"The dialogue was so well written and zero of it was preserved [in the subtitles]"
Squid Game‘s English subtitles have come under fire from Koreans who claim the translations cause the show’s meaning to be lost.
Whilst the internet has been divided about whether to enjoy Netflix’s #1 K-drama dubbed in English or with subtitles, Koreans have taken up issue with the subtitles themselves.
“The dialogue was so well written and zero of it was preserved [in the subtitles],” Youngmi said in a Twitter post.
In an article written by Sharon Kwon for The Slate, the author presents an example that demonstrates how the show’s message was lost in translation.
“Class and income disparity are central to the plot in Squid Game,” Kwon writes.
“It’s why the story of Ali, a Pakistani immigrant who risks his life to save Gi-hyun in the very first game, is so gut-wrenchingly tragic. South Korea is one of the most homogenous countries in the world, with 99 percent of its population identifying as ethnically Korean.”
“As the games begin and the players become acquainted with one another, Ali calls his peers sajangnim, a title that is typically reserved for the big boss of a company or business,” Kwon explains.
“Netflix translates it as “sir,” minimizing the impact this self-declaration of inferiority has on the story and the rest of the characters.”
“As the games progress and alliances are formed, Gi-hyun and Sang-woo’s growing discomfort become apparent as Ali continues to refer to them as his boss. At one point they tell him that neither of them are bosses, and to stop calling them by that name.”
In an NPR podcast, host Youngmi Mayer and translation professor Denise Kripper further detailed examples of translation failures.
“Translation in subtitles is usually two lines, and there’s a certain number of characters that you cannot pass,” Kripper said.