Translation dilemma


Ever since I started watching dramas on Viki, something about the English translations has been really bugging me. Mind you, I don’t mean to criticise or anything. I’m just curious, since it’s like this across most, if not all dramas.

For instance, whenever someone offers food or maybe a gift, the other person replies by saying that he or she will eat or use whatever they’ve received well. Uses of adverbs and actions such as these apply to all translations no matter the drama. I’ve watched a few, so I can confirm this.

I’m not at all familiar with Hangul, but I’ve never heard English speakers express themselves in such a manner. Then again I’ve never seen anyone eat his or her food well, so maybe it’s a cultural aspect of which I’m unaware.
Can anyone please enlighten me on the matter?


As you already understood by yourself it is indeed a matter that only there exists.
And the translators decided to keep this cultural difference.
However, some of other languages translators when we translate from English to our corresponding language we are trying to change that somehow in order to be relevant to how we speak in our country.
And there are more expressions like these.
For example,"“I’ll leave first”", ““You are here?”” ““I have come””, ““Seriously””, ““You’ve worked hard””, This little…""


“Oh, it’s like that.” Another familiar expression. :slight_smile:
Thank you so much for your explanation!

Hi Adrian,

I’m having a little trouble understanding what you mean exactly, but I’ll give this my best shot.

In the example you gave, I don’t think that translation is wrong per se. It might not be used often, but even in English, sometimes when someone gives us something, we may say “Thanks. I’ll put it to good use.” or “I will use it well”.

From a cultural stand point, telling someone they “eat well” is kind of a compliment. Sometimes Chinese grandmothers will say that about little kids, I’ve seen this in Korean dramas before. I think in Asia in general, food is linked to wellness and prosperity. In Chinese, “Have you eaten?” is sometimes used in place of “How are you?”.

Hope that kind of answered your question. Feel free to correct me if I’m thinking about this wrong.

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You are very right. These are literal translations of Korean-Chinese-Japanese idioms that don’t make any sense in English and should be corrected by General Editors, but may of them are too shy to do this.
I almost always try to change them to something more appropriate.
For instance, how can a subordinate tell his superior at work “You’ve worked hard”? It’s not his place to commend the superior for good work. Everybody in an office telling each other that they worked hard (whether that is true or not!)
Some possible workarounds:
You’ve worked hard => “Good evening”, “Goodbye”, “See you tomorrow”
I always laugh at “Eat a lot”, especially as we know that all those actors, and generally Koreans, are always on a diet.
Eat a lot => Enjoy your meal, bon appetit, let’s eat. In some cases even “Eat as much as you like” could be appropriate, if it’s a mother encouraging a shy guest.
I’ve eaten well => It was really good, I enjoyed it; Excellent meal madam. etc.
I’ve come => Here I am! Good evening. Hi!
You came => Welcome.
I’ll use it well => I’ll enjoy using it, I’ll put it to good use or just “Thank you so much”.

“Thank you for the food” could be kept in most cases, though. Especially if there are many people saying it.

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Personally, I appreciate the fact that some people leave them as they are, even if they sound a bit off. I think it helps with immersion.

That being said, I do try to change them to something that sounds more natural, when I’m translating from English to Greek. Mostly to avoid Greek Editors/Moderators from coming at me with pitchforks. :stuck_out_tongue:


I think in Greek they sound even weirder than in English. Just imagine “Eat a lot” in Greek.
“Why? Are you trying to make me become a whale, so that you can take my boyfriend?”

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“Έλα, πάρε μπόλικο (φαΐ)” , “Φάε μπόλικο.” , “Φάε καλά, (να χορτάσεις)”.

It’s not THAT weird… :confused:

To be honest though, 99,99% of the time I watch stuff with English subtitles, so I can’t really comment on the Greek ones from a viewer’s perspective.


No, the translation isn’t wrong. It’s just culturally different, let’s say.

Awwwwww… That’s so sweet. In my humble opinion, asking someone, “Have you eaten?” is the highest act of kindness. :slight_smile:

Thank you for your reply!

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I was so happy to see your reply. Yes, those alternatives do seem better.

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Speaking of immersion, I do appreciate that certain words are kept unchanged, like “chaebol” instead of “rich kid.”


If I go visit my mother, who lives 5-minutes from me and often sends me Tupperware with food, or speak to her on the phone, which I do several times per day, and she asks “Have you eaten?”, it will be absolutely normal. And it won’t be the only question, she will also ask about my day, has my son gotten home from work, possibly our health and so on.
But when you see a family member after 10 years and the first question is not “how have you been all this time” (as in “have you been sick, do you have a job, have you been happy, did you get married and have children?”) but “have you eaten?”, it sounds VERY weird to Western ears.
(This happened in 20th Century Boy and Girl)

Absolutely! I also like to keep all the cultural references like titles, appellatives, food, geographical and historical stuff - of course explained on a note.

Has anybody ever said that to you?
Of course if you were little orphan Annie, or a homeless person, raggedy and thin, and you were taken into some kind person’s house, of course the person who put a plate in front of you could say that to you. But in normal instances?

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A lot of times actually. Mainly my grandmother, ocsasionally my mother and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it from friends once or twice… Definitely not as common as in Korean Dramas though. :smile:

You must have been a thin boy…:wink: I’ve never needed any encouragement, LOL!

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Common greetings and polite words in Chinese culture.

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Yep! “Have you eaten?” is a super universal greeting. It can serve as a combination of “Hi, how are you? How’s your breakfast/lunch/dinner” and more.

BUT we young people seldom say it to our peers. “Have you eaten” is way too polite for friends and so far as make it awkward. Especially when it’s not a meal time, like 3 or 4 pm, I think my friends would be speechless if I greet them asking “Have you eaten”. But it’s fine for elder people anyway.

I agree on the workarounds except the above one.

Strictly speaking, “You’ve worked hard” is not a greeting, but an encouraging, appreciative and admiring expression.

I think the Chinese “You’ve worked hard” can be rendered as “Good luck”“Great job”“Thank you for your hard work”(superior to subordinate) or just “Thank you for what you’ve done”“Thank you”(young people to their elders and teachers)

It does occur that a subordinate tell his superior at work “You’ve worked hard” in Chinese. As for this, I am not sure how to translate it. Seems that “Thank you. I am grateful” would be fine??

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Hahaha it reminds me of a Chinese Internet slang for describing something that is really funny:
“Are you trying to make me laugh to death, so that you can inherit my Ant Check Later?(a consumer credit product from Alibaba Group, Chinese Amazon)”.

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True. Just for fun, let’s translate some common Greek expressions.
I am a secretary at a dance school. Pupils come to me to pay the monthly fees and then go down for the lesson. I say:
Καλό μάθημα! “Good lesson” (it means “I wish you have a good lesson, an enjoyable lesson”. We could say in English “Enjoy your lesson”, but I don’t think people would say it routinely.)
And they reply
Καλή συνέχεια! “Good continuation” (it means “have a nice remaining work day”. We also say it when leaving a taxi, wishing the taxi driver that his remaining shift goes well)
When someone leaves, especially with a car, we say to him:
Καλό δρόμο! “Good road!” (it means go safely, have a nice trip etc.)
When a new book comes out, we wish the author and the editor:
Καλοτάξιδο! “Good trip-ey” - the proper English translation would be seaworthy (In this context, with no ship, means “may it have a good journey” = may it sell a lot and get good reviews)
When someone is preparing for an exam, a performance or whatever, we wish them
Καλή επιτυχία! Good success! (It means, of course, “I wish you success”)
For birthdays:
Χρόνια πολλά! Many years!
If someone buys something new, we wish them:
Με γειά! With health! (It means “May you wear/use it while being healthy”)
And, of course, when we meet or leave someone, we say to them:
Χαίρετε! Be content! or Be happy!
Or, if we are more familiar with them, just:
Γεια! Health!

Can you imagine a translator from Greek to English keeping all those common expressions just as they are, for the sake of “authenticity”? Maybe from those you can guess somehow the meaning, but they do sound very weird to an English speaker, don’t they?