Struggling to translate formal titles


I watched a drama elsewhere and in every single episode the Korean terms were explained. It was really annoying because it was a 40 plus drama.

One time the subs explained that ‘noona is a term a guy uses for an older girl’, but in the scene there were two women talking and the younger one clearly said ‘unnie’ and not noona!


I once watched a drama on another website where they used to replace all Korean titles such as these with the persons name. It used to feel pretty annoying when someone would call a person and the subtitle would say the name and what you hear doesn’t match what you read. I don’t know why exactly I felt that it was kind of disrespectful.
Specifically, when I was watching W there, and the bodyguard (I don’t remember his name) was calling Kang Chul “CEO” and the subtitle said “Chul” :face_with_raised_eyebrow::face_with_raised_eyebrow:
I mean I seriously do not understand who living on this earth of ours would call their boss by their first name like that.


I think Americans do… sometimes xD So when that happens when I watch a US film/show it feels already weird, but it’s also weird if the subs for a Cdrama (was not here) have an assistant of the boss/CEO and the boss use full name plus “du” (personal you) … The whole drama I was always bothered by every “du” I saw because that’s not common here especially not for high positions in a big company (it may be first name plus “Sie” but not full name and “du”…)

That are the cases when I think I’d prefer watching films with synced version because the synced version usually aren’t that weird.


:laughing: My best friend calls her boss by his first name since he insisted. I still get thrown off when she does that. I’m always wondering “who is that guy?”, then she tells me he is her boss. I’ve lost track how many times she has had to remind me of that. Personally, I would never do that. It’s like calling my teachers and professors by their first name instead of Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. ___, or Professor ___. I can’t imagine calling my environmental biology professor (who has a doctorate) “Barbara.”


I had to laugh when reading the last part, because it reminded me of how the professors insisted on calling them by their first names (not all, but at least 95%). Honestly, when I remember their names, I usually have no problem with their first name, but with their last… :smile:

But in the Netherlands it’s common to call your boss / (uni) teacher by their first name, or at least in the cities I worked / studied in.

I only do it if they have insisted on it more than twice.


A really good topic indeed!

I was able to know more Korean just because the subbers chose to keep original Korean words in English. I’ve improved my listening skills a lot in the past year; if I hear someone say “유 대리” and the subtitle says, “Mr. Woo”, I feel a sudden urge to go correct it (even though I am in no position to correct hard subs :joy:). I am really thankful to all the Viki English editors who ensure the Korean essence isn’t lost in English subs. I am very much obliged to these dedicated editors, because of them, I was able to pick up untranslatable Korean words.

I often use Hindi words (or English if the English version is more common) for translating these difficult words but if there isn’t any Hindi word for something, I simply transliterate the Korean term rather than writing the name of concerned person. Most viewers watch K-Dramas either for entertainment or for learning the language and if I omit these untranslatable Korean words, I feel like I am a wall standing between the viewer and the language.

A good example would be Noona and Oppa; if used for a sister or brother, I translate them to Hindi, if used for one’s lover, I simply transliterate them rather than using their name.


I feel you! It irritates me to no end, especially when I watch dramas on other sites and “Noona” is translated to the name. Viki translations really have helped me learn so much.