The Pitfalls of Netflix Subtitles

Neeetttffffliiiix! We literally can’t hear you—your subtitles, that is. Many of us depend on subtitles to watch certain movies, especially international ones, but the deaf and hard of hearing rely on subtitles in order to understand and enjoy the shows and movies that Netflix offers. Netflix seems to be slowly remedying this problem, but their numerous mistakes have already had a lasting impact on not only their viewers, but the overall view of their services.  

One common problem is that the subtitles are usually AI renditions of scripts that were given to a subtitling company. They are not actually translated by humans who transcribed the show or movie. In other words, they’re taking the easy way out. In the movie Arrow, for example, the character Oliver has his back turned and says, “Thea I have something to tell you,” but the subtitles are completely different. If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, they will miss out on that part of the movie and countless others along these same lines. 

Another issue is subtitles that are “lost in translation.” This happens when they don’t keep the timing of the subtitles with the timing of what’s playing on the screen. Sometimes, translation is cut off mid-sentence, which makes it impossible for viewers to understand what is actually going on. It is never good to lose words in the middle of a script, especially on one that has been translated.  There have even been times when words or phrases, such as the identification of the actual language, is covering the subtitles. For instance, [Speaks Korean] in Lost and Arrow is placed right over the subtitles. Never mind that the subtitles are rarely uniform and appear differently on all types of devices.    

One of the all-time greatest mistakes that Netflix made was switching the subtitles from Lilo and Stitch with the subtitles for Young Frankenstein. I mean, come on Netflix; do better!  

A few wrong subtitles can change an entire movie.  When one is “lost in translation,” it defeats the purpose of watching the movie or show. That is why it is so pertinent for Netflix to fix these issues for all of us, especially the hearing impaired.  

By Rachel Kraft, Marketing Manager

Global Language Strategies