What Is Fan Translation or Fanslation?

Fan translation is a process through which fans and users of certain forms of entertainment provide unprofessional and untraditional translations into foreign languages. Also known as fanslation, fan translation is a way for fandoms (communities of enthusiasts of a series or art collection) to share the art they enjoy with other fans who don’t speak the original language of the media. There are thriving communities based around translation of videogames, anime, comic books, novels, and other forms of media.

Fansub and fandub are translations of a television show or film, mostly Japanese anime, from its original language into another. Fans who are capable in the original and an additional language translate all of the text and speech into the additional language. In fansub, the translator inserts subtitles into the videos, leaving the original audio untouched. Fandubbing instead consists of fans doing voiceovers of the translated speech and the voiceovers being inserted into the video so viewers of the new language can listen to the program in their own language instead of having to read the words off subtitles. Though these activities are typically illegal due to copyright laws, the entire fansub and fandub community has its own universal code of ethics. Fans create fanslations of television shows like anime for fellow fans who live in countries in which the shows are not yet licensed and are hence unavailable in their language. According to their unofficial honor code, both translators and viewers should delete their illegal, unprofessional translated copies once the series becomes available for purchase in their country and language. The purpose of fanslation is not to pirate copies of these programs, but instead to allow access to those who do not yet have any legal means to obtain them.

Fan translation of videogames has become popular as well since many Americans and Europeans wish to play Japanese-made videogames. Most Japanese games are officially translated into English, but there are plenty of players who do not speak Japanese or English. Other titles may only be released in Japan thus barring access to anyone without competency in the Japanese tongue. In these cases, dedicated fans take the time to not only translate all of the text of a game but also to dive into the programming and insert the new text into the coding of the game to create a seamless translation. This has become easier in recent years as consoles begin to include a file system. This is an excruciating time consuming process because of all of the coding that must go into perfecting fonts, text size, character placement, etc.

Fans even have been known to translate entire books into a new language. For example, the availability of Chinese translations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is slim. Most translations are partial or incomplete. So, the “Harry Potter 7 Bar Translation Team”, composed of more than 60 fans, worked to quickly provide a Chinese translation of each Harry Potter book as they came out. Publishers often will not invest in translations of popular works into less common languages or translations of obscure works into foreign languages, primarily because of budget and copyright legality. So, through fanslation, fans of every type of entertainment have been hard at work trying to create a way for fans all over the world to enjoy the entertainment that would have been available in just one language.

Do you think fanslation is a good deed or an unacceptable practice? Let us know in the comments below!


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Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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