lundi 20 décembre 2010

similar project

After a great meeting yesterday evening with Dan, the organiser of the Melbourne Chinese language exchange and founder of Globalhearttours, I did some research on websites similar to the Marco Polo project. Well, there aren't really any.
I found one, though, worth keeping an eye on and engaging with: translates articles from the Western media into Chinese. After being closed by the Chinese government for a while, the website reopened, with more of a focus on business books. Their focus is mostly on bringing Western news to the Chinese readership, not the other way round.
I did find quite a few sites talking of crowdsoucring translation though - seems it's an idea floating around. Let's harness it, and build a nice website now! First step will be, find contents to translate, aggregate. Ideas, suggestions anyone - what's hot in China?

samedi 18 décembre 2010


One thing we'd need to negociate is a copyright license on the works we propose to translate. You can't crowd-source a translation without making the works freely available to the potential translators. And of course, there would be a lot of free-riders - or people simply interested. How would we negociate that? Anyone has an idea? What's the vibe in Chinese circles, about releasing their works online, and sharing, with a view to reaching new audiences?

Who will do what

So, who will be doing what in the Marco Polo project? You're wondering - how can I take part? My Chinese is not that great, but I'd loke to help. Or even you don't speak any Chinese, but you think it's a great idea. Well, here's a general outline of how it could work.
There's a general idea, very romantic, that a translation is the work of a single mind, engaging with a single text, absorbing it, and then alchemically transforming it into a different text. I'm not sure it's the only way to go about it. I've been reading the Wu Ming for too long to still believe in the power of the one (check out their website at I believe a translation can be a collaborative work, at the very least between two people: a Chinese person who speaks some of a Western language - enough to draft a translation. And a person who speaks the same Western language, and enough Chinese to check the accuracy of the translation. Others can jump in - reviewers, speaking either of these two languages. And then, if you want to help but find translation too daunting, there's lots of little jobs to do - proof-reading, sourcing texts, writing summaries, administrating the website, passing on the information to your friends...
It will all be mapped out when the website gets launched - these are just ideas jotted down for the moment - feel free to contribute!

cultural tagging

I used to teach at University, and before that, I went through a whole 'arts' curriculum. That was just a few years before the internet developed, at the turn of the Millenium. One of the things we were trained to do in our literature and cultural analysis classes was to understand references - when a sentence, an image, a statement was a quote with high cultural significance.
One feature of the Marco Polo project would be to develop such analytical items for Western audiences. One way of doing it would be to engage the participants in drafting or improving wikipedia pages, and link relevant passages to those pages. Identifying not only the references to the great Chinese classics - Laozi, Confucius, the Journey to the West or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms - but also some contemporary 'pop' references, like Teresa Teng songs, or dialogues from famous movies.
I remember an instance in a Chinese movie - two male characters have an ambiguous, verging on flirtatious relationships. One of them asks the other - Where did I see you, where did I see you? The other answers - in a dream. This is a direct quote from 'Tian mimi', a song by Teresa Teng - and colours the whole passage. I had a moment of pleasure picking that up, which wasn't shared by my Australian friends.
The purpose of this? Train Western audiences to appreciate Chinese productions more fully, and train Chinese people to understand cultural gaps - what needs a footnote, what should be explained. In short, foster better understanding.

What kind of things I'd like to translate

I found this article online by a simple google search - It's about the writer Guo Jingming, the biggest Gen-Y teenage writer in China. This man has a huge influence on the future leaders of the second biggest world power. No one outside China is reading him. Shouldn't we try and have a look at what he's saying, what kind of world he's building?
And, who knows, maybe Western teenagers might like it too!

Overview of the project

I am trying to create an online platform that will bring across contemporary Chinese writing (fiction and non-fiction) to Western audiences. The idea is to crowd-source translations of contemporary Chinese texts into major Western languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian from students of European languages in China, and students of Chinese overseas.
The platform will also list existing translations, link to online resources, blogs, or magazines about contemporary Chinese fiction and culture, and serve as a networking platform for the participants.
It is still in the early stages of development. I am looking for volunteers to join in, and sources of funding.