Rant|Why I Prefer Fan-Subs Over Official Subs

Rant|Why I Prefer Fan-Subs Over Official Subs

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Hello my lovely BAYOG Fam!~ I thought it’d be nice to just have a bit of a discussion with you all today. It’s been a while since I’ve had these little talks with you. Anyway, today I wanted to talk about subtitles/translations and the subbers/translators themselves. More specifically, I wanted to talk about fan subbers/translators. These are the people who translate and/or make subtitles for your series; Be it anime, dramas, movies, manga, etc. I want to talk about my thoughts on fan-subs and official subs, my experience as a fan-subber/translator, and the process too. Yeah, this is probably gonna be kind of a long discussion. However, I think it’d be a fun discussion since I’m sure many of you don’t really think about the people and process behind subbing/translations. I don’t know if the average person even really thinks about the difference between fan-subs and official subs. My rant is based more on subs and translations for dramas and movies. However, the same ideas and opinions hold true for translations of manga/webtoons, novels, music, etc. I actually had to split it into two posts because there’s alot… So for the first post, I’m going to talk about why I prefer fan-subs over official subs. In my [second post], I’ll talk more about my experience as a fan-subber and my process for translating/subbing.

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Fan-subs and translations started mostly for fun to share series that they like, but aren’t available in other countries/languages yet. People would invest their own time and money to release these projects. Technically speaking, most fan-subs and translations are illegal. Recently, more and more of the original companies, authors, and publishers have been cracking down on it though. Most teams are happy to comply and respect their wishes. Often times, these projects might continue just until the series has been officially licensed in that language. However, not all fan-subs/translations are illegal. There are fan-subs that are legally licensed, as you see on [Viki]. After all, we want to enjoy ourselves and the content, but we must also support the creators as well.

Legality issues and debates aside, I personally prefer fan-subs/translations over official ones. Although fan-subs are not professionally done, I find their quality to be better than official subs. The reason is because I often find official subs and translations to be pretty off most of the time. So if it isn’t obvious to you now, I do speak/understand more than one language. I’m technically bilingual (trilingual??), but I was exposed to alot of different cultures and languages. Being born and raised in the US, I’m obviously a native English speaker. My parents are from Thailand, so I grew up speaking Thai. I also spent almost every summer in Thailand because my parents wanted to ensure my fluency/understanding of the Thai language, as well as the culture. Thanks to that, I speak/understand standard Thai pretty fluently. I don’t sound like an abroad-raised Thai, and my pronunciation is actually better than most of the current and younger generations in Thailand. I can’t write it though. Although, I’ve taught myself to read a bit of Thai. I do read at a painfully slow pace though. My paternal grandpa’s side is from the Isaarn area (Northeastern part of Thailand), as is my step-dad’s side. So I was also exposed to Isaan, or the Northeastern dialect of Thai. The Isaan area is right next to Laos, and so the Isaan dialect is almost identical to Lao as well. I can understand some of it, and can speak just a bit of it.

I also grew up in South Florida, spending a chunk of my younger years in a heavily Hispanic area. This led me to speaking Spanish fluently too, to my parents’ surprise. I can’t really speak it anymore. I only know hella basic shit, but I can understand a good chunk of it still. I also took Mandarin for a year in college, although I didn’t really retain anything. I took a semester of Japanese as well. I didn’t continue it though because… there were weebs (like the hellaaaa weird ones, not the cool and fun ones) that made us Asian girls feel really uncomfortable. However, I’ve been into alot of Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and Korean media for a hella long time. Almost 20 years y’all. I picked up enough Japanese where, although I can’t really speak it, I’m told my pronunciation sounds like a native speaker or close to one? I had no difficulty traveling around Japan either. Alot of people thought I was a student studying Japanese. I also picked up enough Korean where I can read/understand like at least half of a webtoon chapter in Korean. I’m can also get like 20% of a K-Drama episode. I know, I’m kind of flexing and this all seems irrelevant. However, I have do have a point. It’s that I’m familiar with alot of different languages and cultures to varying degrees. Even if I can’t actually speak it, I can understand bits and chunks of it. Honestly, I like to say that I have pretty useless knowledge and language skills. I don’t know enough for it to actually be useful in communicating or fully understanding something. However, I can at least understand nuances and get the gist of something. Also, it’s just nice that I’m not completely in the dark when reading raw chapters or watching raw episodes of different series. Point is, my brain also has a better understanding of how languages and translations work.

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When a subtitle is off or doesn’t make sense.

Look, I’m a subtitle kinda gal. I like listening to the original audio, and I like listening to different languages. It’s how I learn and pick up different things. However, I honestly hate official/professional subs because they tend to be really off at times. This is where my knowledge of other languages and cultures came in handy. Because I’m able to notice those things that others might not. I don’t mean subs are off on minor things either. There are many times I’ve noticed subs either adding shit that was never even mentioned in there. Sometimes it just completely misses something that’s a tad important, or is the complete opposite of what’s actually being said. I hate to be harsh, especially when it comes to someone’s hard work, but sometimes these subs are just garbage. There are times it’s so off that it’s like, “What the fuck? Were you even trying?” There are times where there was definitely a much more obvious and simple way to translate the line. However, it’s instead translated in a really obscure way. Sometimes the subtitles are really off even for really simple things too. I was once watching some Thai series on Netflix. The girl literally, and I mean word-for-word, just said, “No.” It was said super casually with no offence or anything. Yet it was translated as, “No, I don’t want to. I’d hate to go with you”. I was like, “WTF…??” These kinds of things bother me because it gives a totally different vibe and context to scenes, dialogue, as well as the characters’ personalities and relationships.

It should be translated along the lines of, “I miss you from every part of my heart.”

It’s a pretty big deal when it completely changes the exchange and vibes of the dialogue and scenes. I know it’s difficult to translate things at times. I get that sometimes you can’t be 100% accurate. Especially because things could be translated/said in various ways. We’ll go into more detail about that in the other post. I get localization, but most of the time it has nothing to do with that. It’s just really poor translations. So for example, I’m a Thai-English Translation Editor/Subber for a Thai BL series called [Love By Chance]. Viki had actually already added their own English subs when they uploaded the episodes. However, the channel manager reached out to me and asked if I could help check the accuracy of the subs. Damn, it was a good thing too. Because some of the English subs were…yikes. There’s one particular scene about one of the leads getting a text from the other lead. The translation of the text was something along the lines of “I miss you from every part of my heart.” The literal translation was “I miss you from every molecule (bit) of my heart.” You want to know how how Viki’s subs had it translated as? “I want to make love to you, baby.” Bruh, that ain’t even close. The vibe Viki’s subs had was all ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°). However, the vibe of that line is supposed to just be really cheesey/cringey. So yeah, it was pretty off there. Things like that and even nuances play a role in how you perceive characters, certain dialogues, and scenes. Not to mention inaccurate subs really throw you off and can end up confusing you when they don’t go along with later subs. This has happened with the other members on my subtitling teams. Certain scenes and subtitles didn’t make sense due to inaccurate subs from previous scenes. That’s why they have me do an accuracy check.

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Speaking of localization… I’m not always a big fan of it. I understand the idea and need of localization (to a degree). There are foreign audiences who just aren’t familiar with alot of cultural contexts. However, I find that cultural contexts and even nuances play a role in the story and characters. Sometimes the localization changes just end up not really making sense with the context of the story. So it ends up being confusing, or makes no sense at all. Which is a shame, because I’ve noticed that sometimes it can be on things that can actually be pretty key. There are also some things, like jokes or certain lines, that are pretty clever. However, they might not have an equivalency in English. So it would be best to keep the original literal translations with a translator note. Often times, official subs will totally ignore or completely change these kinds of lines and jokes. It ends up losing the original impact and cleverness. Yet most people wouldn’t even notice that the official subs are inaccurate, and they might not even notice or care about the missing context. It’s a shame because people miss out on some really great things because of it. I’ve heard people piss on certain series or movies thinking that it didn’t make sense or that it was stupid because they’re basing it off of inaccurate subs. I find this part of the discussion really interesting. However, I’ll go into better detail of it in the other post.

Series on Viki are fan-subbed

At the end of the day, we’re just supposed to be enjoying these things. However, subtitles are important for building your understanding and impression of a series, the plot, the characters, the personalities, the relationships, etc. The problem is inaccurate subs will affect that understanding. Sometimes, you don’t come out knowing and understanding as much as you should have. Fan-subs may not be professional, may not be perfect, and could have a few mistakes. However, in my experience, they’re closer to being accurate than official subs. I also usually find them to be alot less awkward than official subs. I like fan-subs because they typically try to keep it the original context and meanings as possible. I like that instead of changing things, they make little notes to explain it. I know it’s a bit more reading, and some people aren’t a fan of that. I get it, some people don’t like to or want to read a bunch of text. I don’t mind it though. I honestly prefer that because it allows me to better understand scenes, dialogue, and characters as they were meant to be. Things are less likely to be lost in translation. Subbing and translating is not easy. So I appreciate that these fan translators and subbers take the time and effort to be as accurate as possible, as well as to explain everything. The effort to keep the original contexts and meanings help you better grasp everything. In turn, I think it also helps you enjoy it better too. This is especially the case for things that may actually be pretty clever, but just needs a bit of explaining to people who are foreign to the language and/or culture.

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Thank you for your glorious comments/memes

Also, I just enjoy fan-subs and translations because the translators make the best commentary and memes. It’s great because it’s relatable, you can tell they’re just as invested into everything as you are, and it’s just hilarious as hell. Like I’m excited to read translations of series I love. However, I also am legitimately excited to see these comments and memes. LMAO

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Anyway, that’s it for this post. Did you all ever think about the differences and accuracy of fan-subs and official subs? Did you ever notice it before? Which do you prefer? Let me know~ Also, don’t forget to check out my other [post over here] where I talk about my experience as a fan-subber, as well as my thoughts and process for translating/subbing.

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Hihi! I’m Minty! I’m Thai-American~ เป็นคนไทยค่ะ~ ยินดีที่ได้รู้จักนะคะ~
I’m BAYOG’s hella basic Asian chick, Real People Stuffs expert, and boba addict. I’ve been a part of the BAYOG Crew since 2017~ I fangirl and mostly blog about music, live action movies/dramas, manga/webtoons, and occasionally webnovels~ When I’m not blogging, I’m usually writing/singing Thai-English covers~

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Take care y’all. Please stay safe and take care of yourself. All jokes and fun aside…please, please, please, pleaaaase always wash your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask! It’s better to be cautious than face irrevocable consequences of health complications or death.


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Keep it up fam!

If you can, please consider donating. I’ve donated more than once as well. For one of my donations, I donated through the BTS ARMY x BLM project. I recommend that if you’re unsure of where to donate. This is because the donation will be split amongst several different non-profit organizations. Of course, you can also choose a specific organization(s) if you wish as well. You can find that [HERE].

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Stay strong. Fight racism, brutality, injustice, and bullshit. Don’t lose sight of the goal. We’re witnessing and being a part of history. Be allies and make sure change happens. Once again, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

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