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‘Squid Game’ exposes issue with English vs English CC

English vs English CC

There has been a lot of talk over English vs English CC thanks to the Netflix series “Squid Game.” What is the difference between the two? How does this impact deaf and hard of hearing viewers?

English Subtitles

Not only do captions help if you can’t hear, but they also help when the person watching does not know the language being spoken. Over the past couple of months, there has been a lot of buzz around the hit Netflix show “Squid Game” by Hwang Dong-hyuk. It is a Korean show where people desperate for cash are invited to play children games in order to win a huge payout. Since there are various dubbed language options, many choose to watch in the original language and rely on captions. For English, there are two options: English and English [CC].

If you do a quick Google search, you quickly learn that the English subtitles are considered the more accurate of the two. If you do not know the difference, English [CC] has speaker identification, dialogue, sound effects, and music description. English just tells you what is spoken. Basically, we ended up with two versions of subtitles, with English [CC] being sometimes referred to as “the dumb one.”

Why English and English CC?

But why do we need two versions of English? Why isn’t there speaker identification, dialogue, sound effects, and music descriptions in the English subtitles as well? The answer is that these are two types of Audiovisual Translations, or AVT. The first one, English, is subtitles. Subtitles assume the person can hear and process sounds, and so translates the dialogue only. The second one, English CC or English SDH, are captions. These captions assume the person is either deaf/HOH or has difficulty processing sound. For the most part, English subtitles are seen with foreign films/shows.

The English CC or SDH are often the transcript for a movie or show. If the movie/show is in your native tongue, then the captions are more likely to match the spoken dialogue. You’re also less likely to see two English options when a movie or show is in English. However, when the language spoken is different than the language it is transcribed into, then some discrepancies come about. The reason for this is the way the subtitles and captions are made.

Read more: The importance of captions and how they can improve

An Example of English vs English CC

For English CC or SDH, these captions are typically from the transcript. So the transcript itself is translated into another language, in this case, English. The English subtitles, however, are a translation. They are typically made to more closely match the tone and message of what is being said on screen.

Here is an example of the difference between English CC and English SDH as told by Korean American Youngmi Mayer. In the scene, we have player 212, Han Mi-nyeo, trying to convince other players to pick her as a partner.

The English captions say, “I’m not a genius but I still got it work out. Huh?”

The English subtitles say, “I never bothered to study but I’m insanely savvy.” The English subtitles previously said “unbelievably smart” until it was changed.

The English captions say, “I’m not a genius but I still got it work out. Huh?”

The English subtitles say, “I never bothered to study but I’m insanely savvy.”

According to Mayer, the Korean translation is, “I am very smart, I just never got a chance to study.” This is because of a Korean trope about poor people who are extremely smart but just don’t have money. Not only does English CC not express that, but it also doesn’t work well grammatically. For English viewers, the word “savvy” evokes a meaning closer related to the Korean meaning. This is why the English subtitles are said to be better when watching foreign films.

Equitable Accessibility is Important

So, what’s the problem? Can’t we all just watch the English subtitles to see a movie/show closer in translation to the language spoken? Well, no, no we all can’t. For deaf and HOH people, knowing who is speaking when off-screen is important. Seeing that a phone is ringing, doorbell chiming, or music playing is important. Knowing that when the side character walked through the door there was a single gunshot is important. We can’t always hear these things. Sometimes these auditory clues are crucial to the movie/show’s plot.

Read more: AMC adds open captions to more movie theaters

Equitable accessibility is important. Equitable accessibility means we all get to watch the same movie/show and come away with views on the same movie/show. If the captions don’t line up with the film’s meaning and I end up watching a different movie/show, that isn’t equitable. English subtitles should have the audio tags that captions have. English CC and SDH should be translated accurately, the same as English subtitles.

“Equitable accessibility is important.”

When translating a movie/show into a different language, it’s easy to lose some meaning because of cultural differences and language barriers. As technology continues to bring us closer together, and we share the arts with one another, I hope we don’t continue to make accessibility an afterthought. English CC and English SDH should not be labeled the “dumb” captions. They are necessary and should be accurate.

Author Details
Hello, my name is Catalleya Storm (they/them). I work to bring awareness to issues impacting the Black, Deaf, disabled and LGBTQ communities. I was born hearing but started losing my hearing in my late teens. I identify as Deaf/HOH, with the understanding that I am apart of both the hearing world and the Deaf world. I believe that we all can bring about positive change in the world, and that’s what I hope to do with the time I have here.