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Persistent to expand internationally, Netflix must meet the demand of language. While most of their shows are in English, which is only natural since they are an American company, the recent releases made by Netflix of their own original series have featured a variety of foreign-language shows and films, and Netflix has made a considerable effort to provide original Asian shows, especially Korean ones. However, many shows want to be enjoyed across many languages and nations, so to cater to audience taste, Netflix must pay special attention to subtitles and a translation process that preserves the character of a show and its script without having too much of material meanings lost in translation.

So what’s the normal translation protocol for shows and films in the digital crypts of the Netflix repertoire? Netflix has often worked with third-party services depending on the target language and the third-party’s language skills and experience, most of which were unassociated with each other and hire their own recruits, so a single standard cannot be easily applied across such an extensive spread of outsourcing, especially since they are not necessarily unified by a professional organization.

To make translators universally consistent, Netflix has come up with the HERMES, the Internet’s first translation and subtitling test, according to The Netflix Tech Blog. The test’s most immediate obstacle is to eliminate issues in idiomatic translations, of which there are thousands in the English language alone. For example, “Bite the dust” or “break a leg” may not translate figuratively across other languages, and they do not make sense in a literal translation unless the target language reader/speaker is familiar with its meaning in English.

An example given in an Engadget article was that “Smashing Pumpkins” shouldn’t be translated as “Pumpkin Puree” because in this context they are not the same thing. As a word, the verb “smashing” is different from the noun “puree” so it will need a closer equivalent, if possible. However, the word itself is a key part of the band’s identity, so “Smashing Pumpkins” would probably be left in its native English. There is a fine balance to keeping the traits of a show’s native language that are inevitably part of its character and making the script just as enjoyable or effective in the target language.

Netflix hopes to solve the issue by finding the zenith of professional subtitle translators or media translators, which is actually a surprisingly small number for each language, since you must be more than multi or bilingual; you must understand the disposition and culture behind the languages, and then exercise semantic and syntactic judgment over both languages, hopefully garnering results that accurately reflect the integrity and personality of the show or movie.

What are your feelings with subtitled shows on Netflix?

– Kelly Gatewood
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