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Guerrilla fan translation, language learning, and metalinguistic discussion in a Catalan-speaking community of gamers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 November 2020

Boris Vazquez-Calvo*
The Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain (


Driven by their affinity to popular culture, fans frequently engage in linguistic practices that may be conducive to language learning. This study seeks to find out how a group of Catalan-speaking gamers decided to start producing fan translations of video games from English into Catalan. Based on a digital ethnography (online interviews and observation of the group’s activity), two types of analysis were conducted: a content analysis for recurrent trends and a focused analysis of internal metalinguistic discussions on the quality of translations. Results indicate that fan translators (1) organize hierarchically with set roles and functions, (2) curate their group identity and care for the promotion of Catalan as a vehicle for cultural production, (3) learn language incidentally in three ways: while translating (ensuring the comprehension of English and the linguistic quality and creativity of the transfer into Catalan), through sharing language doubts with their peers on their Telegram group and dialogically agreeing on pragmatically acceptable English-Catalan translations, and through metalinguistic discussions on translation tests received from potential new members. The study resonates with a novel subfield in computer-assisted language learning: language learning in the digital wilds, which might be fertile ground for studies on incidental and informal language learning online. The study may also serve as inspiration for effective integration of translation into language classrooms in a manner that bridges vernacular fan translation and pedagogic translation, considering the importance of metalinguistic discussion for language learning and the sociocultural dimension of both translation and language learning.

Research Article
ReCALL , Volume 33 , Issue 3 , September 2021 , pp. 296 - 313
© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning

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