Squid Game is a sensation.
Safe to say, a lot of people are watching Squid Game. The South Korean survival drama is Netflix’s most successful non-English language show. According to Netflix boss Ted Sarandos, the horror featuring deadly children’s games is on its way to overtaking Bridgerton as Netflix’s biggest show ever.
Here’s the sting. Some viewers have noticed significant differences in the Korean-to-English translations. Depending on your Netflix settings, your English subtitles might lose something in the translation, to the point of being downright “bad” and changing the show’s meaning, according to one viewer.
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So what settings should you use? Let’s dive into it all below.
Change this subtitle setting
In a nutshell, if you want “substantially better” English subtitles, use the setting, “English.”
The other English language option is “English [CC],” which many have pointed out doesn’t provide a nuanced translation.
What’s the difference?
English Closed Captions subtitles are specifically intended for people who are hearing impaired or deaf. “Captions not only display words as the textual equivalent of spoken dialogue or narration, but they also include speaker identification, sound effects, and music description,” according to the National Association of the Deaf.
Basically, the difference between English and English [CC] is that the closed-captions setting provides descriptions of sounds, such as gasps, and prompts as to who is speaking. They’re often autogenerated and, in Squid Game’s case according to one viewer, a closer match to the English dub than the English subtitles.
Lost in translation: ‘the character’s purpose’
Squid Game is centered on a contest where 456 desperate players from different social classes compete for a life-changing 45.6 billion won prize.
A viral thread on Twitter dove into how the closed-captions translation went as far as changing the meaning of the show. Youngmi Mayer, who co-hosts the Feeling Asian podcast, wrote last week, “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. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved.”
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. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved
— youngmi mayer (@ymmayer) September 30, 2021
Mayer presented a scene breakdown on TikTok to illustrate some of the lost meanings.
In one scene, the character Han Mi-nyeo, a woman who claims to be a poor single mother, tries to convince people to play the game with her. The closed-caption translation says, “I’m not a genius, but I still got it work out. Huh?”
Mayer says the correct translation is: “I am very smart. I just never got a chance to study.”
Mayer added, “That is a huge trope in Korean media. The poor person that’s smart and clever and just isn’t wealthy. That’s a huge part of her character. And almost everything she says is being botched, translation-wise… The writers, all they want you to know about her is that… [It] seems so small, but it’s the entire character’s purpose of being in the show.”
In response, one Twitter user provided Netflix’s English subtitles, which differ to the closed captions.
“You have to change your Netflix settings to English not English CC. Here is a screen grab of that scene with English. (Screen is black cause they don’t allow grabs but the subtitle comes through),” wrote @ADeVonJohnson.
You have to change your Netflix settings to ENGLISH not ENGLISH CC. Here is a screen grab of that scene with ENGLISH. (Screen is black cause they don’t allow grabs but the subtitle comes through) pic.twitter.com/mKi3XuraMq
— WeLosingRecipes (@ADeVonJohnson) October 1, 2021
Another Twitter user found that the closed-captions translation matched the English dub.
“I found you got different subtitles depending if you chose English or English Closed Caption (with the latter matching the dubbed dialogue and the former being wildly different),” wrote @MrTimCat.
I found you got different subtitles depending if you chose English or English Closed Caption (with the latter matching the dubbed dialogue and the former being wildly different).
— Tim (@MrTimCat) October 4, 2021
Mayer has reportedly since clarified that the English language subtitles are “substantially better” than the closed-captions ones.
Although, Mayer added, “The misses in the metaphors — and what the writers were trying to actually say — are still pretty present.”
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