Trusting translation tools

Earlier this evening I was checking the details of a Korean movie I want to see, having stumbled across the trailer. The first website I found (a general website of movie times) showed session times at my local cinema, but not which sessions have English subtitles, so I will need to ask the cinema staff. I used a well-known online translation tool (no names) and it showed that the Korean word for subtitle is 부제 (bu-je). I checked this by successfully translating it back into English. But how to put it together with English? I searched for English subtitle and it showed 영어 자막 (yeong-eo ja-mak), which also successfully translates back into English. So which is it – 부제 or 자막?

Shortly after, I was talking to my Korean wife in Australia. The first time I said 부제, she completely failed to recognise my pronunciation; the second time, she recognised a completely different word. When I explained again in English, she said ‘You need to say 영어 자막’, then followed that up with a text message.

Checking the app on my mobile phone just then produces the same result: subtitle by itself is 부제 and English subtitle is 영어 자막, which simply doesn’t make sense to me. Even if there are two Korean words for subtitle (there are many pairs of Sino-Korean and native Korean words), why would one be used by itself and the other with English?

Ha! I just checked the cinema’s own website, and it seems to say that all sessions have English subtitles. But the session times don’t match the first website, so I’ll have to ask anyway.

(If I see the movie, I’ll probably write more about it. If I don’t see it, there’s no point in telling you what I’ve gleaned from the trailer and other online sources.)

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4 thoughts on “Trusting translation tools

  1. That is incredibly interesting. I am trying to think of any word in English that changes to something completely different when paired with any other word. I can’t come up with anything. Admittedly, I don’t know every possible English word, but I do have a fairly good vocabulary.

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  2. Pingback: Korean movie – A melody to remember | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

    • Thank you for this comment. The smaller issue is ‘What is the Korean word for subtitle?’ and the bigger issue is ‘Can I trust online translation tools?’ As you can see from my next post, there weren’t any subtitles, but I watched the movie anyway.

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