Fan translation (or user-generated translation[1]) refers to the unofficial translation of various forms of written or multimedia products made by fans (fan labor),[1] often into a language in which an official translated version is not yet available.[1] Generally, fans do not have formal training as translators[1] but they volunteer to participate in translation projects based on interest in a specific audiovisual genre, TV series, movie, etc.[2]


Notable areas of fan translation include:


Fan translation of audiovisual material, particularly fansubbing of anime, dates back to the 1980s.[1] O'Hagan (2009) argues that fansubbing emerged as a form of protest over "the official often over-edited versions of anime typically aired in dubbed form on television networks outside Japan"[1] and that fans sought more authentic translated versions[1][3] in a shorter time frame.[3]

Early fansubbing and fandubbing efforts involved manipulation of VHS tapes, which was time-consuming and expensive.[6] The first reported fansub produced in the United States was of Lupin III, produced in the mid-1980s, requiring an average of 100 hours per episode to subtitle.[3]


The development of cultural industry, technological advances and the expansion of online platforms have led to a dynamic rise in fan translation[citation needed]. Followed by is the increase in voluntary translation communities as well as the variety of the content.[7] There is no doubt that the largest beneficiaries are audience, readers and game players who are also fellow fans of various popular culture products,[4] since they are given the chance to receive first-hand information from foreign cultures. The entertainment industry and other cultural industries also benefit because their products are given global exposure, with a consequence of cultural immersion and cultural assimilation. However, people also consider fan translation as a potential threat to professional translation.[8] In fact, fan translation communities are built on the spirit of sharing, volunteering, a do-it-yourself attitude[4] and most importantly, passion and enthusiasm for the same goal. Like a lot of specialization-based and art-based professions, rich experience and related knowledge are highly demanded in translation industry.[8] Therefore, fan translation cannot be regarded as a threat. Instead, to some extent, it includes two significant senses: for fan translators, it means a period of valuable experience and a pack of adequate preparation no matter if they are willing to take their fun hobby into another level; for professional translators, it serves as a type of sources to be referred and consulted once they encounter similar situations. In addition, from the perspective of development of fan translation, the content is no longer limited within movies, video games and fan fictions. Various forms including educational courses, political speeches and critical news reports appear in recent years, which injects brand-new meaning to fan translation by extending its value from entertaining nature towards social significance.[4] Just as Henry Jenkins states: "popular culture may be preparing the way for a more meaning public culture."[9] As a newly emerging phenomena dependent on the progress of Internet-supported infrastructure, it surpasses its original focus on personal interest and makes itself visible in front of the entire society. As a result, it has to be admitted that fan translation is somehow an inevitable trend.[4]

Problems concerning copyright and censorship

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Fan translation often borders on copyright infringement, as fans translate films, video games, comics, etc. often without seeking proper permission from the copyright holders.[10][1] Studies of fan translators have shown that these fans do so because they are enthusiastic about the works they translate and want to help other fans access the material.[10][11] Copyright holders often condone fan translation because it can help expose their products to a wider audience.[1] As-well as encouraging their works to be translated, many rights holders threaten creators of fan translations. In 2007, a French teenager was arrested for producing and releasing a translated copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in French. [12] In 2013, Swedish police took down a website which hosted fan-made subtitles for users to download.[13] Releasing subtitles without including the original copyrighted work is not generally considered copyright infringement, but works that involve direct release of the copyrighted material like scanlation do infringe copyright law.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l O'Hagan, Minako (2009). "Evolution of User-Generated Translation: Fansubs, Translation Hacking and Crowdsourcing". The Journal of Internationalization and Localization. 1: 94–121. doi:10.1075/jial.1.04hag. S2CID 56048790.
  2. ^ a b c Pérez-González, Luis (2014). Audiovisual Translation: Theories Methods and Issues. London: Routledge. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-415-53027-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e Vazquez-Calvo, Boris (2018). "The Online Ecology of Literacy and Language Practices of a Gamer". Educational Technology & Society. 21 (3): 199–212.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Vazquez-Calvo, Boris (2020). "Guerrilla fan translation, language learning, and metalinguistic discussion in a Catalan-speaking community of gamers". ReCALL. 33 (3): 296–313. doi:10.1017/S095834402000021X. S2CID 228834340.
  5. ^ "Self-Organized Citizen Translations of Harry Potter 7 (English translation of original Chinese article from yWeekend)". 26 July 2007.
  6. ^ a b O'Hagan, Minako (2008). "Fan Translation Networks: An Accidental Translator Training Environment?". In Kearns, John (ed.). Translator and Interpreter Training: Issues, Methods and Debates. Continuum International. pp. 158–183.
  7. ^ Zhang, Weiyu; Mao, Chengting (March 2013). "Fan activism sustained and challenged: participatory culture in Chinese online translation communities". Chinese Journal of Communication. 6 (1): 45–61. doi:10.1080/17544750.2013.753499. S2CID 55473184.
  8. ^ a b Mandelin, Clyde. "Legends of Localization: Fan Translation: Does it Help or Hurt Getting Professional Work?". Legends of Localization. Retrieved on November 16, 2016.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Henry (2008). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide ([New]. ed.). New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814742952.
  10. ^ a b Lee, Hye-Kyung (2011). "Cultural consumer and copyright: A case study of anime fansubbing". Creative Industries Journal. 3 (3): 237–252. doi:10.1386/cij.3.3.237_1. S2CID 145768597.
  11. ^ Spencer, Richard (2 August 2007). "China's Censors Move in on Translators of Harry Potter". Pacific Newspaper Group. The Vancouver Sun.
  12. ^ "Teen in Potter translation arrest". 2007-08-08. Retrieved 2022-07-24.
  13. ^ "Undertexter subtitle translation site raided by police". BBC News. 2013-07-10. Retrieved 2022-07-24.