Saturday, March 14, 2009

What's With the Subtitles on Windy City?

There's really nothing too remarkable about the Korean drama Windy City. It's a nice soap opera about a bunch of unhappy people becoming even more unhappy. In fact, the only thing that stands out for me is how really, really bad the English subtitles are, even for a Korean drama. I thought the subtitles at Arirang TV were bad, but nothing like what I'm seeing on Windy City.

Now, I can forgive the occasional proposition error like using "for" instead of "to". You have to be a native speaker to get the nuances of propositions. Propositions are so cultural and never make sense. But outright stuff, stuff that looks like it was spat out by some computer program, is just not right. Examples:

"She's going to hit the buyers at their 20s with the outfit."
"It was senseless of me to rain abuse."
"It still has lots of memories." (This is in reference to the memory card on a digital camera. Although, I have to admit, I thought this mistake was kinda cute.)
"We're going to take photos of yours." (For "We're going to take pictures of you.")
"You're such a counterfeit."

When things get really laughable is when Windy City tries to be hip and use slang. Like using "got" inappropriately.

"You still got a cold." (This from an elderly lady. Even senior managers end up sounding like home boys, saying things like "I got my lunch".)

My favorite was when an elderly parent called his son a prick. The insult was unintentional, let me tell you.

And the translators seem to be completely unaware of how to deal with pairs and couples. Like whenever they have to talk about a couple, they end up with something really mangled like "the Jeongmi and Wook-Hyun Seo couple" when they should have simply said, "the Seos". I mean, that has to be coming from a software program. A really bad software program.

I've never really understood why Koreans are so sloppy about subtitles and translations in general. Even products shipped to the US have the worst translations. Before the economic collapse, there was all this talk about the Korean Wave and how Korea was going to push its food and culture around the world. Well, if you can't get the small details right, like language, you're just going to end up looking like a joke. Try substance over hip, the basics over slang. It's stupid how many times I've seen Korean dramas misuse "my bad". Look, "my bad" is complete slang used by a small population of people, usually for comic effect. It is not appropriate coming out of an elderly patriarch during a sobering apology! Unless the elderly patriarch is an alien played by a muppet!

Come on, Korea! Get your act together!

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