What approach do you prefer when translating swear words?

What approach do you prefer when translating swear words? Do you want subbers to remove them or literally translate them or other?

Thank you all.


this section might give you some more insight, have fun reading :wink:

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+++++ or****** or just leave them out, or use some different word, nice to see darn instead of d–m or other four letter words, college educated and they use gutter language, doesn’t make sense.

someone needs to clean up their act. leave the words out would be a good thing have us use our imagination then. I hope I am not stepping out of line here!

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Translate them to target language’s equivalent.
If the source language swears, same level swearing in target.
If source language stars, star in target.
If source language omits, omits in target.

If it’s just a random swear word here and there (Like 1 in episode 2 then 1 in episode 7 etc.) I would simply switch it with one less offensive (unless there is a reason to keep it in which case i would use ******).

If it’s a drama with A LOT of swearing, a drama for adult audience or characters whose key characteristic is swearing then i would use s***s. (stars :stuck_out_tongue:)

If you are part of a team, then I would ask the Moderator. In any case though the editor will probably fix it if what you end up doing doesn’t match the rest of the team. :slight_smile:

It’s not only personal preference. Viki policy is that we tone-down swearing in dramas but leave it as is in films. So that’s what I do.

In dramas, many people just resort to punk or jerk, but punk sounds ridiculous in historicals. And I’m trying to find out alternatives, so that it doesn’t become boring. I hate asterisks with a passion. See my alternatives here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17yiuOkFXkrF7a-jUazj5Rh4_YyqVYEggJX_hey_0_xg/edit?usp=sharing.

As in films… I have moderated two films where swearing was an integral part of the plot and character:
Fasten Your Seatbelt - a very interesting satie by the way - and Sunny (Sunny is maybe the very best Korean film I’ve ever watched). In both there is a main character who is (in)famous for swearing all the time. So you cannot touch that.

However, as I learn Korean, I find out that most Korean swearwords are actually much milder than their English equivalents.
The one you find most frequently (kae sekkia) translates into “puppy”, or “son of a dog” (without any implications about the morals of the person’s mother). So if you translate it into SOB it is not correct.
Another one (the one which sounds as “sekki-ah”) is the exact word also lovingly used for “baby”. Why “baby” is an insult among adults? It’s beyond me. But that’s the way it is.
As for “kicchibae” for women, a relatively mild but still rude expression, it used to just mean “the house’s daughter” or just “girl”. (How a word for “girl” came to be an insult tells a lot about the position of women in Korea)
The real equivalents of f* words, starting by sh* in Korean, are seldom or never used in dramas. I’ve only seen them used in films, as for instance in the aforementioned Fasten Your Seatbelt where you can see the Korean equivalent of Gordon Ramsay swearing, and use of such words in every f* sentence!


Hi irmar,

I have read through your document. It’s quite detailed. I wish I had seen it before I started subbing, then I would have avoided many mistakes and troubles to others.

As your guidelines are mainly for K-drama subbers and I have to say that some items are limited to K-E translation, so is there an “English Subbing and Editing Guidelines for C-drama” in particular?

Thank you.


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Keep in mind that different moderators might have a different approach to some things. Although grammar is one for everybody, and also viki formatting is the same for everybody, so you’re safe there, there are style details for which the personal preferences can make a difference. So, to be on the safe side, ask your mod! If she doesn’t have her own style guide, you may even show her mine and ask whether there are some parts where she disagrees, and what does she want her team to do instead.
The asterisk thingie in swearwords is a good example. Some moderators like asterisks, some don’t. So… ask!

While the English grammar and style part is applicable to any translation, the examples of local words and local sentence structure are about Korean stuff because I am studying Korean language right now and also because I like watching and working almost only on k-dramas. I know nothing of other Asian languages so I’m not in a position to write about them.
However: there are parts which I think could be applied to other languages as well:

  • the part about not keeping the original language structure but making it into proper English
  • keeping some local words like family appellations and senior-junior (I know in Japan we say onni-chan and one-chan, senpai etc.)
  • keeping food etc. with explanations below instead of trying to come up with English equivalents (this is my own opinion: others do it differently)
  • not keeping expressions which don’t exist in English and sound very ridiculous and meaningless like “You’ve worked hard” “I’ve come” “Have you come”, “Eat a lot” (in a country where everybody is on a diet!), “I will eat well”. (again, this is my personal opinion, I know that many many other editors disagree with me and like to keep them!) I know that “You’ve worked hard” exists in Japanese dramas, but I don’t know about Chinese. But surely Chinese also has some expressions which, translated, make absolutely no sense in English.

Why don’t you try to compile a document specific to Chinese content, maybe in collaboration with experienced Chinese drama mods? You know, the one who hates me, and others too, who deal almost exclusively with c-drama? If you make a Google spreadsheet you may invite those people to help. Although I’m pretty sure that they all have their own guidelines written and saved somewhere. Ask and you’ll find stuff you didn’t think existed! In Greek they say “Asking takes you to Constantinople”.

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from https://www.viki.com/terms_of_use

Viki shall have the right, but not the obligation, to review Subtitle Submissions and delete any Subtitle Submission that violates these Terms or contains any of the following types of content (each a “Prohibited Submissions”):
Any Subtitle Submission that is unlawful, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, indecent, lewd, racially offensive, suggestive, harassing, threatening, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, abusive, inflammatory, fraudulent or otherwise objectionable;