It’s Fast and It’s Free: Fansubbing

In China, prolonged economic growth, the internet, censorship and a generation of educated young adults have bred an entirely new kind of translator: the fansubber. Translating foreign media without any financial reward, the fansubber’s motive seems to be a passion for broadening Chinese horizons, according to writer Xiaochun Zhang (Mulitlingual Magazine).

Fansubbers form networks of participants on the Chinese mainland and overseas, acquiring copies of television shows and movies primarily from Japan, Korea and the U.S.  to create subtitles of varying quality. Translation of a t.v. show people are waiting impatiently to view can be extremely fast and somewhat imprecise, while other products (including educational materials) are processed more carefully. Both fansubbers and their audiences get hearty doses of culture and language beyond their borders, and this is the main goal that these new world translators share.

The YYeTs for example, are a group of fansubbers whose slogan is “Share, learn, progress.” Their website,, looks like an arcade of media graphics with hundreds of available titles represented by pictures and trailers, with portals to discussion groups and postings telling how many hours ago the subtitled version was made available. It’s electric, alive – a global conversation that seems destined to increase the interaction of the Chinese people with the rest of the world.


J. McShulskis

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