangster or something. So that’s why when I translate Korean cuss words, it always turns out a bit milder in English. It’s not because I’m trying to sanitize or censor cuss words but I try to translate based on the connotation of what is being said in that context and it usually turns out to be milder terms in English.”


Wait, I think I don’t understand exactly.

Do you feel that the language used in Korean dramas is milder or harsher than the language in American TV series?

The language used in Korean dramas tend to be harsher than how typical Koreans would talk in real life. But it’s still a lot milder than the language in American TV series. However, a lot of subbers/translators translate Korean a lot harsher than what it’s actually said, to follow more American ways, if that makes sense.


Yes, absolutely! Which is why we, OL mods, are in a bit of pickle because some of us come from countries which have more Korean than American mentality in language expression.


It’s enough to learn the most common 4-5 in Korean and go by your ears to confirm what the character really said. And then, considering what ajumma2 just wrote, and the fact that in your country it’s more like Korea than like the US (although Gordon Ramsay is British), your life is actually made easier.


I don’t speak Chinese and I don’t watch Chinese dramas so I can speak only for Korean dramas.

It is true that Viki had many talented Kor-Eng volunteer subbers/TEs, but there were just as many unqualified or abusive volunteers which is why I find the subtitles provided by the paid subbers for the newer Korean dramas to be generally better.

I understand the concerns about English editors not being actively involved in the newer projects and I agree that paid subbers working in harmony with the English editors (including TEs) would provide the best possible subtitles. However, I’ve always felt that CEs have almost too much discretion.

As to the use of foul language or slang, while I appreciate the efforts to tone down for the younger or sensitive viewers, I don’t think it is up to the subbers to stray too far from what the writer or actors intended. When it comes to artistic creativity, a well-intended modification could be a disservice. Just as I wouldn’t change “wanna” to “want” for use of proper English in a known song lyric or cover up the statue of David for decency, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the “F—” word in a subtitle if I think it best conveys what the actor said.


I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Actually, the problem we see time and again is the exact opposite of toning down. While the actors do NOT use any foul language, but the subbers take the liberty of using whatever the cuss words that come to their mind.

For example, there was a little argument between two girl friends, and one may say “저 나쁜 기집애!” (literally a bad/unkind girl) as the other girl turns to leave, and the subber would translate it as “that b itch!” or “that w hore!” or something that’s a lot stronger than what the actor actually said or intended.

Another one I’ve been seeing a lot lately on NetF…, is when a guy (cop, agent, etc.) is chasing after a bad guy and he misses him and exclaims something like “Ugh!” (아악!), and it’s translated as “F uck!” or “God D amm it!” Umm, no he did NOT just say that. Yes, he was shouting out of frustration, but that doesn’t mean he actually cursed. In this case, I would either just write something like “Ugh!” “Ahh!” or simply not translate anything at all since it was just a noise he was making and not a real word.


I have noticed that while Viki editors tend to tone down the curse words, NFLX subbers do not seem to shy away from using them liberally. I think part of the problem is the lack of appropriate English equivalent curse words for all the variety of situational/relationship-dependent foul language used in Korean dramas. For example, 개_새끼 and 나쁜_년 would have different meanings depending on the situation and the closeness of the speakers.


I have a story.

My mom started watching 21-25 on NX and stopped after the first episode. She disliked the main female character so much!

When I asked why exactly, she said she swears too much.

Since I saw the whole series before my Mom (and not on NX due to their 2-week delays for European countries), I had to go back and see what she was talking about.

Turns out someone translated her being angry with the ML and calling him a c***. The exact phrase she used was 재수 옵소 (not sure about spelling). “You are clueless”?

:pinched_fingers: :pinched_fingers: :pinched_fingers:


Twenty-Five Twenty-One is one of my favorite Korean dramas.

재수 없어 is another one of those popular Korean phrases that has multiple meanings depending on the situation. It can mean “unlucky”, “so rude”, “so full of yourself (himself, herself)”, "such an a__ (or a b____).

On a side note, 재수 by itself can also mean “(someone) re-taking the college entrance exam” and 없어 can mean “not (t)here”. I can’t remember where but I watched a drama that had wordplay involving the two completely different meanings of 재수 없어 for a comic effect.