Fansubbing in subtitling land: An investigation into the nature of fansubs in Sweden

Jan Pedersen


Fansubs (subtitles made by fans for fans) have become a global practice, and it is by now a fairly well-described phenomenon, particularly for fansubs of Japanese anime. However, for Sweden, which has a long and strong tradition of prosubs (commissioned professional subtitles), there have hardly been any studies of this increasingly prolific phenomenon. This paper seeks to remedy this situation by investigating 16 subtitled versions of ten English-language films. The analysis uses the FAR model of quality assessment and also investigates other aspects, such as creativity. The results show that there is great variety between the various fansubbed versions. On average, Swedish fansubs are found to be of lower quality, less adhering to norms and also more abusively faithful than prosubs. Moreover, the fansubs in this study are hardly creative at all. This could be due to fansubbing being a rather marginal phenomenon in Sweden, the land of subtitling.

Publication history
Table of contents

The practice of fansubbing (subtitles made by fans for fans) started being described by academics in the mid-noughties (Cubbison 2005; Díaz Cintas and Muñoz Sánchez 2006; Pérez-González 2006). Those early studies mainly investigated what was originally the dominating field of fansubbing, namely, Western-language (mainly English) fan subtitles of Japanese anime (Díaz Cintas and Muñoz Sánchez 2006; Denison 2011). There has been a great deal of development since then, and the fansub phenomenon has spread worldwide, and is now a practice used for a vast array of genres, not only anime, but also films and TV series produced in virtually any country and in any language. In fact, there is some evidence of the source language (SL) and target language (TL) having been reversed, as nowadays it is very common for English-language source texts (ST) to be subtitled by fans into many languages, not least Asian languages, such as Chinese (Li 2014; Hsiao 2014).

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