Chinese fansub groups as communities of practice: an ethnography of online language learning
Following the rapid development and popularization of the Internet in China, fansubbing has become a common practice throughout the Chinese cyberspace as well. File-sharing websites and peer-to-peer software facilitate the retrieval, storage, playback, editing and sharing of multimedia products. Chinese netizens can easily download, watch and circulate foreign movies, animation or TV series that are not available through official distribution inside the People’s Republic of China. Since many Chinese netizens are not able to enjoy foreign media products in their original languages, this Internet-based circulation is hindered by linguistic and cultural barriers. It is in this context that Chinese netizens proficient in one or more foreign languages, animated by a passion for foreign cultures or specific media products, translate movies, animation or even entire TV series and provide the subtitles for free to a growing and diversified audience. The entire process, from selection and discussion of the target variety of media products to
the translation, writing and syncing of subtitles usually happens collectively, as the fansubbers organize in more or less cohesive online communities of practice.