A short interview with Jiamin Zhao

From August 23 to 27, Jiamin Zhao, co-founder of Yeeyan, will be visiting Melbourne as part of the Marco Polo Festival and Melbourne Writers Festival. Yeeyan started in 2006 as a simple community translation platform, bringing news articles from Western media to Chinese readers. Eight years down the track, it has developed a complex and robust crowd-sourcing model that involves a very large community – over 500,000 registered users now – in an organised process to bring diverse works in foreign language into Mandarin.

“Yes! I’m excited to come to Australia,” says Jiamin. “It’s completely new to me. I went to America, I went to Europe, but had never been in Australia before. And it’s not connected to any other continents. There must be something unique, something you can only find here, not only the species of animals, but also culture and traditions.”

On August 23, 4pm, at the Wheeler Centre Workshop space, Jiamin will talk about ‘The Third Culture‘. “The term is borrowed from John Brockman, and describes the intersection of humanity and science. It’s still a narrow field for readers, but the trend is already there. Technology is changing the culture, is changing how people write, read and think. That’s what I would suggest to talk more about.”

Following this session, he’s inviting Australian authors to meet him, and discuss the potential for translating their work into Chinese. Science fiction, children’s book, travel guides, maybe poems, would probably appeal to a Chinese readership – but Jiamin is mostly looking to discover our unique culture and perspective on the world: like many, he says he knows little for the moment about Australian writing. “I need to learn about it. That’s one of the reasons that I am coming.”

How can Yeeyan contribute to Australian literature? “Hah, this is something new, something valuable that we can bring to Australia. Let me use the example of Yeeyan’s Gutenberg Project. In two years, our community has translated and published – electronically – more than 200 books in public domain. With only two in-house editors, we have about 300 community editors and more than 15 thousand community translators involved in the project. We have developed a whole online collaboration process, starting from recommending titles, to recruiting editors and translators, to collaborative translation, to cross-proofreading and independent quality assurance. This is the so-called crowdsourcing model. With Internet technology and a new organizational structure, I hope Yeeyan can help Australian publishers and writers to quickly promote their works to Chinese readers.”

So – come share your stories with him!

The full program of the Marco Polo Festival is available at marcopolodiglitfest.org

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