A Hit YouTube Channel’s Whimsical English Subtitles
Speaker A: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership.
Speaker B: When I approach any translation, I first try to think why I’m doing this.
Speaker B: First, wherever the viewer or the reader is, I kind of want them to be able to enjoy it as much as the Korean viewers would.
Speaker A: Welcome back to working.
Speaker A: I’m your host, June Thomas.
Speaker C: And I’m your other host, Karen Hahn.
Speaker A: Karen, it is so wonderful to see you again, but I have to ask, whose voice did we hear at the top of the show?
Speaker C: So for this week’s episode, I talked to Hannah Im and Justine Won.
Speaker C: Who are the subtitle translators for SBS Animal Farm.
Speaker A: And what is SBS Animal Farm?
Speaker C: So SBS is a Korean network, and SBS Animal Farm in particular is a TV show.
Speaker C: But I’m most familiar with them because of their pretty prolific YouTube channel.
Speaker C: It’s just chock full of videos about cute animals in situations as simple as, like, here’s what a baby ferret looks like, and here’s what it’s like to raise this pet to, oh, look, there’s this dog was abandoned on the street.
Speaker C: And this is what happened to them to some more serious cases.
Speaker C: So the videos really run the gamut in terms of mood and content, but the consistent thing is they are always about animals.
Speaker C: And what really impressed me and why I wanted to talk to Hannah and Justine is that the subtitles are really kind of smartly and cutely, translated like they are something that I notice every time that I watch their videos.
Speaker A: And having watched well, you can never watch just one.
Speaker A: It’s impossible eating a Pringle, having watched multiple videos on this channel.
Speaker A: There’s also an incredible cuteness, too.
Speaker A: I mean, it’s not only cuteness, you kind of alluded to that, but just the animals are kind of talking like that’s the vibe that is going, and then they’re translating what the animals would say.
Speaker A: So it kind of has an otherworldly quality.
Speaker A: It’s kind of ten steps beyond cuteness, I would say.
Speaker C: Yeah, exactly.
Speaker C: And it avoids, I think, kind of being too saccharine to a degree, because it’s not like the animals are given voices or they’re going like, well, I have a little cat on the video.
Speaker C: It’s conveyed solely through these captions, like, what’s going on and what these animals are feeling.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker A: All right.
Speaker A: I believed you asked Hannah and Justine a question that is intended exclusively for Slate Plus members.
Speaker A: What will they hear?
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker C: So for Slate Plus, I talked to Hannah and Justine a little bit more about their workflow.
Speaker C: I asked them if they ever watched their videos back, and we talked a little bit about when they did, why they decided to stop, and kind of what the reasoning behind that was.
Speaker A: That sounds amazing.
Speaker A: If you’re a Slate Plus member, you’ll get to hear that at the end of the show.
Speaker A: All right, now let’s listen to Karen’s conversation with Hannah Yim and justine won.
Speaker C: Hello, Hannah and Justine.
Speaker C: Thank you so much for coming on to working.
Speaker B: Hi, thank you for having us.
Speaker C: So I guess I wanted to start with a kind of macro question, which is how early in the overall process do you as translators become involved with video?
Speaker B: So, actually we have a team with producers, editors, us translators, one operator, and the CG team first.
Speaker B: So the producer, whoever is responsible for a video that’s being produced, and a responsible editor will get together, come up with a storyline, and then they write the script in Korean.
Speaker B: And then when they give us the script over with a text file and maybe stills, that’s when we come into the process and get involved.
Speaker C: And so what does your typical workflow look like?
Speaker C: I guess is it that kind of two steps where you have the first kind of main chunk of crane text that you translate and then revisions?
Speaker C: Or how simple can it be versus how involved can it be?
Speaker D: So, to add to your first question, we don’t actually participate in writing the whole script.
Speaker D: We don’t give any ideas in script because the writers are in charge of writing a script.
Speaker D: So after the video is completed, we do the time coding of the video before we upload it on YouTube.
Speaker B: So we’re actually the ones syncing the subtitles to the video.
Speaker C: Wow.
Speaker C: Yeah, it’s an involved process.
Speaker C: And one of the things that I sort of appreciate about the English subtitles that you guys do is I know sometimes you’ll put slashes or I don’t know what the more technical term for it is in subtitles to.
Speaker C: Kind of reflect the way that the sentence structure is a little bit different in Korean where some things will come first or like a part of the sentence will come out first.
Speaker C: In Korean.
Speaker C: But just because of the way the subtitles are in YouTube, like, the whole English sentence will come out and have that little division within it to sort of denote that.
Speaker C: Has that sort of always been the case or what was the thinking behind that notation?
Speaker B: Actually, because I came in a little earlier than Justine, when I started, they recommended us or they advised us to translate whatever is like the Korean just straight down.
Speaker B: But I kind of figured it’s really hard to translate the exact thing because, like you said, the structure is totally different.
Speaker B: So I figured if you’re an English speaking viewer, you wouldn’t really mind waiting for an actual good grammar sentence.
Speaker D: Right.
Speaker B: So I kind of figured it doesn’t really have to be super in line with the Korean subtitles.
Speaker B: So I think I kind of started just translating it not like word verbatim or just as the Korean says, but just so it makes better sense in English when you read or watch the video.
Speaker C: Yeah.
Speaker C: So is there an actual kind of set style guide or notes that you guys try to keep in mind and how much of a hand did I guess each of you respectively have in it and what was that process like?
Speaker B: Well, actually, so when we first came in, the previous translators had a set of different guides, but not everything always, for example, if it’s like ha ha or something, it’s not always going to be like lol.
Speaker B: It has different tones.
Speaker B: So we just kind of took ownership over how we’re going to translate each slang or sound effect.
Speaker B: And we didn’t really have a guideline, but it seems like we kind of think alike, I guess.
Speaker B: So they look similar, but if you actually watch it carefully, then you can see actually we have different styles of translating things.
Speaker D: We have a little bit different, but because our content itself doesn’t really vary because our contents are very cute and bubbly, lovely cute animals are in it.
Speaker D: So our tone kind of stays consistently.
Speaker D: That helps too.
Speaker C: Yeah.
Speaker C: I’m fascinated by what you said about being able to tell the difference between, I guess who worked on which video.
Speaker C: How would you guys yourself characterize the difference between you guys?
Speaker B: It kind of depends on what English you’ve learned and spoke.
Speaker B: So for me, my family immigrated to California when I was like ten.
Speaker B: So growing up in Cali, I kind of like have Cali style of English, I guess.
Speaker B: I use a lot of California slangs and I try to pay more attention to the details.
Speaker B: Whereas for Justine, for example, I know she studied in England, she studied law, I think.
Speaker B: So when it comes to legal matters or political stuff, I think she’s a bit more professional or she’s more organized in those senses and just a little bit like differences in spelling.
Speaker D: Spelling differences to Z.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker D: And it’s also called different previous experiences as well because before currently I translate some legal documents as a slide and then when I’m translating legal documents, I cannot leave any data behind and I have to translate bits and bobs, like every bits and blobs.
Speaker D: Whereas when you’re translating a video, you have to decide what to leave and what to drop because you have to make it really simple and short because time cut, because we think so that’s also what makes difference between our translation styles.
Speaker C: And to ask another process question, obviously there are two of you doing translation for the channel.
Speaker C: It sounds like you work on videos independently and you wouldn’t work on one video together, is that right?
Speaker D: Right.
Speaker C: How long does it take you on average to finish working on a video and are you working on multiple ones at the same time or is it a matter of finishing one, moving on to the next?
Speaker B: So we have constant requests coming in.
Speaker B: We have requests coming in constantly and we generally rotate the scripts or the videos that we work on.
Speaker B: But the videos, they vary from vary in time and different tones.
Speaker B: Some of the videos are very serious.
Speaker B: It’s about animal abuse or legal issues, whereas some things are very cute, like itsy bitsy kind of thing.
Speaker B: And so for light toned or like a short one, it takes about like 30 minutes to an hour, whereas like the really heavy legal stuff, like legal videos, they can take up to 2 hours.
Speaker C: Oh, wow.
Speaker C: Yeah.
Speaker C: And this is maybe a bit of a simplistic question, but what do each of you find to be the most difficult thing about translating from Korean to English?
Speaker D: So for me is to translate Korean memes or Korean jokes, especially because it’s a YouTube channel, it kind of has a lot of Korean jokes that online.
Speaker D: And then the hard bit is one, I’m not sure if I can convey the exact meaning of this joke in English, but to also, I feel like the English viewers didn’t really understand why this meme is coming in.
Speaker D: That is seen because it’s more like a Korean thing.
Speaker B: I kind of have to know the culture.
Speaker B: Or like the famous Korean shows.
Speaker B: And for me, because it’s been only like three years since I’ve been in Korea, and at first when I came here, even though I spoke very fluent Korean in America, I couldn’t understand what the cafe worker was asking me at first.
Speaker B: So I had to relearn Korean really fast working here.
Speaker B: So now I’m super fluent.
Speaker B: But sometimes when they have idioms or the four character idioms, those are saying, oh man, that really throws me off.
Speaker B: And I have to ask the producer like, oh, what does this mean?
Speaker B: I actually don’t get it.
Speaker B: Or sometimes they take the character, like four character idioms and tweak it into like dog or cat idioms.
Speaker B: That really throws me off again.
Speaker B: But on top of that, we have to try to figure out if there are any similar old sayings or idioms in English.
Speaker B: So if they do, yeah, that’s perfect for us.
Speaker B: But if they don’t, then I have to make up something.
Speaker C: Yeah, I will say whenever I watch variety shows, the games where they do the four character Idioms are the ones where I was like, I can’t I will never be able to get there.
Speaker B: You’re not the only one.
Speaker D: Because sometimes the translation gets really long because you want to explain what the meaning of it.
Speaker B: But for them, it’s like four characters.
Speaker B: I’m like.
Speaker B: Oh.
Speaker D: What?
Speaker C: And just really quickly, for the sake of our listeners who aren’t familiar with what we’re talking about, when we say four character idioms, would you be able to quickly explain what those are?
Speaker B: So some of the Koreans here, they have the origin of Chinese characters.
Speaker B: So each character means a Chinese character.
Speaker B: And when they’re put together, usually there are four characters.
Speaker B: They mean an old saying or they represent an idiom.
Speaker B: So I don’t know if it’s an actual legit, the four character Idioms, but there’s like an idiom saying poem singh Pomza.
Speaker B: So each I think poem isn’t but.
Speaker D: Something poem means a shape.
Speaker B: Yeah.
Speaker B: You live in this shape, you die in this shape.
Speaker B: Die in this shape.
Speaker B: But it kind of basically means like yolo or like effort, kind of.
Speaker B: So it’s like long sentenced, condensed into four characters, basically.
Speaker C: Justine, what you brought up was something that I thought about asking as well because there are sometimes images on the screen of like screen caps or sound bites from very popular Korean shows that pop up.
Speaker C: But those generally kind of just come and go where I assume it was because trying to contextualize and explain it would take too long or not really be worth the effort.
Speaker D: So what I try to do is I try to find if the script a quote, like a Kpop lyrics or a popular line from a variety show, then I kind of just translate it exactly.
Speaker B: Okay, so for Kpop lyrics, we actually go search up K pop lyrics in English just to give the same exact message.
Speaker B: But if it’s from variety shows, we tend to try to give the exact same message.
Speaker B: But English speaking viewers might not get the actual joke.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker B: So we actually sometimes we don’t translate it verbatim, but we kind of make our own joke or kind of turn it into a joke that makes sense in that particular situation, which also makes sense in English so it doesn’t ruin.
Speaker D: The story and stays that’s really hard too.
Speaker C: And I wanted to talk about some other Koreanisms, I guess, as well.
Speaker C: Hannah, you mentioned the challenge of translating what’s basically a sound effect, like when you have cuckooku or like which is just meant to express a sound and then having to Romanize that.
Speaker C: What is that process like?
Speaker B: So usually like cuckoo, I think we both kind of like try to put lol unless it’s kind of like cook, which is like one condescending.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker B: And for me, when it’s like, hing, I try to be a little cute, so I do like boohoo or like that.
Speaker B: And when it’s like hudar, it’s like the hot or whatever, and I try to translate it to my gosh.
Speaker B: But I’ve seen Justine do it a little differently.
Speaker B: But I like hers too, because I’m sure she has more Korean knowledge than I do.
Speaker D: I copy boohoo from her.
Speaker B: Okay.
Speaker B: It’s a mutual.
Speaker D: Because her translations are really, really cute.
Speaker D: It’s very like baby talk.
Speaker D: And then I like it.
Speaker D: So I try to copy her translation sometimes because I like it.
Speaker B: I think we refer both of I think so, yeah, both of our I.
Speaker C: Love that, though, especially because of the fact that you work on videos relatively separately.
Speaker C: The fact that you still are working with each other in that respect is really, really nice.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker C: And I wanted to ask about a couple of other, I guess, kind of cute translations as well.
Speaker C: For instance, did you call meh for like pulanam or like shogun and the cutification of phrases, I guess.
Speaker C: How do you decide when you want to do that?
Speaker C: Because sometimes it is inherent in the Korean slang version of it, but sometimes it is like, for instance, the saying like dogo for dog or food as an fewD or things like that.
Speaker C: Even if the Korean text doesn’t contain that kind of informal term.
Speaker C: How do you decide what you want to be cute in that way?
Speaker B: Mainly, I think we try to adhere to what the tone of the video is itself.
Speaker B: Because sometimes the producer may not have cute Korean words, but if we’re translating and we kind of see that the general tone of the video is very cute.
Speaker B: Or it’s about a puppy being the main character or whatever, then we try to make it as cute as possible and come up with new lingos for these puppies.
Speaker B: Or cat or kittens.
Speaker B: Rubber.
Speaker B: So I think it’s really just up to us, like, how we perceive the video.
Speaker D: That’s true.
Speaker A: We’ll be back with more of Karen’s conversation with Hannah Yim and Justine Wan after this.
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Speaker A: Now back to Karen’s conversation with Hannah.
Speaker C: Yim.
Speaker A: And Justine won.
Speaker C: It’s so interesting to hear about the difference, I guess, between translating for something like this versus like legal documents or really anything else.
Speaker C: How do you, I guess, approach any given translation job?
Speaker C: Because I feel like a lot of people tend to just think of it as like point A to point B, just like translate it literally from one thing to the other.
Speaker C: But there’s so much more involved with that and there’s so much more that you have to think about in the work that you’re doing.
Speaker C: So how would you guys say you approach any given assignment for translating?
Speaker B: Before working here, I’ve worked at an artist agency, like a Kpop artist agency, and there I had to translate a lot of the interviews, like verbal or written interviews.
Speaker B: And for verbal interviews, I had to first listen to the Korean audio, come up with a Korean script or preview, and then translate that preview into English.
Speaker B: But for that work, I had to be really careful because depending on what words I use, like specific words I use it really affects the artist’s image or what the artist is trying to convey or deliver.
Speaker B: So it was like a very delicate work.
Speaker B: But for SVS Animal, I think the approach is just you get the script and then you translate and then give the revisions pretty straightforward.
Speaker D: Because obviously before translating, you have to consider many aspects, like the viewers in terms of videos, the viewers, and the purpose and the function of the video and then how it should be conveyed.
Speaker D: So I think for essays and more videos, it’s a bit more simpler.
Speaker D: So I think what we consider the most is to make the translation more easy to read, so it’s not too long, so you don’t miss out any details or not to ruin the storyline and keeping the jokes within the line.
Speaker D: That’s what I consider when I’m translating.
Speaker B: I think for me, when I approach any translation assignment, I first try to think why I’m doing this first.
Speaker B: What motivates me to wanting to translate this?
Speaker B: Well, I guess so wherever the viewer or the reader is, I kind of want them to be able to enjoy it as much as the Korean viewers or readers would.
Speaker B: So that’s one of the approaches that we have in how we approach it personally.
Speaker B: And of course, in terms of profession, we kind of have to approach it according to how they want us to translate it.
Speaker C: That’s fascinating.
Speaker C: I love hearing you guys talk about this because there is such a kind of level of mental gymnastics that’s involved with doing translation.
Speaker C: And with that in mind, something that we talk about a lot on this show is the idea of writer’s block or creative block in general.
Speaker C: And I was curious, what does that look like for you guys in your line of work?
Speaker C: Or do you not tend to experience such kind of block?
Speaker D: So obviously we want to translate it in a very creative and in very witty way.
Speaker D: But our process is it doesn’t really allow any time to think, like come up with brilliant ideas because we have to give the translation as soon as possible.
Speaker D: So we often we’re asked to complete our translation within two or two and a half hours so the CG team can work on start their work with our translation.
Speaker D: So we don’t really have the freedom, we don’t have the spare time to be brilliant and be creative.
Speaker D: Yeah, exactly.
Speaker D: So what I do is I tend to kind of neutralize the translation when I experience the writer’s block or if I experience any difficulties in translating.
Speaker B: Yeah, for me, I think there’s a saying, like, if you don’t use it, you forget it.
Speaker B: So even though I grew up in the States since coming here and only been speaking Korean, I feel like I’ve lost some English.
Speaker B: It’s not like I’ve forgotten it completely.
Speaker B: But when I want to translate a joke or like a slang, the slangs I used to speak all the time.
Speaker B: They don’t come up in my mind.
Speaker B: They don’t pop up right away.
Speaker B: And sometimes because, like Justine said, it’s very fast paced.
Speaker B: So when I’m translating, I’m thinking to myself, oh, this is not it, I can do better than this, but I don’t have the time.
Speaker B: So also, apart from that, most of our videos are about dogs and cats and there are a lot of dog and cat lingos existing already, or they’re very easy to make a pun out of, I guess.
Speaker B: Whereas for other animals, like chipmunks or like, goats are okay, but like chipmunks or some other birds or whatever they are pretty hard to make a joke out of or, like, pun the text.
Speaker B: So what we both try to do is sometimes I also find Justine looking into other channels or other animal channels referring to different subtitles, and I search up online, like different lingos or different puns I can come up with.
Speaker B: Those are our creative blocks, I guess, the time, of course, the language and the lingo or pun.
Speaker C: Do you feel like you figured out, I guess, the kind of best way to get over those kind of creative blocks?
Speaker C: Or frustrations, specifically with regards to the time issue, just because, you know, you have such a limited window in which to work on one video.
Speaker C: Do you say, like, oh, this thing wasn’t totally what I loved here, so the next time I’ll be able to do this, or how do you, I guess, keep moving forward and upward?
Speaker B: I kind of have a sticky note on my computer and if it’s something I really don’t want to forget and something I feel like I’m going to forget, then I kind of ride it on there and when something very similar comes up, then I go back to my sticky note and refer to it.
Speaker B: But the more we see the subtitles, the better we get.
Speaker B: So I feel like we just kind of overcome it naturally the more we translate it or translate similar things, I.
Speaker D: Think I do the similar thing.
Speaker D: So I have a sticky note on my laptop and I write down some stuff that I don’t want to forget, obviously.
Speaker D: But what I do is I sometimes go back to the channel and then watch the videos that I translated and then I kind of like redo my work on my own.
Speaker D: So I’ll just watch the video that I’ve translated and be like, oh, Justin, you could have done so much better.
Speaker D: I think that really helps to revise my own videos and rework on it.
Speaker D: So I kind of memorize what I could have done and then that’s what I’m going to do next.
Speaker B: There are some videos that I’m very regretful because we get feedback right on the comment section and sometimes there is one I did and they love the translations.
Speaker B: Then I’m really happy.
Speaker B: I’m like, proud of myself.
Speaker B: I’m like, oh, yeah.
Speaker B: Go like you add a girl.
Speaker B: Yeah.
Speaker B: So we both always look into the comment section and try to, like, figure out what was what went wrong or what we could have improved.
Speaker C: Yeah, yeah.
Speaker C: Common sections are such dangerous places to go.
Speaker B: Yeah.
Speaker B: But actually they’re generally very nice, but they’re not too mean.
Speaker B: Yeah, yeah.
Speaker D: I think that’s also one of the reasons why we use puns a lot.
Speaker B: Because people love it.
Speaker D: People always leave a comment on it, like, oh, that’s really funny.
Speaker D: And then few of the comments that we get is that we translate animals different wrong sometimes because we are not like animal experts know the exact species of the animals.
Speaker D: So in those cases, I’m like, I couldn’t really I feel like I could have searched more.
Speaker B: So actually there is an episode of that.
Speaker B: So there was this video on a chipmunk which I translated as a squirrel, and I gave the squirrel in Korean, it was ramji because it’s taramji.
Speaker B: And taramji here can mean both squirrels and chipmunks.
Speaker B: Little did I know it was a chipmunk, not a squirrel.
Speaker B: But I went and translated a squirrel and named it Ramsay, like Gordon Ramsay.
Speaker B: So people actually generally love the translations because I used a lot of puns because squirrels are used to very easy to pun.
Speaker C: Yeah.
Speaker B: But some of the comments were saying, oh, that’s not a squirrel, that’s a chipmunk.
Speaker B: So I had to redo the translation.
Speaker D: It also connects to the problem that we don’t have much time so we don’t have much time to research the whole species and then pick what name to use or what kind.
Speaker B: But I learned my lesson, and every time now a squirrel or a chipmunk video is always made.
Speaker B: I’m always like, oh, no, this is a skirt.
Speaker C: And so for last question, I’m curious if there’s one thing on each of your post a notes that you mentioned earlier that you feel like you turn to the most or is like your favorite thing.
Speaker D: It’s a long gone, but there’s one time I translated an altar video.
Speaker D: It was about an altar couple, and then I was looking for altar puns to make the translation work fun.
Speaker D: And then there’s a term utterly so in the translation.
Speaker D: I said, oh, that’s utterly unfair.
Speaker D: Liked it.
Speaker B: That’s good.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker D: So I wrote it down because I liked it.
Speaker D: And then there’s another I don’t know if I can say this, but there’s another altar video coming in and I’m definitely going to use it.
Speaker B: I feel like for me, I kind of grew out of referring to sticky notes because now I kind of know everything.
Speaker B: So for me, instead of having a favorite sticky thing on the sticky note, I think I make my own puns.
Speaker B: And there’s not like one I can think of right now.
Speaker D: But there’s one thing that I really liked that we both worked on.
Speaker D: It was a cat just yelling at each other, and then we were like, oh, they’re fighting in catonyan, or something like that.
Speaker D: Come out with some joke.
Speaker D: And then we will mix Dog and Citizen because we have another series.
Speaker D: It’s called ponies.
Speaker D: So it’s a news about it’s a news for dogs.
Speaker D: So we are like, all the dogisms are suffering from whatever syndrome or captive.
Speaker D: Yeah, we come up with our own plans, too.
Speaker B: I feel like now I try not to refer to the sticky note and kind of, like, explore, take that challenge to make my own pun.
Speaker D: I think I’m so grateful for the writers letting us to translate that way because they don’t really intervene.
Speaker B: I think a lot of times I kind of make the word longer, have more syllables instead of saying beauty, bute kind of make it a bit luxe, like luxurious, kind of a bit elegant, but funny at the same time.
Speaker B: Yeah, those are, I think, my go to, like bute yeah, cattissant.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker D: And I I just know that I won’t be able to translate like this in any other job.
Speaker B: Right.
Speaker D: So I’m I’m really grateful for the team giving us much discretion over the translation work.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker B: We have a lot of autonomy, but it comes with responsibility, and if the translations are wrong, then you know what’s coming.
Speaker B: Yeah.
Speaker C: It’s really nice to hear that you have that kind of creative freedom, though, because I think that’s a big part of why I find the videos so fun and charming is the way that you guys have translated them.
Speaker C: They’re just fun to read and to watch.
Speaker D: Thank you.
Speaker D: Thank you.
Speaker C: Thank you for coming on the show.
Speaker C: It was so delightful to meet both of you and chat with you.
Speaker C: I can’t wait to see more of your work.
Speaker B: Thank you.
Speaker A: Up next, Karen and I will talk about how being forced to work quickly can lead to rapid improvement and the challenges of deciding and maintaining an appropriate tone when writing.
Speaker A: I found that absolutely fascinating, and I have to insert here that I am one of those people who really enjoys learning languages and finding opportunities to use them.
Speaker A: I’m that person who tries to get into a deep philosophical conversation with native speakers when I’m still at the ten words of vocabulary, no grammar stage, whereas my partner, who studied Japanese in a very serious, very intense way for many years, avoids using it because, well, she has standards.
Speaker A: So before we get to the lessons from that interview, I’m curious where you are on that spectrum and how your attitude to using the language you learned from your family compares with languages you’ve learned in other settings.
Speaker C: Yeah, so I learned Korean while I was growing up from my parents, and so I would say that I am conversationally fluent, but definitely not fluent to the point that I could have done my job as a film critic in Korean.
Speaker C: I don’t have the technical.
Speaker C: Vocabulary that I guess is kind of one step above what I would be doing.
Speaker C: So I also couldn’t conduct interviews in Korean, most likely.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker C: As for I actually did learn Japanese during high school, but my level of fluency is really not up to par.
Speaker C: If I had to, I could probably get around okay and read signs all right.
Speaker C: But I would feel very, very guilty, I guess, if I tried to hold a conversation with it with somebody or try to ask for directions, it would be very apologetic the entire time.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker A: I’m a great believer in if you want to learn a foreign language, one that isn’t your native tongue, just like, go for it, because that’s the only way.
Speaker A: If you’re hung up, if you’re uptight, it’s very hard to learn and improve, I think.
Speaker C: Yeah, I agree.
Speaker C: It’s better to have some confidence, and I’m sure whoever you’re talking to will appreciate that you are making that effort.
Speaker A: Or be very amused.
Speaker A: Yes.
Speaker A: I was shocked at the turnaround speed that Hannah and Justine are asked to maintain just because the degree of difficulty of the translation that they’re working with is really high.
Speaker A: All the most difficult challenges humor, slang, youth, culture, language, potentially a quite expert audience.
Speaker A: I mean, the people watching are probably really into animals and a situation on YouTube where, you know, people can give feedback very quickly and not always with great restraint the same time.
Speaker A: It sounds like that’s actually been a pretty useful constraint for both of them.
Speaker A: They know they have very little time, so they do their best and they focus on constant improvement and, like, preparing for the next assignment and getting better next time.
Speaker A: And that really is a great way of building skills, even though it must have been more than a little bit nerve wracking at times.
Speaker C: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely not my preferred mode of learning.
Speaker C: The phrase, I guess, is like something like learning under fire, where it’s like you just don’t have a choice and you have to just go, go and keep doing this thing.
Speaker C: But you’re right in that when you have no choice but to do the work, then that’s what you’re going to do.
Speaker C: There’s just no other way around it, or else the work doesn’t get done.
Speaker C: Especially in their situation where there are so many people in the workflow, as soon as their workflow slows down, it affects the production of the entire channel.
Speaker C: So that kind of outside pressure is also, I think, very, I don’t want to say effective necessarily, just because it’s not something that is ideal necessarily.
Speaker A: Yeah.
Speaker A: I think you would want this in maybe one part of your work life, only it sounds like they both have kind of portfolio careers, and you wouldn’t want this in every element or in every area.
Speaker A: But yeah, if you really want to be forced to get better and get quick oh, my God.
Speaker A: Nothing more effective, I’m sure.
Speaker A: It was really interesting to me to hear that Hannah at least has a habit of going back to videos after they’ve gone live and asking herself how she do it differently at some point later, when she’s more experienced or maybe just has more time to think about it.
Speaker A: Is that something you make a practice of doing?
Speaker C: Frankly, no.
Speaker C: And partially I think it’s just because Anna is maybe a little more mature about herself and self improvement than I am.
Speaker C: Because when I go back and I see those things, I’m just like, oh, this is terrible.
Speaker C: What was I thinking?
Speaker C: Rather than necessarily being able to look at it in such a clear eyed way.
Speaker C: But it is really valuable, I think.
Speaker C: I would say that I don’t necessarily go back and look at old things that I’ve written, but I have an awareness, I think, of what my weak points are, even if I’m not specifically looking at a piece I’m like.
Speaker C: I understand.
Speaker C: For instance, very early on in my career, one of the things that I found difficult was like, getting over using a very academic voice, especially right after I got out of college.
Speaker C: I was like, oh, this all reads really dry.
Speaker C: And I know that that’s the case and I know that that’s something that I have to work on.
Speaker A: Well, first of all, same.
Speaker A: But second, one of the things that I’m very conscious of is there are certain podcast hosts who will say, I cannot listen to myself.
Speaker A: I never listen to myself.
Speaker A: And I get it if you really have a problem with that.
Speaker A: I’m not going to Adam Drive or anybody into doing it.
Speaker A: But I genuinely have well, just I’ll speak for myself.
Speaker A: I have found it so useful to listen to myself.
Speaker A: Not necessarily to sit down in some very formal way and say, I am going to learn.
Speaker A: But you listen to yourself and you hear things that you could improve upon if you don’t.
Speaker A: Or even just sometimes I’ll listen to a show and think, I don’t know what I was doing with my mic that week, but it was not in the right place.
Speaker A: And so even little things like that that are not necessarily about your skill set well, actually, that is part of your skill set.
Speaker A: I do think it can be useful.
Speaker C: It’s also like you are your own harshest critic to a certain degree, and in some cases it’s nicer to be able to hear that from yourself than from your boss.
Speaker C: So if you can preempt it, sometimes it’s a little nicer going forward.
Speaker A: Right, exactly.
Speaker A: Another one of the things that stuck out to me from the interview was the importance of nailing the tone, figuring out the right tone and then successfully writing in that tone.
Speaker A: You can’t do one without the other is a crucial element of any writing assignment.
Speaker A: And I wonder, do you have any advice about how to do that.
Speaker A: How do you figure out your audience and decide what kind of voice you’re going to use to address them?
Speaker C: Oh, wow, that’s a really good question.
Speaker C: And I think there is a sort of one size fits all answer that will vary in terms of method depending on what you’re doing, if that makes sense.
Speaker C: I think the key is always first to figure out what you’re writing.
Speaker C: Like am I writing for an academic journal?
Speaker C: Am I writing for a blog post?
Speaker C: Am I writing a review?
Speaker C: Am I writing an interview?
Speaker C: Because all of those things are slightly different formats and you probably already have some idea of how they all differ or how you think they should read.
Speaker C: Specifically in terms of figuring out voice like oh, is this something where I can be a little irreverent or informal?
Speaker C: Or is this something that has to be really straight down the middle?
Speaker C: It’s easiest to figure out whether you are doing that successfully or not.
Speaker C: I think by doing something that we talk about a lot on this podcast, which is just write the thing first and then go back and look at it.
Speaker C: Because you, in reading over it, I think will have the best sense of whether or not it feels, number one, consistent from top to bottom and then, number two, in the right voice.
Speaker C: Because I think sometimes what can happen to me is like some things will feel a little more faster or quippy and then some things will feel kind of slower or more dense and when you’re looking at them you’re like, oh, I understand which part has to change.
Speaker C: And then you can go back in and sort of fiddle with it about you.
Speaker C: What do you do for this?
Speaker A: No, I would say, Sam, it is a matter of consistency.
Speaker A: You always have to know what you’re shooting for.
Speaker A: I mean, you always have to know the assignment in any whether you’re in school or whether you’re doing it professionally or whether you’re doing something that you’re putting out there just for your own self expression.
Speaker A: That’s the ultimate question.
Speaker A: That’s the thing that you have to know or you will never succeed.
Speaker A: But I also think when you read through it and if something just feels off, well, that just means that’s not in the right voice.
Speaker A: So yeah, I agree that making it all sound of a piece is really important.
Speaker C: It’s funny to say that it basically is intuitive at the end of the day, but it really is.
Speaker A: Yeah, I think so.
Speaker A: It was almost a throwaway line in the interview, but my ears really perked up when Hannah talked about how sensitive she had to be when she was translating Kpop videos, partly because the audience is so ready to turn mole hills into mountains.
Speaker A: But really that is always a key part of any translation, whether you’re providing simultaneous interpretation in a courtroom or making a Kpop idol’s words available to non Korean audiences.
Speaker A: The prime directive is always to accurately represent the intent and the tone of the original speaker.
Speaker A: Last year, you published a book about Bong Joon Ho, a Korean director who makes films in the Korean language that are hugely popular worldwide, win Oscars, that kind of thing.
Speaker A: Whatever you’re doing something is always lost in translation.
Speaker A: What do you think that non Korean speakers miss in Bong Jun Ho’s work?
Speaker C: I think there are a few kind of big examples, and most of them will be like kind of cultural objects or something like that.
Speaker C: For instance, in Parasite, when they’re forging that university letter in the movie, I think they’re either talking about Seoul University or yonse University, but because the significance of those universities in Korea might not necessarily translate for a non Korean audience, I think they said like Oxford or something like that, they name another very kind of famous English language university.
Speaker C: The funniest example of this happens in Okja, which is a coproduction, so it’s in English and in Korean.
Speaker C: And there is a scene in which Stephen Yun’s character says a line in Korean that is deliberately mistranslated in English, and it’s not like a key plot point or anything, and it’s not really brought up in the movie just because he says in Korean, my name is Klusenbum, I think.
Speaker C: And then the subtitle is like, learning new languages will really open new doors for you, right?
Speaker C: And I asked why they did that, not for the book, but around when that movie’s press cycle was going on, and the answer was basically like, this is a joke for Koreans, because this is a really old fashioned clunky name for Koreans.
Speaker C: But obviously there’s no sense of that for someone who doesn’t know that that name is old fashioned.
Speaker C: Like, I don’t know that either, because I’m not someone who’s super familiar with Korean names.
Speaker C: And so they’re like, it’s funnier if he says this and then jumps out the door, like in an English subtitle.
Speaker C: So it’s funnier in that way to just do this differently.
Speaker C: And in that case, it also really nods at mistranslation, which is a huge theme in the movie, so it’s kind of metatextual in that way.
Speaker A: Wow, I got to go watch again then.
Speaker A: Well, that’s all the time we have this week, unless, of course, you’re a Slate Plus subscriber, in which case you will soon hear a little something extra from this week’s interview.
Speaker A: That, of course, is not the only benefit of Slate Plus membership.
Speaker A: You’ll also get extra segments on shows like Culture, Gabfest, and the Waves, entire bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Big Mood, Little Mood, and you’ll never hit a paywall on the Slate site.
Speaker C: Thank you so much to our guests, hannah, Yim and Justine One.
Speaker C: And thank you to our wonderful producer Cameron Drews, who turns our cuckoo into Ha ha every week.
Speaker C: We’ll be back next week with Isaac Butler’s.
Speaker C: Interview with members of the New Zealand indie rock band the Best.
Speaker C: Until then, get back to work.
Speaker C: Hello, sleep plus listeners.
Speaker C: Here is an extra segment from my conversation with Hannah Yim and Justine One.
Speaker C: All right, so I also wanted to ask, once the final video is done, do you watch it back and do a final check of everything, or do you need to instantly move on to the next thing you’re working on?
Speaker B: We used to, but we stopped doing that because it was like slowing down the entire process because so many people had to watch the same video over and over until it was uploaded onto YouTube.
Speaker B: So we stopped doing that.
Speaker B: So mainly it’s the operator or the editors that are reviewing the videos.
Speaker B: But for us, I think we just watch our own videos or each other’s videos on our spare time when we can.
Speaker B: I try to watch it at least once or twice a week because actually we’re also the ones thinking, right, the subtitles.
Speaker B: So that’s when we watch the video.
Speaker D: Because it’s really hard to request any translation revisions for a translation, because then the whole CG has to change.
Speaker D: So the CG team has to work and the producer has to work on their videos and make changes in their videos.
Speaker D: And then you probably noticed that we upload twice a day, which is a lot of work, so we couldn’t really do any extra revisioning.
Speaker B: Whatever is being uploaded that week was all produced that week.
Speaker C: Wow.
Speaker B: For example, the ones that go on the weekends, they all have to be finished, all synced, everything by Friday.
Speaker B: Right.
Speaker B: 06:00 p.m..
Speaker B: But they don’t already have the script to give to us right off the bat on Monday.
Speaker B: It’s like they get the videos assigned.
Speaker B: They have the assigned videos, they work on the storyline, they write the script, they get it reviewed, ran through by an editor, and then it comes to us either on Tuesday or Wednesday or sometimes on Thursday.
Speaker B: That’s when we do the translation works, and then going back and forth with the producers for revisions, and then it’s all finished within five days.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker D: It’s also very different to other video translating because when I was working for other channels or other translation work for films, they usually have the script ready and the video ready, so I can watch the video, translate it, and then have some, like a longer deadline so I could really think about how I want to translate.
Speaker D: Whereas here, Asana said it’s very fast paced, and then we have to translate very quick, very fast.
Speaker D: So yeah, that’s when all the problems start.
Speaker B: Missing a chipmunk as a squirrel.
Speaker D: Exactly.
Speaker C: I mean, it’s impressive because, again, the quickness with which the channel puts out videos is really impressive.
Speaker C: And it sounds like it’s very demanding.
Speaker B: A little bit.
Speaker D: Yeah.
Speaker B: But it’s actually what makes it fun, too.
Speaker C: That’s good at least because I was going to ask just because of the deadlines that you guys have, because of when the videos are supposed to go up, how often, or do you have to deal with crunch?
Speaker B: All the time, I feel like, because the producers just throw us translation requests whenever they’re done, but they also have to work on the next video.
Speaker B: But they’re all cramped within like, two, three days.
Speaker B: So sometimes there is like a there’s like a tsunami of requests starting at like 10:00 a.m.
Speaker B: Right on the dot.
Speaker B: So sometimes I kind of push my lunch a bit back and then work on it because I feel like if I give them the translations a little later, then it kind of has, like the ripple effect.
Speaker C: Right.
Speaker B: Then on Friday, I would have to stay here longer working on the sink.
Speaker B: Yeah, always crunching.
Speaker C: Do you feel like the fun of always having something to do is sufficient, or is there another way that you sort of mitigate that in your work?
Speaker B: So we do generally rotate, but for example, whoever is responsible for one story finishes part one and part two.
Speaker B: Right, but because there are three videos that have part one and part two, and we try to rotate off doing two, part one, part twos, and then one part one, part two, and then the next week I would do two and then she would do one so neither of us have to kind of cry doing it.
Speaker B: And also, Justine found this program that helps a lot with the thinking process.
Speaker B: So we would work on the thinking thing on this program, and we just transfer it to the video to YouTube and that kind of like, lessened the work, like half.
Speaker D: I think that’s also why it’s really good to have two translators, so we don’t kind of let the other one suffer and then we can just, like, help each other out so the translation of work doesn’t pile up.
Speaker B: Yeah.
Speaker C: All right, that’s it for this week’s.
Speaker C: Slight plus segment.
Speaker C: Thank you so much for your support and we’ll see you next week.