The proposal for a thematic session on non-professional subtitling (also known as fansubbing) aims to bring together relevant researchers working on this rapidly expanding translation practice and to highlight the importance of these studies to Translation Studies. The final goal is to sketch the state-of-the-art in this area.
It is incontrovertible that non-professional subtitling is a growing tendency in today’s world. Non-professional subtitling modes have started to modify the traditional panorama of translation. Furthermore, the advent of Web 2.0 and the empowerment of the users have affect their position in the audiovisual market and have given them the opportunity to become a voiced and active part of the production process (O’Haga 2009). Although the change started during the late 1980s with the popularization of Japanese anime in the United States, it was not until the Internet and the DVD were available to the wider public that the non-professional subtitling activity started to grow and reach a wider public.
As can be seen in the studies on non-professional subtitling within Translation Studies, research has developed around three main aspects: the motivations of non-professional translators (Kayahara 2005), the production conditions (Ferrer 2005; Díaz Cintas and Muñoz 2006, Pérez-González 2006) and quality issues (Pérez-González 2007, Bogucki 2009, La Forgia and Tonin 2009). O’Hagan (2008) has strongly promoted the studies on this area and has taken an step forward on the academic discussion: considering the successful translation strategies developed by big Internet communities (such as Facebook translation model), known as crowdsourcing, she proposes integrating crowdsourcing models with professional subtitling training, as an advantage to explode its possibilities for developing translation skills.
Leaving aside the legal aspects of non-professional translation, technology and social interaction are here to stay and are definitely redefining the limits of audiovisual translation as a profession. Nornes (1999) explores how fan-subtitling is pushing to the limits the generally agreed rules of subtitling and proposing new ways to explode all the possibilities offered by digital subtitling. Likewise, audiences have started to prove their importance to audiovisual content producers and distributors. Since 2009, cable TV channels in Latin America have struggled to reduce the delay in releasing subtitled series from the United States. Spain has also entered this battle. On 24 May, 2010, the last episode of the successful series Lost was broadcasted with live subtitles simultaneously in the United States and other seven countries, including Spain, regardless of the time differences. These actions are aimed at fulfilling the fan expectations and, at the same time, at trying to ! reduce non-legal distribution through the Internet among eager and excited fans who were desperate to watch the end of the acclaimed series.
As non-professional subtitling seems to be proving itself relevant to professional practices, Translation Studies should not longer overlook them and research needs to explore new areas. There are plenty of questions that remain unanswered and that might shed some light on the future of both, professional and non-professional practices. These questions vary depending on the focus of the studies, but some important aspects might are the implication of this translation to the concept of quality from the audience perspective, the attitude and reception of the audience, the possibilities for formal translation training, the position of the users/producers on the translation landscape and the possibilities to translation training, among others. It is mandatory to foster academic discussion on these areas and create academic spaces where the trends in non-professional subtitling research can be share and discussed.