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Interviewing Anothai Dara: Lakorn Fansubber

AnothaiDara Lakorn Fansubber

Learning Thai with translated lakorn videos..

If you are serious about learning Thai, you probably search out every available avenue for getting the rhythm of the language into your heart, your head, down to the tapping of your fingers even. To assist, Thai songs are a great way to go, as are lakorn’s.

Dedicated, professional, and driven, Anothai Dara is one of the most popular lakorn fansubbers I know.

Wantagan (Chompoo) returns home to Thailand from America after her father passes away. She knows that her father was swindled, slandered, and murdered. She just needs to prove it. Her twin sister, Tienwan (Chompoo), also suspects the same, but is too afraid to vindicate herself. She is Natin’s (Chai) long time girlfriend and does not believe he or his family would betray them. Wantagan, on the other hand, is determined to uncover the truth at all costs and leaves no one out as a possible suspect…

If soap operas are not your thing, Anothai Dara also has a growing collection of translated songs that include Thai script, transliteration, and English. Here’s the latest one: Bodyslam – Naliga Tai [Dead Watch].

I’ve always been interested about the process of subbing YouTube videos, so I contacted Anothai Dara for an interview…

Interviewing Anothai Dara, a lakorn fansubber…

Could you please tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born and raised in the U.S. and English is actually my primary language. I learned Thai mostly through my grandmother, so I understand it better than I can speak it. That’s also why I’m able to translate from Thai to English just fine, but translating from English to Thai is a bit more difficult for me. I have a BS degree in Mathematics and Chemistry.

What is a lakorn?

A lakorn is a Thai play or drama series, which usually consists of the pra’nangs (hero and heroine) and the nang’raai (female antagonist). There’s usually a birth secret or some sort of inheritance revelation, but usually end happily with our pra’nangs confessing their love for each other on a beach. Of course, those are just lakorn clichés, and there are plenty more, but listing them all would probably require its own article. LOL.

How did you get into translating YouTube videos?

Initially, I’d wanted to translate/sub Thai music because I thought it’d be a great way to share some of my favorite Thai songs with everyone. Then naively, I thought, “How hard could translating lakorns be?” You see, I’d always admired and have been impressed with fansubbers of other countries (i.e. Korea) and especially of Chobling and wishboniko (Thai fansubbers), who I think started the whole lakorn subbing. However, you’ll see how wrong I was about the whole subbing process as I explain it below.

What is the process? How long does it take?

Subbing dramas/movies consists of 5 steps; translating, timing, editing, spot translating and hardsubbing/encoding. (The last step is actually optional, but a must for me since I post my work on YouTube.) Also, before I can even start the subbing process, I have to rip and convert the DVD files into individual episodes.

Translation & Timing: Here’s where the fun begins. I go through what I call a rough draft of translations and timing. It’s basically what it sounds like. I run through a “quick” translation and save unclear spots for later. Timing is where the subtitles are timed to display in sync with the actually spoken dialogue in the video. This takes about 2 to 4 hours for a 1 hour episode.

Editing: Here, I check for any grammatical or translation errors and check that the translations themselves make sense. I also make sure that the timing has been set correctly and that everything runs fluidly. This part can take another 2 to 4 hours.

Spot Translations: Even post editing doesn’t mean that I’m done. Sometimes, there are spots in the video that are either hard to hear, discern or refer to something I am unfamiliar with. Here is where I fill them in to the best of my ability. This part can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. It really depends on how many spots there are to fill and how difficult each one is. This can end up being more painful and strenuous than the initial translations itself.

Hardsubbing/Encoding: Hardsubbing is where the subs are encoded into the video so that they’re permanently embedded into the video.

All in all, subbing a 1 hour episode takes an average of 6 to 8 hours, but has taken longer. Subbing songs isn’t nearly as arduous, but still requires the same care. In Thai (and in many other languages), pronouns are often always unstated and even when they are stated explicitly, they can be rather vague. Take for instance; the third person reference “kao”, which means “he”, “she”, or “they”. This is the reason why I emphasize that my translations aren’t direct translations, but rather, interpretations.

You are teamed up with another fansubber. How is the work shared out?

I’ve been blessed in having a wonderful subbing partner, Chobling. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work alongside someone whose flawless work I’ve always admired. Since there are only two of us in our joint projects, we don’t feel the need to explicitly credit each other for the individual work we put forth. Having a partner is great and alleviates much of subbing angst that can build up. Also, it allows us both extra personal time, which is the icing on the cake.

How do you choose which video or song to do next?

Ever since I started subbing, I haven’t listened to Thai music the same way. I have a (bad?) habit of translating songs in my head while listening to them. The reasons behind my subbing selection vary tremendously. At times, it could just be a line that strikes a chord, while at other times, the song holds personal meaning. About 25% of the songs I’ve subbed were requests, so they might not have had anything to do with me at all.

How do you handle critics?

I’ve had my share of criticism. I realize that putting my work on the internet poses vulnerability to judgment. Some people dislike my non-literal style of translating while others think I’m too literal. I know, I can’t please everyone. I can only try my best and be content in that. On a different note, I do appreciate constructive criticism; not the ones that attack just to be hurtful. I’m always up for learning and improving because there’s always room for that.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to try their hand at translating Thai songs or movies?

While subbing songs doesn’t require any form of commitment, I’d say translate each one with a bit of passion. Here’s your opportunity to express yourself through your song interpretation. Make it your own, but respect the artist’s intentions.

As for subbing lakorns, make sure you’re ready to eat, sleep, and breathe it for the next few months. Well, at least love it enough to be motivated and inspired to sub it to the very end. There’s a sense of responsibility to bear in mind.

The demands and pressure may get overwhelming at times, but the reward is well worth it.

Good luck.

Anothai Dara,
Anothai Dara | Twitter: @AnothaiDara

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

17 Comments

  1. I’ve whiled away more than a few days and nights watching Thai soaps. Having them translated is awesome but even when they aren’t you can pretty much follow whats going on from facial expressions and by how many times the female lead cries in an hour lol.

    Another great interview and this time I actually understand whats going on well :)

  2. I used to watch Thai soaps but when my favourite finished when I was off-station, I lost interest. I know that I can grab it off YouTube… so there is that. Now that I’ve discovered Anothai Dara, I’m going to get back into it as I really admire what Anothai Dara is doing. I’m also impressed at how much time it takes to get a quality product ready for the public.

  3. Hi, I’ve just discovered this blog thru AnothaiDara :-) What’s your fave lakorn ?

  4. Welcome! At the time I was an avid viewer, my favourite Thai soap was แม่ครัวคนใหม่ (and no fair laughing as I really did enjoy their antics :-D

  5. Oohh, I watched the clip but not the rest of the lakorn since I don’t understand Thai (I need Eng subs :-P). It sure looks funny with the grandma + clan. Not really into the guy at the airport though (is he the pra’ek ?).

    One of the lakorns I’m watching on YT now is “Looksao Gumnan” – it’s funny too!

    So have you got back yet into it ?

  6. Yes, I’m getting back into watching Thai soaps. Like I mentioned, .แม่ครัวคนใหม่ finished when I was gone. Until then I didn’t realise that Thai soaps were time-limited (as you know, in the west they go on for years). So I’m going to finish watching that one before moving on to others.

    And not understanding everything is to be expected. You can easily work out what’s going on and eventually you’ll know what the words are. My big push is just listening to what I find entertaining. Thai tv during the week can be dreary, so being able to choose what I want when I want works for me. And as AnothaiDara is a growing resource, I’m good to go!

  7. You’re lucky you know Thai. I only know a little ie Sawadee-kap, Khun, pra’ek, nang’ek, pra-nangs (okay, the last three are lakorn-related :-P). Ooohh, almost forgot, ruk = love, korhoum = lie/liar (?), jing-ler = really (hmm, little words I picked thru, yep, lakorn watching …). Definitely hope to know more :-)

    Yeah, Thai lakorns usually have about 13-16 episodes like the Korean dramas. I don’t think I can follow if they’re any longer than that. Our local TV stations used to show a few lakorns a few years ago but they didn’t get very popular here unlike K-dramas / J-dramas / Tw-dramas. Too bad – some lakorns are actually very interesting.

    Just started reading your blog a bit and discovered that you used to live in Borneo .. wow! I’m from Malaysia (as you know, Sabah & Sarawak are parts of Malaysia. I’ve been to Sabah once and climbed up Mount Kinabalu – but that was 15 years ago!)

  8. I’m not an expert in Thai (which is why I have a recent push to watch anything that takes my fancy). But soaps seem to use a lot of words over and over so some should stick, right?

    Borneo is great (I lived there nine years). My favourite city is Kuching, in Sarawak. The riverside was better years ago, but it’s still pretty decent these days. I’d stay at the Kuching Hilton, overlooking the fort across the water. Beautiful. I did not climb Mount Kinabalu but my friends did. When they came back after quitting part way up, they said that I should not attempt it as I’m a wimp. Maybe, maybe not. But I took their advice :-)

  9. Have to admire someone who puts so much effort into something just because they love it. All without earning a cent, I imagine. Having mucked around with translating some French from time to time, and even some Vietnamese (what a chore when it’s emailese Viet!), it’s hard work and long hours. But then you know that Cat. Clearly, Anothai Dara goes about subbing very professionally, in my opinion. I’ll have to check out some of the lakorns on YouTube. Thanks for the interesting interview.
    .-= SiamRick´s last blog ..Canada downgrades travel warning on Thailand =-.

  10. Rick, I agree. Anothai Dara is a class act. And yes, I do know how much work it takes to translate. I’m not very good at it, but I learn a fair bit along the way. Especially with Thai which is not black and white.

  11. Thai language is not hard and not eazy but it sound like a song so keep practices then you will be ok. I am thai it also hard for me to learn English :) so go for it guys.

  12. Welcome to WLT sabuthai :-) If I had to learn English, I know it would be more of a struggle for me as there is too much iffyness in the language. Thai has less rules overall (thank goodness!)

  13. Shocking news. Anothai Dara’s Youtube account was deleted for copyright infringement reasons. Back to the black and white Thai learning world…

  14. I was signed up to receive comments so got the alert. It’s sad. I was wondering how Anothai Dara could get around the copyright issues – and it’s a real pity that they don’t see the value in the work.

  15. That’s good to know (and thanks for the heads-up). We need Anothai Dara.

  16. Here is a site where you can watch Thai horror, drama, comedy, and other fine films from Thailand. Watch the best full-length Thai movies online for free.

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