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Squid Game’s English subtitles ‘completely change meaning of the hit Netflix show’

English-speaking viewers tuning into new Netflix hit Squid Games may not understand the full story because the ‘botched subtitles’ completely change the show’s meaning, Korean-speaking fans have claimed.

Korean-made Squid Game, which is the most streamed show in the US and in the UK, features grisly scenes of characters being shot in the head and organ harvesting, in the latest example of shock-tactic programming from the streaming giant. 

It has become a cult hit with fans of the slasher horror genre who have dubbed the nine-part series ‘Saw meets the Hunger Games’ and revelled in scenes of torture and mass murder, but it seems that the show could be even more shocking, depending on what language you’re watching in.  

New York-based comedian and Korean speaker Youngmi Mayer has taken to Twitter to reveal how some of the the subtitles in English are ‘so bad’ that the original meaning is often lost completely, while some sweary characters are ‘sanitised’, with the phrase ‘S***. It’s a sausage fest’, disppearing from some translations. 

Fellow viewers have noticed a difference between the English subtitles – which seem to be more accurate – and the closed caption subtitles, which contain audio description, while others claim that neither gives an accurate translation. 

Many of the English subtitles in teh hit Neflix show don’t match the Korean. In one scene a ‘low-class’ character tries to convince people to play the game with her, and the closed-caption subtitles read: ‘I’m not a genius, but I still got it work out.’

Viewers who watch with English rather than close caption subtitles will read: 'I never bothered to study, but I'm incredibly smart' which is closer, but still not the same as the Korean

Viewers who watch with English rather than close caption subtitles will read: ‘I never bothered to study, but I’m incredibly smart’ which is closer, but still not the same as the Korean

During a phone call with his mother, Cho Sang-Woo is told not to buy her a gift while she thinks he's away on business

His mother things Cho Sang-Woo is abroad, and tells him not to bring back an expensive gift, according to the subtitles

During a phone call with his mother, Cho Sang-Woo is told not to buy her a gift while she thinks he’s away on business. His mother things Cho Sang-Woo is abroad, and tells him not to bring back an expensive gift, according to the subtitles

However, another translation shows his mother simply saying that she doesn't want a present

But she's more concerned about her son taking care of himself than she is about the gift

However, another translation shows his mother simply saying that she doesn’t want a present. But she’s more concerned about her son taking care of himself than she is about the gift

‘Not to sound snobby but I’m fluent in Korean and I watched squid game with English subtitles and if you don’t understand Korean you didn’t really watch the same show,’ Youngmi said in a viral Twitter post.

‘Translation was so bad. The dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved.’

Following up from her tweet, in a TikTok video Youngmi shared more examples of the ‘poor’ translation.

In one scene a ‘low-class’ character Han Mi-nyeo tries to convince people to play the game with her, and the closed-caption subtitles read: ‘I’m not a genius, but I still got it worked out.’

English-speaking viewers tuning into new Netflix hit Squid Games may not understand the full story as the 'botched subtitles' completely change the show's meaning, Korean-speaking fans have claimed

English-speaking viewers tuning into new Netflix hit Squid Games may not understand the full story as the ‘botched subtitles’ completely change the show’s meaning, Korean-speaking fans have claimed

However viewers watching with English subtitles will read a more accurate translation: ‘I never bothered to study, but I’m incredibly smart’.

This isn’t entirely correct either according to Youngmi who explains the character actually says: ‘I am very smart, I just never got a chance to study’,

‘That’s a huge trope in Korean media – the poor person that’s smart and clever and that just isn’t wealthy,’ she explained. ‘That’s a huge part of her character. And almost everything she says is botched. The writers, all they want you to know about her its that. The entire character’s purpose of being in the show.’

How translation discrepancies change the meaning of the script in Squid Game 

KOREAN DIALOGUE 

‘S***, it’s a sausage fest’ 

‘I am very smart, I just never got a chance to study’ 

‘What are you looking at?’ 

Older brother 

The Korean flower has bloomed  

ENGLISH TRANSLATION 

‘They’re all men’ 

‘I’m not a genius, but I still got it worked out.’

‘Go away’ 

Babe 

Red light, green light 

She added: ‘Every single thing she says is f*****d up. I think it’s because she’s a “low class” character, and she’s “gangsta”. So she cusses a lot and it gets very sterilised.’ 

At another point, Han Mi-nyeo says ‘what are you looking at?’ but the caption instead reads ‘go away’. 

‘It might seem arbitrary but everything she says is not really aligning and you’re missing a lot of this character and what she stands for,’ Youngmi said.   

Later in the same episode, Oh Il-nam tells Seong Gi-hun ‘we share everything’, but according to Youngmi, this means ‘there is no ownership between me and you’.

‘That is a huge miss. That’s the entire point of this episode. It’s a very small sentence. It doesn’t make sense. That is such a difference in ideology that the writer is trying to get across to you,’ Youngmi said. 

Elsewhere, other viewers spotted a discrepancy in the translation of the scene where Cho sang-woo phones his mother while she thinks he’s overseas on business. 

According to one set of subtitles, she tells him not to buy a gift because she’s worried he’ll buy something ‘too expensive’. But in another translation, she tells her son to eat well and dress warmly. 

‘It was meant to be much more motherly and caring, but the translation was so weird,’ wrote one.  

Youngmi said that she raised the issue of translation, to higlight how it’s not a valued profession. 

‘Also I want to point out that the reason this happens is because translation work is not respected and also the sheer volume of content,’ she said.  

‘Translators are underpaid and overworked and it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of producers who don’t appreciate the art’. 

Elsewhere, another viewer pointed out that the Red Light, Green Light game in the first episode takes on an even deeper meaning with the correct translation. 

During a game of mugunghwa kkoci pieotseumnida, the competitors have to run towards a finish line when a terrifying animatronic doll says ‘green light’ and freeze still when she says ‘red light’, with anyone who moves being shot dead. 

Twitter user Cheburashka explained: ‘Translating the game to “red light, green light” missed some of the symbolic functions of that game’s name. “mugunghwa kkoci pieotseumnida” literally means “the mugunghwa flower (Korean rose) has bloomed” which is the national flower of South Korea.

‘The 1st episode’s korean title then means “the day the mugunghwa flower has bloomed” which is obviously symbolic considering the contents of the episode – the deeply entrenched inequality, the temporarily embarrassed ex-businessman, the treatment of the north korean character.

‘While i understand the reasoning behind naming it “red light, green light”, this is as placating as naming an episode titled “the 4th of july” that explores the slaughterous and imperialist foundations of the US as something else entirely. the juxtaposition serves a function.’ 

FEMAIL has contacted Netflix for comment.

Other users replied saying they watched Squid Game and had ‘completely different’ subtitles to the original language.   

‘Me and my flatmate both watched Squid Game on two different laptops and our English subtitles were different. The distinctions were subtle but even that made it feel like we were watching different shows,’ one user wrote.

Korean-made Squid Game, which is the most streamed show in the US and in the UK, features grisly scenes of characters being shot in the head and organ harvesting

Korean-made Squid Game, which is the most streamed show in the US and in the UK, features grisly scenes of characters being shot in the head and organ harvesting

Someone said it!!! Thank you!!! I also watched it in Korean and as a multi-lingual speaker with translation and subtitling experience I just noticed a lot of messy areas and it was so basic. I also (just to see what it was like) started to watch the dubbed version – it was worse,’ added another. 

Youngmi’s comments were about the closed-caption subtitles rather than the English language subtitles.

Closed captions are often automatically generated and are for people who are hard of hearing.

They include audio descriptions as well as speech – and are significantly different to the English subtitles.

Youngmi has since said that the English language subtitles are ‘substantially better’  but added they still ‘miss the metaphors – and what the writers were trying to actually say.’

Youngmi has since said that the English language subtitles are 'substantially better' but added they still 'miss the metaphors - and what the writers were trying to actually say. Pictured a shot from the shoe

Youngmi has since said that the English language subtitles are ‘substantially better’ but added they still ‘miss the metaphors – and what the writers were trying to actually say. Pictured a shot from the shoe

It comes as  Netflix bosses are being sued by a South Korean internet provider over the stratospheric popularity of gory survival drama Squid Game.

The show has soared in popularity worldwide since its release on Netflix last month and has been pegged to become the service’s most successful show to date.

Controversy has arisen however, as according to Reuters, a South Korean internet service provider, SK Broadband, is suing Netflix over increased traffic thanks to the streaming service’s popularity in the country.

The internet provider said in its claims that Netflix is South Korea’s second-largest traffic generator besides YouTube, and states that other streamers – Amazon, Facebook and Apple – are all paying network usage fees.



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