Netflix’s Squid Game subtitles ‘change the meaning’ of the dialogue

05/10/2021 | Rebecca Twose

Netflix’s new show ‘Squid Game’ is set to be one of the most popular of all time for the streaming service, even more so than highly viewed shows like Bridgerton. Squid Game is a Korean series that is available to stream on UK & US Netflix with the option to watch the dubbed version or with English subtitles. Although the series has been a hit with English-viewers, Korean speakers have claimed that the closed-caption version, and the English subtitled version to an extent, change the dialogue so dramatically that some of the storyline and the character development may be misunderstood by non-Korean speakers.

Squid Game fits into the gory-horror genre and the main premise of the show involves people competing in a series of ‘games’ in order to win a cash prize. However, these games aren’t all they seem and contestants pay with their lives if they do not pass each round.

Netflix Squid Game

After watching the closed-caption version of the show, viewers soon took to Twitter to discuss their disappointment with the translations. New York-based comedian and Korean speaker Youngmi Mayer revealed how some of the subtitles in English are ‘so bad’ that the original meaning is often lost completely.

‘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.’

Since then Youngmi has made several TikTok videos where she shows specific examples of where the Korean dialogue gets lost in translation with the subtitled version. However, Youngmi has since stated that the English language subtitles are ‘substantially better’ than the closed caption version but both miss important nuances & metaphors which give the show more context.

In response to Youngmi’s content about Squid Game, several other viewers have also expressed their concerns, especially those who work in the language industry.

‘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,’ said another Twitter user.

Although these translation issues don’t seem to have affected Squid Game’s popularity, it still brings to light how important translation is and how subtle changes in dialogue can alter the meaning of not only the storyline, but also the character development throughout the show too.

Have you watched Netflix’s Squid Game yet? If you have then we’d love to know your thoughts on the translated versions, let us know in the comments below!

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