What do you find difficult when you edit and what is time consuming?

Many topics about editing already:

Do you have the same editing problems in your language or what else? (Not only about English edition)

1. Finding equivalents (or not) in my language:

  • Common Asian expressions are not in my language
    (Ex: “I will work hard. I am under your care” from an Asian employee in an Asian company. In my country, we don’t usually say that in this situation, so we have to find a correct sentence that is not said in my country but that would be understandable and not too awkward though it would be awkward just saying that.)

  • Honorifics: we don’t have these many degrees of respect or this variety of terminology. We kind of lose it when we translate.
    (Ex: “Virtuous Wife”)

  • The term used in English is specific to English and we have a palette of translations for this word, but it requires us to have more info on the context or people.
    English: “I like him” from male/female friends.
    French: “like” can be usually translated as “aimer”, “apprécier”, “aimer bien”, “adorer”… In this situation, we have to know the degree of their relationship: is it close friends, not close friends? If we pick “aimer”, it’s totally wrong if they’re just friends, it is like a love confession between friends! If we pick “apprécier,” it could be insulting for the friend, because the person doesn’t consider him as a close friend.

So it would be specific to English, but it could be too general or vague for us!
With words picking depending on the context, we need to have much more context that simple sentences are not showing, but that is indicated in non verbal communication, previous sentences from ep 1 and acting (kisses, hugs, jokes, going on holidays together…).

  • Terms: looking for the correct ones.

The most common and big mistakes I’ve corrected: by instinct, we tend to stick to the French term closed to the English term or literal translations because they look like each other, but they are not the same or don’t make sense.

Sometimes, feels like it’s archeology:

x French and English dictionaries, because English dictionaries have more definitions and complete ones than the English=>French dictionary.
x synonyms, slangs, acronyms, expressions: because we don’t have the same LOL
x Wikipedia or other internet links to pick the correct term (could be a historical term, a medical one, a legal one, a technical one…)
x Etymology. When the word I want to use was created? Is it too modern, too soon to use it at this period?
Have to look up for the etymology of the world and identify the exact period in History (many centuries between the first dynasty and the last one). Can’t find the date for some words.

Just for 1 word, could look up to 1-5 sources.

Be ready to read a lot for some terms.

Other cases:

x It could be simple questions with common words: should I translate it as “Mansion”, “House”, “Pavilion”, “Hall” when we don’t have seen it yet, but they talk about it.

2. Lyrics

  • Finding logic while making it poetic and keeping the meaning intact
    (Ex: first sentence talks about food, next sentence about traffic jam.
    Or Modern technology words in lyrics for historical dramas: this is not a mistranslation, this is what is said for real.)

3. Formal/Informal

| — | — | — | — | — | — | — | — |
|The pronoun “You” is everywhere|“You” is either “tu” or “vous”

2 words that are a subject of a lot of questions and add to the complexity.
Are they buddies? Does he call her with a title? What is their relationship? They kissed, but he still calls her “Lady” or “Miss”? Do they know each other? You see they’re in the same family, but in old times… Should we update it to informal speech now?
For 5 episodes we could still doubt about the translation of the English pronoun “you” and then edit again the 5 episodes when we discover it.

- In France: behaviour + relationships (friends, family, colleagues) => it’s formal or informal.
There’s no formal/informal title according to the gender and it’s not only based on the age of the person. Just the age is not enough info.

- In dramas: there’s not always a correlation between formal and behaviour of the characters, which makes it harder to identify the formal/informal speech.

- In Korean: there are honorifics to get clues, but it’s not always clear because we don’t have strict equivalents or when they switch from one honorific to another one.

4. Flow:

  • Asian ways of talking are not the same.

They begin a lot of sentences with “And, But, So”… which makes the transition difficult to translate. How to keep the logic between sentences?

Ex: 3 sentences in a row could begin with “And” and 3 sentences with a “So” clause.

  • Words order not always the same in French and there’s an order that it would be difficult to explain. Sometimes, it’s just from hearing, the way of talking that we’d know the order. That’s why being a native or fluent helps. If the order is not respected, it is not correct or people will frown with putting the sentence in the correct order. The effect would be like putting the Subject of the sentence at the end of the sentence! Strange, right?

Ex: the adverb location in an English sentence is not always at the same location for French.
English: I often play.
French: “often” is at the end of the sentence. No other location possible, but in another sentence, it could be at another location, it depends on the sentence each time.

And it is the same with a lot of words.

The dilemma:
x Keep the flow/keep the meaning intact question.

It is difficult when we know/don’t know the original language:

  • either we know: so we can’t change a lot or we can’t keep the tweak the subtitler has done, because this A word/expression is there or the way the English sentence was written was exactly what was being said, there’s no doubt.
  • either we don’t know: we wonder can we change it a little? We’d want that the translation goes our way and would be translated that way because the effect would be good in our language, but we also don’t know if it’s fine to change it a little to make it sound like what we’d say in our country (but it’s the same with the first bullet: it might be what they say in their country or what is being said LOL).

5. Keeping the same vocabulary and the correct one:

Already said that in another topic.

Ex: Same word, ep 1 English translation, ep 15-22-45 Chinese translation => check on previous 45 episodes to compare/change.

Or different words in English for the same thing but translated in French, it is 2 different things.

For French: it is worst when the term in question is changing from masculine to feminine or from plural to singular.
A search of this term in the bulk translation won’t be enough, because if the term was replaced with a pronoun, we have to change the verb and adjective forms in the sentence that contains this pronoun.
Longer search, another edition!

That is why we don’t like this type of changes.

6. Languages differences add to the complexity.

More rules there are, nastier it becomes for an editor :smiling_imp:

English subtitler/editor French subtitler/editor
Punctuation and capital letters for titles Punctuation not the same, capital letters (subtitlers stick to English, instead of French for dates or titles)
uncountable/countable Singular / plural / gender forms for adjectives, nouns, past participles + exceptions. Ex: Nouns ending with -s, -x, -z, -eu, -au, -eau, -ou, -al, -ail don’t have the same plural particles.
Conjugation: will/must, -s Conjugation: 1 same verb = 17 tenses = 17 x 6 verb endings for each pronoun (I, you…) + irregular forms + cases where the tense depends on the meaning of the sentence, like the conjugation for “It seems that she verb” => “verb” could be either in subjonctive, indicative or conditional form depending on the certainty (AI can’t know it if it didn’t follow the story)
Past participle: 1 form Past participle ending particles: irregular verbs, depends on the auxiliary “avoir” or “être” linked to it, the location of the complement before or after the verb, the nature of the complement direct or indirect, the nature of the verb, is it a reflexive verb? (AI can’t always know if the pronoun we talk about is feminine / masculine.)

Plural questioning map for French:

Past participles for French follow this questioning map (not complete):

It’s difficult to remember every rule and too many rules: find the correct and complete source that explains everything in a clear way. There are many websites shown by Google that are not enough thorough in a subject.
Ex: When I tried to find a schematic representation of past participles agreement with complement rules, exceptions, I didn’t find one in English as complete as in French.

7. Time consuming: review for subtitlers

One of the best ways for them to learn or improve in their translations is to have a feedback from a competent editor and for them to go see the edition.
This review is time consuming and we don’t know whether the subtitler would take it badly or not, whether the subtitler would want to continue contributing even if he didn’t take it badly and was grateful…

What was time consuming too was to make guides or compile quick and short “lessons” and create mini-exercices.
But it is helpful for some and we can just duplicate / send the doc once done instead of explaining.


The most common mistakes in my language:

  • mistranslations because the French word looked like the English one (but it’s another meaning) or use of an incorrect synonym / meaning for the context given or literal translations of English expressions (the result is: it makes no sense)

  • formal/informal speech mixed together in the same part between the same individuals

  • historical era speech / modern era speech mixed together

  • feminine/masculine/singular/plural when the sentence contains pronouns like “I liked it”. We forget which word was summed up by the pronoun and so we forget to put adjectives or past participles in the feminine/masculine/plural forms

  • conjugation: future, conditional, imperative forms. It is not as easy as English conjugation and depending on the verb, it is not the same particle though it is the same tense. These tenses also look like each other and in their construction, we need to know one tense to use it to build another tense (for ex: learning future tense first to be able to form conditional tense).
    Past participles irregular forms and its agreement: this is among the hardest rules, because we have to remember and ask ourselves more questions than for other rules.

  • not keeping the same vocabulary: “House” becomes a “Pavilion” or a “Mansion” whereas it is not exactly the same or the same word is already used to indicate another specific thing in the drama, so we can’t mixed them if they indicate 2 different things.

The difficulties
I think that what you wrote is more or less the same for all romance languages like Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
Some of these difficulties (formal/informal) would be the same in German, Greek, Russian and any other language which has polite and casual address.
The set Asian sentences like “You worked hard”, “I’ll go first”, “I request that you take care of me”, “I will eat well” are a problem for most non-Asian languages, I think.
The mixing of modern terms in historical series is a headache at the source, for English editors, it shouldn’t happen at all! And of course it’s easily propagated by subbers of all other languages. I still remember a quarrel I had with another editor who put in a Joseon peasant’s mouth the word “chignon”.

Three strategies

It helps a lot to attend even two-three months’ worth of Korean lessons. You don’t need to become even remotely fluent to have significant benefit. You learn to recognize formal/informal, you learn how word order works etc.

Of course it helps to have watched thousands of dramas, because you learn and recognize many terms and idiomatic expressions, by having heard them in many different contexts and read their translation - sometimes not always the same. You now know in which instances they may be used.
In a k-drama, you hear “Bulla!” spoken in an exasperated tone, often with a dismissive hand flip and the person moving away. You learn that in reality it’s “molla” and it normally means “I don’t know”. You’ve also heard it with its regular meaning: “You don’t know this? - No, I don’t know”. But you have learned that very often it is used in a figurative way, to mean “Whatever! I don’t want to hear more about this!”, “leave me alone, enough of this”. Usually by someone who refuses to see reality, inwardly recognizes that the other person’s words are right, but isn’t ready to admit it, therefore is annoyed - more with him/herself than with the friend.
Therefore, if the lazy English subber and the lazy English editor have left the sub as “I don’t know”, you now know that you shouldn’t translate it as “I don’t know!” but with something else.

Always keep your ears open. So that when you read a generic word like stew or porridge in English, which doesn’t have any equivalent in your language, you hear the Korean word, you look up the recipe and you are able to make an informed choice on whether to translate or put it in Korean (hijacking the generic English translation) with an explanation beneath.

Answer to the original question

The most time-consuming (and frustrating) thing, in my experience, is to have lazy subbers. Not inexperienced ones who make mistakes: with those I am infinitely patient. I’m talking about the ones who not only don’t know but don’t WANT to know. Who don’t care to better themselves, who can’t be bothered to read guidelines, who don’t check corrections, who don’t listen even if you painstakingly send them feedback messages and will make the same mistakes over and over until the end of time. Sometimes they have an even greater contributions count than I have - but they still suck.
All the rest is bearable and can even be fun. But this kind of people I can’t stand and I never work with them again.


What about specificities in your languages compared to English or French?

  • Yeah! For food, I don’t translate the dish word, I prefer to keep it Korean and explain it (bibimbap, miyeokguk…), though I do translate ingredients (zuchini… because can’t left 10 notes to explain each ingredient), except Korean ingredients that don’t have equivalents in my language (gochujang…).

  • Constructions of sentences helped me more for segmenting. For this purpose: read about conjunctions particles or the end of a sentence or sentence constructions in Chinese or Korean.

Was it useful to you for English editing and/or other languages editing?

  • For me, I accept subbers (new and old), they sub and then I edit and see. Compared to others volunteers’ criteria, I think that I am more flexible about recruitments at the beginning point, but I am less flexible after the reviews.

From the beginning or after a few episodes or a few parts and reviews given, the person is informed before and after that without following the review, I can’t continue editing like that because I have limited time to edit, that asks me too much time (1 hour to more just for 1 part) and especially for the same mistakes from ep 1 until the end.

If I see I have changed 50 % of the part and still do despite reviews and links, then I won’t keep the translator because I can translate it myself instead or someone else can translate better in a shorter time.

If I see it is just mistakes that can be easily fixed by the person (just adopting French punctuation over English punctuation for ex) though it is more than 50% of the part, then the person normally changes it.

If I see we’re in the middle of the drama or I am really late in editing and that I know some subbers’ tendancy for a type of mistakes, I will be less flexible for recruitment because the new recruit has to digest all vocabulary and characters relationships and I can’t spend more time to explain to someone while catching up with the drama. So I would recruit regular ones from then on, but most of the time, there’s none asking at this point, so I finish it.

  • Yeah, editing and subbing at the same time: if the team has no one anymore or we have a deserted team, then it becomes difficult to cumulate both (progress in edition for episode number x will be stopped while the editor is translating episode number x+3), but it becomes easier for later edition and review (fast edition for episode number x+3).

In these cases, I have this problematic question:
Around 1/3 or in the middle of the drama, is it better that I recruit this relatively new person at this time while I catch up on editing or is it better that I don’t and I catch up on subbing the last released episode(s) while delaying edition progress? Is it okay if the translation quality is so-so for over a period of time but the subs are there fast or is it better the translation is fine from the beginning but I can’t translate right away (+1-3 days compared to recruiting that person)?

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Both, of course. Because if the English editor is not careful while doing his/her job, and left the Korean word order in English, resulting in weird, sometimes incomprehensible sentences, I as an Italian editor can reverse-engineer the sentence, guess what it means, and turn it into decent Italian. Jumping over the English to the source Korean as it were.

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What would you do concerning the problematic situation between recruiting in the middle of the drama vs. delaying editing?
Have you already experienced it?

  • Yeah, though we’re working in other languages, sometimes check the script when we have it + Asian dictionaries, because the English translation is not clear or sounds strange or because the English translation is fluent but uses a word A (the translation would be word A’ in French), but having the original translation (either we have the equivalent, the equivalent expression that goes with it, a word B…). So skip English to directly translate from the Asian language-your language.

Yes, in a limited way. I’d say there is no one answer for all situations, I would decide case by case.

  • How impatient are the viewers,
  • how long is the drama (if it’s long it’s worth getting a subber who will take a little work to train but eventually will relieve me from part of the work),
  • whether I need to replenish my pool of subbers by training another one.
  • And of course it depends on how bad or how good the new subber is. I’d make her try her hand on one part and see how it goes, then decide. She would also know that it’s a trial post, not a permanent one in the team.
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Yes, it can’t be decided in advance.

Have you given trial posts for on-air or old titles?
Do you give reviews to English subtitlers?
Have you done a session for English to English subtitlers?

  • Yes, clear communication is really important from the beginning.
    When I expain them clearly my problems why I can’t spend 2 hours on a part, some volunteers understand perfectly and we harbour no hard feelings. At the same time, suggest something else for them. For ex now we have the nssa academy if they need to learn more about this and that, or a list of dramas that need subbers or they can contact other mods. There’re still opportunities if one really wants to on Viki.

There are subbers too we recognize their profile:

  • A usually sticks too much to English translations (lack of sense). So I will focus more on the flow or does it sound natural?
  • B is deviating too much (style really fluent, reading is easy, totally in the mood, but sometimes it is a new interpretation of the subtitle, like a rewriter, though it is a nice to hear rewriting). So I will focus more in hearing if I can recognize and take a careful look at the English translation.
  • C knows the original Asian language but small mistakes in French. So I wouldn’t focus on changing the meaning, but more on French grammar or conjugation.

We usually don’t have GE, TE and CE in French, we just have 1 at most 2 editors, so 1 editor has to look at everything, but knowing the profile of the subtitler helps me gaining time when editing.

Yes, it is important to have this info from the subber: can you speak Chinese/Korean?

Maybe having the same organization as English teams could help, but we lack editors or people knowing both (Chinese/Korean and French).

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Hear Hear! Lazy subbers are the bain of my existance. Its one thing if you make a genuine mistake but for you to straight up change the phrase or meaning in the context… yikes. I often catch myself correcting subbers as I watch shows with less experienced friends.

Recently I started to sub from English to Farsi/Persian. In this case the language actually translates better from the original Korean than the English subs… so often I fix errors in phrasing, form of respect and just word choice…

I have only been at it for about 10 hours, but I am also learning that it is incredibly time consuming to do it right. Like I have a Farsi keyboard and google translate on hand too for the correct spellings… In Farsi there are multiple letters with the same sound but they are not interchangeable. S alone has 3 forms. Kind of like the German SS…

@piranna I suggest watching the show first. It helps if you know the context of a relationship before you start translating. As for the forms of respect, maybe don’t stress them but make sure the phrasing makes sense. As for lyrics… Yea I think we all are tired of poorly used English lyrics in Korean songs. I love BTS but the song that they created for America has me cringing and turning it off. So I get it.

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Kdrama not many ep, no problem!
Cdramas +50 ep, it’s less possible for me because of time.
If I realize later it was formal speech or I find a better word, then I go back.

Being used to it now and I save my time to reach the same results by doing so.

Some people I recruit have never watched the drama or will discover it while translating, so I suppose it depends on how much time they have in their free time to be able to watch it.
I don’t make it a prerequisite to recruit translators or editors, because it’s doable in different ways (hopefully, because if we must all watch a +60 ep dramas to be able to translate it, ep might not even be aired when we translate ep 1 and there might be really few people or we might intervene too late to translate them).

Do you let the English editor know about this?

Aren’t we all supposed to watch the episode before we start working on it?

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Unless it’s cgwm808. To her I know I can say anything, because I’m sure she won’t let her ego get in the way of getting the quality right, she won’t feel threatened or humiliated or anything of the sort. She doesn’t have those sort of insecurities and complexes, With other people, I cannot be 100% sure, only with her I can. She’ll just go check the subs right away, even if it’s a show she worked on ten years ago. And if she agrees that it’s not good, she’ll correct it - that’s all, case closed. She knows and I know and we all know that we are human and usually pressed for time and it can easily happen that something passes through the net.

There’s another thing, that has nothing to do with sloppiness or laziness, but with familiarity. The more knowledgeable in Korean an English editor is, the more s/he is likely to not notice and not correct things like Korean word order or Korean expressions translated “as is”. Because they can guess the original Korean and it seems “normal”. A third eye sometimes can spot more easily what isn’t English. That’s why among English editors, although it’s ideal that one of them knows Korean well, it’s also good if there is another editor who doesn’t. To provide the perspective of the average viewer who doesn’t know Korean.


I, as a moderator, always watch my dramas because of the adresses like you guys said with informal and informal which is very time consuming if you edit a cdrama. That’s why I try to edit the first 10 eps asap so I can check upon the subs of my subbers and give them feeback and constructive critic so the rest of the show won’t have any big errors like some terms or the you (du= informal, Ihr = formal) in German and if someone doesn’t check those in our Doc then it’s just a worst case because everyone (the viewer) will be hella confused why are they switching back and forth or why they switch without a reason to the informal speech, veeeeery exhausting I can say! :weary:

That’s why I always say in my releases when someone is switching between the formal to unformal (in our group chats) so that nobody won’t ask me afterwards when did this happen.


Whenever I edit, my first priority is that subtitles only FLASH for 2-3 secs, there is no profit in translating an English sentence to Hindi (or any other language) as if translating the entire drama in the very 2 sec segment. I always translate by meaning, translations by words is not an option for me. Naturally, even if one translates by meaning, there are really high chances that the translated sentence will itself become short.

Then, a big challenge that comes in the way is the sentence structure, English is a SVO language whereas Hindi is mostly SOV language (although the word order can be changed to obtain different meanings from the same set of words, much like Korean or Japanese). Whenever a sentence spans over two segments, I always try to never translate them as two different segments.
Seg 1: Will you please look
Seg 2: after the cat?
After translation:
Seg 1: After the cat
Seg 2: will you please look?
This is just a rough example and the actual translation differs.

In English, “you” is enough to do all the jobs at every relationship and hierarchy, however, Hindi has got mostly 3 (or 4-5 if counting dialects) translations of “you” depending on the relationship. A son won’t use the same “you” as his mother will do for him. Then, siblings won’t use the same “you” as they’ll do for their parents. As the story deepens and the relationship between characters gets strong or weak, the level of “you” will either decrease or increase. If a subber has already watched the drama and knows how the relationship changes throughout the story, they must know which “you” is used at which scene. It’s like icing on the cake if the moderator also has notes for the drama and characters, (Hindi community is still growing, so it’s really rare to find these notes, but all of us is trying hard :wink:)

Then, I feel good that we don’t have to worry about capital letters or small letters because we don’t have them :yum:. But, if one thing becomes easy, the other thing becomes difficult. The Hindi full stop is a vertical line , often subbers use the vertical bar which is slightly longer than this purn viram (literally translates to full stop). This is the vertical bar, |, the difference can’t be noticed a lot in English but I hope you can see the difference in this sentence.
मुझे घूमने जाना है। and मुझे घूमने जाना है|, so when I edit, I feel bad for the subber as they sat for an hour to translate a part, did 100 contributions but I come in and edit with just pressing backspace+full stop, I also get the credit for the subtitle, I keep notifying the subbers and they don’t repeat the mistake again but some other subbers leave a space between the last word and full stop, I again follow the same procedure, sometimes. I tell them, that they’ll have to do their best from stopping their work being credited to me, even tell them to correct their own mistakes, they do that and learn. :smile:

Just like English there are certain key spelling mistakes that change the meaning of a sentence, like “their” “there”, “see” “sea”, Hindi isn’t a language like English, where two different spellings can be pronounced in the same way, instead it is read the way it is written, even then, there are certain words that have got visually similar spellings:
मैं: This is “I”
में: Just remove a slanting line from the previous word and this becomes a preposition, much like “in, at”
है: This is “is”
हैं: Just add a dot and it becomes “are”

Above all, I just came across a term quite sometime ago which is Evil Googlators and have come across several subbers who use Google Translate as if no one will ever spot them, most of them were newbies and when I softly told them that this is not a good practice, they immediately reflect upon their actions and I’ve hardly seen them using translators ever again. However, there have been cases that they simply changed their source. How do I get to know if they changed their source or are just bad at subbing? First, I just keep editing their subtitles, if I ever find a subtitle that translates something literally to Hindi and that continues for some more subs, they have used a translator. And how am I so sure of that, there was once a scene in a drama I was moderating, where two girls were fighting, and the subber subbed their conversation in masculine (formal) form which is what most of the machines translate to. I give everybody a second chance and I really love seeing my subbers improve.

I just recently thought about this method and I am also implementing this on two of my channels, when I finish editing, I leave the episode open for the subbers to have a look at their improved subs. Earlier, Hindi teams used to communicate in English but just yesterday, I asked my subbers from a coming soon drama that I moderate to communicate with the team in Hindi. The ideas are going great as of now and all of my inspirations come from the majority languages at Viki. I observe how they work and try to implement the same on my teams.

To be honest, I love editing more than moderating or subbing, even if it is time consuming, at the end of the day I feel happy and satisfied that I could return something good to my language and provide quality to a site that has been the reason for my entertainment for past 2 years. Much of my inspiration came from the various English editing guides that were made by various TEs, GEs and CEs on Viki and the person I look up to the most while I work here is Irmar.

I even made two Hindi subtitling guides on my own, the first’s inspiration came from Worthyromance and is written in Hindi, the last one is a really quick one written in English but focuses on subbing in Hindi.


I guess that’s also the reason why nowadays so many people translate English way too litterally.


Aww… Thank you so much for your kind words!

I wanted to provide a tip about how to recognize the formality levels when addressing people in Korean, so that you can “bypass” the English “you” which is not helpful at all. I teach this to my Italian subbers as a first thing.

Formality levels

Formality levels are expressed by different types of sentence endings that change depending on the speaker’s closeness with the subject, their age and social status of each on the hierarchy ladder.
There are about seven formality levels, but we can simplify them as three: super-formal, casual-formal (by far the most used) and casual-informal.

  1. Super-formal:
    On the news, in announcements on the subway, in presentations,
    In workplaces to address your boss, the director of the company, the principal if you’re a student or teacher,
    Your friend’s grandfather/grandmother etc.
    In historical dramas, everyone speaks super-formally to the king, even his wife and children. The queen speaks formally to her son the crown prince, even if he’s a child! The trap
    In day-to-day speech, you might hear some fixed expressions in super-formal in the middle of a lower style of speech. So if you hear “kamsahamnida” (thank you) or “cheswahamnida” (sorry) don’t count it, it may be misleading.
    Moreover, you can hear some super-formal sentences as sarcasm or playful irony, between people who otherwise speak informally: e.g. a mother saying to her lazy daughter “Oh, has the princess woken up?”

  2. Formal-polite:
    Used with people that you aren’t totally close with but don’t want to distance yourself from too much , and in situations that aren’t totally casual but aren’t super formal, either. This is arguably the most useful form to know when learning Korean, as you will be the least likely to offend someone, be they a working colleague, a university acquaintance, or someone you just met, if you use it.
    In dramas couples keep using this form from the moment they meet until after they have become a couple. Surprisingly, sometimes married couples use it still. In older couples, you hear the woman speaking to her husband in polite form while the husband addresses her in casual form - even if the woman is a professional with a high position. In “Memory”, the wife was a judge and the husband a lawyer, still she addressed him respectfully and he used informal speech with her.
    In schools and universities, you are expected to use the polite form to any of your schoolmates who is older by you or in a higher class (your seonbae). Yes, it sounds ridiculous but it’s true! A 17-year old will address formally an 18-year old!
    At work too. If someone joined the company before you, s/he is your seonbae and you have to address them formally, even if the age gap is one year or less.
    In old generations, you used this for your parents, and in some traditional families they still do. Some people who used banmal with their parents when they were children start using this polite form with them as they get older, especially after getting married. I asked my teacher why is this, and she says they want to reflect the more adult relationship that develops as they move from being children to being adults.
    This form often goes with calling them by their surname and name (all the three syllables of a Korean name), adding “-ssi” (=Mr, Mrs, Miss) at the end. This means you are on a somewhat more relaxed formality basis. Not close friends, but still not very formal. Because in formal situations you never use the name, only the title.

  3. Casual/informal (banmal):
    Between close friends, especially if you were friends since childhood (and this persists even if in adult life one of them reaches the high end of the social ladder),
    Between siblings of roughly the same age or from an older sibling to a younger one *sometimes younger to older uses formal, especially in adulthood).
    Adults use it to address school children and students.
    Generally, when speaking to people who are younger than you or otherwise below you in the social hierarchy, who hold a lower position than you.
    The boss speaks like this to his employers, the (older) principal to the teachers.
    Old people will sometimes speak like this to a younger stranger in the bus or subway. The policeman to the criminal he’s chasing.
    Two people when fighting and insulting each other may switch to banmal for the duration of the fight.
    The king speaks informally to everyone, but sometimes wants to be polite and uses the formal/casual form to a high-ranking person like Chief minister if he’s much older.
    To be on the safe side, it’s never used with someone you just met when their status is not obvious.
    When you speak informally to someone, you refer to them by their given name (only the last two of the three syllables making up the full name). If it’s the subject of the sentence you also add ~i at the end of the first name. And if you are addressing them/calling them directly, you add -ah or -yah afterwards (they are the same thing. -ah is if the name ends in consonant, -yah if it ends in vowel (for instance Sa Rang - ah, Min Ho - yah)

Knowing this, most of the time you should be able to guess which form is correct when translating into your language. What is tricky is when the relationship changes and the level of intimacy changes. Or if someone is very angry and switches to informal for a while, then returns to normal. And some situations/relationships are atypical or not that obvious. For instance in “Encounter” the secretary was the director’s old friend, so she addressed her formally in front of everybody but switched to informal when they were alone.

Okay, so how to recognize them?
The suffix expressing the formality level is attached at the end of the verb. As the verb in Korean is always at the end of the sentence, it’s easy to spot it.

  • Super formal: the ending is ~mnida (becomes ~mnikka? in the interrogative form).
  • Casual-formal: the ending is ~yo.
  • Casual: no ending.

Apart from the formality levels, there are also the honorific particles, which are put at the end of the person’s name.
First of all, look for -nim. If, instead of “seonbae” you hear “seonbae-nim”, you know the person addresses his/her seonbae formally. Same if instead of “nuna” the person uses “nunim”. In the case of “hyeong”, if you use “hyeong-nim” it means it’s a respected seonbae of yours when you’re adult. It is also used for a mafia boss by his subordinates. Like using “bhai” in Hindi (I am a great fan of the film “Munnabhai MBBS”)
Then train your ears to listen for “keso” when referring to your grandmother, to your friend’s grandmother, to the bank president etc. For instance, you would refer to your own father as “abuji” but to your friend’s father as “abonim” (more respectful) and most of the time “abonim-keso” (respectful and honorific). As if to say “Your honoured father” or something like that. There are other honorific markers (-si- inserted inside the verb), but not as easy to spot so there’s no point in dwelling on them.

More complete rule

So let’s enrich our rule with all the new info. Here it is in full:

  • Super formal: the ending is ~mnida (becomes ~mnikka? in the interrogative form). Using only titles, not the name, with -nim at the end. Sometimes added honorific - keso (see below).
  • Casual-formal: the ending is ~yo. Sometimes using the name instead of the title, with -ssi. If using titles, -nim at the end.
  • Casual-informal: no ending. Only first name with -ah or -yah at the end.

Now for some training.

Chef Moon ep. 7 @ 7:19
Goblin ep.14
@ 56:26 - 57:17 What does the nephew do? How he addresses his two “uncles”? What’s the joke here with the particle he adds?

Goblin ep.15
@36:05 - 38:35 How do the two main leads address each other in this scene where they are on the white couch? They are a couple now, and discussing how to address each other.

@ 55:24 - 56:24 How does the presenter address the guest (lawyer)? How does the lawyer address the presenter? How does the presenter address the audience? After the radio show ends, two girls speak. How do they speak to each other?

@ 56:18. The restaurant owner sits on a table with a real estate dealer and they talk about a sale. How does he address her? He just says two sentences.

@ 56:49 - 58:46 The female lead (radio presenter) and the restaurant owner (Sunny). How do they address each other? How the female lead refers to the carrot-haired restaurant owner lady?

What’s wrong with Secretary Kim episode 1

2:56. The secretary and her boss. How do they speak with each other?

7:07-7:40 A board meeting. The president is giving a presentation. Long, complicated sentences. Listen to the ending of all of them. The vice chairman intervenes to make some comments. How does he speak to the president, and how does the presenter (president) speak to him?

25:11-26:10 The vice chairman (male main lead) is speaking with his secretary (female main lead). Suddenly, his parents come. His mother calls him from afar, she speaks to the secretary. Then everybody sits down to a meal. How do they address each other and what formality level do they use? The elder couple between them, the parents to the boy, the boy to the parents, the parents to the secretary?
How does the mother refer to her son?

34:50-35:50. We are at a banquet. The vice-chairman and his secretary are there, when a female approaches. How does this annoying creature address him?


예, 선생님!

For this one, I heard something really close to chu…yo. I suppose that is Formal-polite form. When the scene changed and the old men started talking, they ended their sentences with -mnida, so they were super-formal in their conversation.

I couldn’t find the nephew, but still, at this scene, the queen and the king were super formal with each other.

The sentence endlings were in -yo, so that was formal-polite.

All the sentences were super formal, the presenter ended her sentences with -mnida and the guest spoke gamsahbnida, so both of them were super formal.

The female was formal with her boss, she spoke with -yo endings whereas I couldn’t hear neither -yo nor -mnida when the other woman was talking, so I am just making a guess here, she was informal with the female lead.

This exercise was so much fun, thank you so much for adding this to my experience😄

This is a really good summary of this lesson, I am going to have this in my mind everytime I enter into the subtitle editor.

I remember, in My Love From The Star, the female lead always addressed the main lead as Do Min Joo Ssi, although I don’t remember if the male lead did that. What level of speech is this one? They are already a couple but still remaining super formal with each other or does -ssi belong to polite or casual form of speech or can it be used in all three cases?

The moment I read this,

I had this in my mind. :smile:

Once again, thank you so much for this lesson. I am going to pass this on to other Hindi subbers as well, this is of a really great help.


This “ssi” is another thing, Thanks for reminding me, I will add it to my previous post.
But no, the one I was talking about (si, single S) is inside the verb, between the root and the ending, that’s why said that it’s difficult to hear.
The -ssi after a person’s name means “mister”, “missus” and “miss”.
Yes, normally it does mean that those two speak with the middle level of formality (the “yo” kind). It’s not very formal, because it uses the person’s name (full name). If you’re very formal, you don’t use the person’s name but their title/job name. Using the name is already a little bit more intimate.

Oh, about the nephew and the uncles. I must have gotten the episode number wrong. It was episode 14. https://www.viki.com/videos/1115066v#
As for the love scene on the white couch in episode 15, no, they are not casual with each other. She even calls him “ajussi” still. She suggests they call each other by first name and he says “definitely not”, so she continues with the formal-polite and he continues with the informal.
Unfortunately I cannot check the timings again because it’s been two days now that I cannot watch any episode, I get an error message.

I admit that I subbed only a few 50+ dramas for this very reason. I like to see the episode first before translating. The worst for an editor is it to have a subber on the team who is not willing to make the extra effort to watch it (or, if that ist too timeconsuming even read a sinopsis and the 'Who is Who" (we write quite detailed docs for the team for that purpose)) and who uses the bulk translator to sub blindly. I had the case of a subber who asked me in the 33th episode who a certain person was (second lead at times even the first love interest of the heroine)

As for other difficulties I find it very challenging to respect the lenght of a sentence without changing the sense of it. A major difference between Korean and German is the lenght of a sentence and you want to avoid that the audience has to pause the film to read the subtitle.


I heard about people, who edit with the bulk translator while listening to some music via headphones and I wonder, how will those edits look alike :slight_smile: Subbers, who didn’t recognize the main lead in episode 40 or didn’t get the formal and informal speech between the leading couple in the very last episode, yes, of course :rofl:

As a German moderator and editor I get really angry, if subbers don’t read the google doc. I put many efforts in this doc, while watching the episodes I stop and take screenshots for the cast, note down the names to the faces, add terms and update the doc. I won’t say anything while editing the first two episodes, but at least after the 3rd and 4th episode the subbers should look into the doc and get their subs straight :grinning:

It’s difficult to determine the formal and informal speech and I adjust it to the German customs, so it may happen, that in Korean the formal speech is used and in German we use the informal banmal and vice versa. And although I love to translate the song lyrics, sometimes it’s very hard to create German ones with sense and sensibility :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Usually I copy and paste the Korean lyrics into the doc, too and if I have no clue, what is meant, I translate the Korean lyrics with naver to get a hint about the meaning.

Concerning fantasy dramas it’s sometimes difficult to get the right name, for example Goblin - Dokkaebi, who is not the German allegory for a creepy creature like Sméagol from Lord of the Rings, but more a kind of fae or god. The Dokkaebi from Goblin is a former human, now Shin - god - bound to his sword and with superpowers, so the team and I decided to call him Dokkaebi with an explanation for the viewers, when the name first appeared. Our Korean friends laughed their asses off about the English translation “Goblin”. We did the same with “Habaek” the water god from Bride of the Water God, because “Habaek” is his name, he IS the Habaek.

Very challenging are the edits for historical dramas with tons of special terms, fighting moves, magical items and the very polite speech.