Struggling to translate formal titles


For University, we say semester, we have Wintersemester from Oktober to February and Sommersemester from March to July. For High School we use “Unterstufe” and “Oberstufe” referring to the German schools system. “Unterstufe” is first year and “Oberstufe” second. And Elementary and Middle School have classes.


This would be predecessor and successor. Senior would be Dienstälterer and Junior Dienstjüngerer, but both sound a bit clumsy and I would not use them. ^^


Personally, I love them as well. I always listen to the way people address each other, so I know how to correctly translate / understand a sentence, even when it’s not written in English. I learned not to do it after working with certain editors and in certain dramas it just becomes confusing for a person, since it’s used so often. I mainly do C-dramas, where you can skip over terms like sunbae & hoobae (I used the Korean terms, since I forgot what it was in Chinese). In modern Korean dramas I have no problems with those terms.


It’s easy when you use the origin Chinese terms plus add a T/N at first use. I don’t think viewers who are watching many foreign shows with subs are overstrained to learn few culture specific terms especially not when they like a certain culture and watch several films of a country (and you’d hear it anyway and then you’ll know it after a while plus the sentences become shorter too. In worst case the viewers may just think it is another Chinese name but with the new series that do have Chinese signs parallel to Western subs it’s even easier to realize the terms or numbers for the third brother etc.).

The character’s names are okay but writing something like Three in English then would be so weird…


I saw someone translate sunbae in my language into “older colleague” because in my language we don’t have such a word as a senior. I think it was a good description.


I would love to take the original Chinese words here, but I’ve never seen them on Viki and the sentences with the literal English translation are often too long.

That’s exactly what happens sometimes. Seventh. That’s all. Reminds me of Stranger things and Eleven.


I’m not sure if it’s region differences as there are quite a lot in Germany, but in my school there was “Unterstufe”, “Mittelstufe” and “Oberstufe”, so “Unterstufe” would be for children around 10-12. Maybe those differences are a result of G8/G9.


Did you see that on Viki? And when you saw it what did the subtitles show when the girl was speaking? Did they show Oppa as well or did they show his actual name?
If it’s the latter case the subber might just have opted for a more westernized translation. In Korea you cannot really call someone brother/sister if you’re not that close, so calling someone oppa would be equivalent to calling someone’s first name in another country.

Another example I saw of making subs more westernized was a scene in which a younger girl called an older girl by her name. The older girl told her she should call her unnie. The subs showed: ‘you must be polite to me’. Not the same sentence, but in the end it has the same meaning.


That’s right,if you’re talking about a “Gymnasium”. In dramas they usually talk about Elementary school (6 years), Middle School (4 years) and High School (2-3 years). I referred to the Highschool, so with G8 we have only 2 years and I know this as “Unterstufe” and “Oberstufe” of the High School. You may use “11. Klasse” e.g. as well :slight_smile:


In a drama that I’m currently subbing, I had trouble to translate the word 어르신 (elderly person). There isn’t really an equivalent to it in Dutch. I thought about using ‘bejaarde’, but that refers more to someone really old that cannot take care of himself anymore without help and it can be insulting to call someone that while 어르신 is an honourable term. And this character had grey hair, but wasn’t that old.
Using mister would also not fit, because the people surrounding him were like his friends and mr. would sound awkward.
After some searching I choose to use the word ‘nestor’. It means ‘the oldest person in a group’. And since they were in prison, the group mates never changed and I think the word was suitable. Even though it does look a little awkward to me because it’s more used as a descripton and not really used to address someone it probably was the best solution for that situation.


I saw this on Viki. The most recent show I remember seeing this in was “The Fiery Priest”. Ssongsak Tekaratanapeuraseoteu said something like “she called me by my name” when Seo Seung-A called him Oppa for the first time. There was no reference to Oppa in the subtitles.


Ah, not in most Western countries. You can be on first-name terms with people you like and don’t like, people you’re close with or not. Oppa is a specific term of endearment and closeness. This situation really doesn’t have a good translation to Western languages.


They always talk about respecting the other language and teaching other countries the Korean terms but when it comes to English I feel that Oppa, Sunbae, Unni has no real meaning unless we write what oppa really means in English which is boyfriend (and in some cases/dramas it’s brother).

So in the beginning of a certain scene if a young girl calls the guy oppa and if is obvious to me he’s the boyfriend I translate as Honey in english/ Querido in Spanish. If the girl in the scene is the sister I write Brother/Hermano.

If is an idol singer/actor and the girl is going crazy over the guy I have no choice but to leave the word as oppa, and I write an explanation about why she calls him Oppa. I thank God I see less and less that word in dramas/shows etc. On Netflix. Prime. Tuby and many others they use the first name of the character although you hear the word Oppa. I really don’t see anything wrong in doing that.

It is my believe that if I’m writing subtitles in the English language, everything should be in English and I can accomplish that by using what is closest to that word in the english language.


I personally liked that Viki subtitles were different in the past and did not conform as much to the localization as it is the case of professional subtitles.
Looking back, fan subtitles like anime subtitles would try to cater to the fans who appreciated more cultural context and subtitles closer to the original. But I guess with the increasing popularity times are changing.


Even professional translators follow the orders and preferences of their higher ups. If they want cultural colours within the subs, the translators follow and include such expressions.



You can do it if you’re the language mod :slight_smile:

I know that some language mods for European languages use origin Chinese terms, but overall it seems most think Chinese terms don’t deserve to be used different to Japanese or Korean terms (I don’t understand why since Chinese terms aren’t “more” difficult than Japanese or Korean).

Professional translators for TV/Netflix usually stick to origin language titles when it is an European language, e.g. all series I watched during the past months that were either with subs or synced version kept English, French, Italian and Spanish titles/addressings, Russian titles were translated into English addressing/titles (synced version) which was a bit strange and Chinese titles were translated into English titles (for German subs, but I think that was because the titles that were used in that Chinese film have some kind of official international English version so they didn’t translated it into German and maybe that was the reason for the Russian titles too).


That’s good to know. It would be interesting to see if there have been changes in translation practices when the medium becomes more mainstream. I haven’t looked into this, but I can imagine that maybe the Anime DVDs released in the past have different subtitles compared to the releases nowadays. I read somewhere that long time ago (in internet standards) some DVD company kind of failed because the subtitles were targeted to the general public instead of the fans, since back then Korean shows were still a niche.


Animes without their “special” terms wouldn’t be so funny and missing a lot of their wits :slight_smile:
Look at meeee, senpai! ^^


I am also of the same opinion. There are some things which are peculiar to the culture. Although we can use “Auntie” and “Grandma/Grandpa” for elderly people, in some languages, if those languages also had them in the past. People will remember them from fairytales and folktales, or if they are just a bit older they might have heard them.
But generally I prefer to use seonbae and hubae, oppa, eonni and so on (with Revised Romanization, no point in writing them in a way the English will understand when we’re not even writing for an English public). The first time it comes in a drama there’s a note, and after that the viewers are expected to remember what it means.
There are so many things which are peculiar to Asian culture, such as referring to people with their job titles. In Italy, for instance, we only do this for doctors, lawyers, teachers/professors and directors. You would never say to someone:
"Painter Rossi, if you meet Cleaner Mazzolino, tell her to finish preparing the conference room, because Actor Manfredi is going to give a poetry recital tonight".
And sometimes it’s very difficult to adapt these things. That’s why I’ve taken the decision to let the viewers know how things are done in Korea, let them in the fun, so to speak.
Dishes, too. I can explain in a note that mandus are like ravioli and rice cakes like gnocchi, and ramyeon are like spaghetti, but it wouldn’t do to call them that all over the drama, otherwise the viewers would expect to see tomato sauce and parmesan cheese over them. And what’s wrong in learning the real name of Asian dishes? It might be useful the next time they go to an Asian restaurant, or make a trip there!


I think you’re right. To get close to someone in the West the closest you can do is call someone’s name. I think that be similar to call someone the rightful term in Korea since you cannot always use first names there. Of course in the West, you could also use first names with people you’re not that close with, but I think to express closeness these two terms are comparable, even if not perfect.