From CNN (H/T to The Peking Duck's Twitter page):
These people who do these translations are committed to their hobby. I can't exactly understand why they care so much given that they don't make any money off of what they do. But then again, I spend time on this here blog every day and I don't make any money on it. So I guess I can see why they do what they do.
Photo from Daylife.com
SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- On Saturday at 10 a.m. it's show time for Brenda Zhang and her subtitle team. They roll out of bed, meet each other online and chat, while their modems download the latest episode of "Prison Break," which just aired half a world away on Friday night in America.
Once they have the show on their hard drives, the team spends the rest of the day creating subtitles for it in Chinese before putting it back online for other fans to watch.
Dozens of such groups exist in China. They are voluntary and are translating a mix of media, from books and magazines to games, TV shows and movies. The translated products are for an audience whose primary means of accessing foreign entertainment is the Internet.
The members of these online translations groups participate out of a desire to improve their English. For many there is also a passionate interest in overseas content and a desire to make it accessible to other Chinese people.
"This is a way to fulfill your life and do something you are interested in," said Zhang, a 24-year-old who translates for a team that calls themselves "Showfa."
"I think Chinese people need to know something different, to see how the foreigners think about life, think about love."
The article says that there is a strict application process for being accepted into these groups. One member of the 1000fr group said "she had to translate 300 words in 15 minutes." These standards, translating words (probably with no context), surely explains why most of the translations are so awful.
When watching these Chinese subtitled programs, I can recognize a lot of the characters flowing across the bottom of the screen. It's hard for me to say whether what I'm kind of understanding gels with the English going on on the screen though. But Qian often (actually more often than not) has something to say about how terrible the translations are. She usually turns them off or switches it to the English translation, if possible.
The translations don't cut it for Qian, who has really good English. But it obviously works for the majority of Chinese people, who aren't proficient in English.
Whatever one thinks about the quality of these translators' work, there's no questioning their quantity.
As the article states, shows are turned over often within hours of their showing. If "24" is on on Tuesday night in America, you'll most likely be able to find it on the 'net in China by Wednesday (remember, China is twelve hours ahead of the US). Being able to watch TV shows as they air lets young Chinese people watch the show at the same rate as those in the States.
From what I've seen and heard, the most popular shows for young Chinese people are "24," "Desperate Housewives," and "Prison Break."
The most popular show during my time in China, by far, has been "Prison Break." I find this amusing since the show isn't particularly popular at all in America. I've watched a bit of it. It's painfully bad. You see pictures of the lead character "Scofield" all over Xi'an selling jeans or whatever. I've heard a lot of Chinese guys tell me how handsome they think Scofield is and lots of girls lament that he's gay in real life. The Prison Break phenomenon in China is indeed a curious one.
In addition to TV shows, American movies with Chinese subtitles across the bottom of the screen are everywhere. I've been impressed with some of the titles available. Both the Darren Aronofsky film "Pi" (I like its translation 死亡密码 - "Death's password?") and the 80's film "Stand by Me" are currently available with Chinese subtitles at PPlive.com. Neither of these movies are that popular in the States. Seeing that they've been translated, the Chinese 'net has just about every movie out there. Go search for whatever you want on PPlive. It's probably on there.
All of this stuff is, of course, illegal. Right now, the powers that be seems to be completely ignoring it though. Whether this culture will continue into the future will be an interesting thing to observe.