Squid Game is the biggest show on Netflix right now. The South Korean survival drama is topping the streamer’s most-watch lists in dozens of countries and has taken social media by storm.
It’s not hard to see why either; Squid Game has a simple but very compelling premise. It follows a group of struggling citizens who are selected by a shadowy organization to take part in a series of playground games each with a deadly twist. However, viewers watching the series with English subtitles may in fact be getting a poorly translated version of the acclaimed show.
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Korean-speaking podcaster Youngmi Mayer (opens in new tab) took to social media to explain that the English subtitles provided by Netflix aren’t doing a good job of preserving the show’s original writing. She used a scene featuring the character Han Mi-nyeo (played by Kim Joo-Ryoung) to illustrate her point.
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 preservedSeptember 30, 2021
However, what’s even more strange about the whole situation is that Netflix actually offers two different translations of Squid Game. One is significantly more accurate, but it appears that many viewers are unaware of this and are actually watching the series via a translation that loses much of the original nuance of the writing.
In the example below the “English [CC]” captions have Han Mi-nyeo saying “I’m not a genius, but I can work it out” but a more direct translation is: “I am very smart. I just never got a chance to study”, which is apparently a common Korean expression.
If you change the captions on Netflix to “English” in the menu, then the subtitles read: “I never bothered to study, but I’m unbelievably smart.” This still isn’t a perfect translation, as Han Mi-nyeo's lack of study is due to disadvantage rather than application, but it’s still much closer to the original text than the “English [CC]” captions.
If you’re curious why these two translations differ so much it’s because the “English [CC]” captions are actually for the English dubbed version of the series, whereas the “English” captions are for viewers watching in the original Korean language track.
If you’re currently making your way through Squid Game make sure to set captions to “English” not “English [CC]” in order to get the most accurately translated version of the show. If you’ve already finished the series, here’s everything we know so far about Squid Game season 2.