Chinese netizens impressed by Pornhub’s literate translation

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/13 22:58:40

Photo: Pornhub Twitter account

A video of a female masturbating in an IKEA shopping mall in China recently caused a flood of criticism on Chinese social media platforms. The female was allegedly an uploader on Pornhub, the world's largest pornographic website. 

It is not the first time that Pornhub has come to the attention of the Chinese people. 

The website, based in Montreal, Canada, is usually referred to as "a globally famous learning website" for its rich content, ranging from speeches by top Chinese respiratory experts on anti-epidemic knowledge to Chinese traditional crosstalk and online classes on quantum mechanics and data structure. 

Even videos of rioters in Hong Kong destroying the city and attacking people, which some Western media turned a blind eye to, can be found on the website. 

Recently, an article released on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo on April 25 made the website a hot topic again on Chinese social media platforms due to its Chinese version's classical literate translation. 

Some netizens said the translation style is interesting and impressive, reminding them of sexual descriptions in Chinese classics.    

"Pornography suddenly became literate in my eyes," a Weibo user said. 

"Is Pornhub hiring literary experts to work for them?" joked another. 

Some others complained the translation is too literate and not as direct as a porn video is supposed to be.

"We did not intentionally choose such a style. No matter what style it is, literate or down-to-earth, as long as the translation is easy to read and can make people feel something stirring somewhere inside, we will use it," Danny Wang, Pornhub's first Chinese translator, told the Global Times. 

It is possible that a literate style may cool some people's sexual desire, but it causes discussion and makes Pornhub stand out from similar websites, Danny said.   

Most of the titles are chosen from contributions submitted by voluntary translators, according to Danny.  

At current, 1,500 voluntary translators are working for Pornhub to translate titles. Sixty of them have joined a group on Telegram Danny created to communicate translation work. 

As of April 8, Danny said he had received 10,000 contributions and even more people have applied as volunteers following the circulation of the article on social media platforms since late April.  

Title translation for Pornhub videos seemingly has become a platform for some people to show their creativity, Danny said.

"We keep improving our translation, trying to make it not only meet the criteria of 'faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance,' but also practical," Danny said.  

Such literate translation is related to sexual description and writing traditions in Chinese classics, which is usually artistic, humorous or secular, Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that some of the titles even directly quote some classic works. 

In terms of overseas transmission, such a style also coincides with a curious attitude toward the ancient East in the West, Shi said. 

Pornhub started to recruit Chinese translators in April 2019 and their Chinese version was put into use in July in the same year, according to media reports. 

Danny said he applied for this job, a part-time job, as he is personally interested in studies in sexology and sexual minorities. His first masters thesis was about comparative studies of literary translation in LGBTQ literature. 

"The job offered me a new angle - sex - in translation," Danny said. 

"I hope my work can help Chinese people who do not understand English to enjoy Pornhub. Moreover, I am also sharing sexual knowledge and interesting articles I find on the website or during the translation," he said. 

Danny now lives in Canada as an IELTS teacher and a Chinese teacher for foreigners. He works 15 hours per week on average for Pornhub. His work includes managing translator applications, translating new content on the webpage and screening and checking video title translations. 

A difficulty of the job is to translate obscure expressions, which even many native speakers do not understand, Danny said.   

"And, I know many people are curious, but I don't need to watch every video to translate the title," he said.      

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