In June 2014, we ran a series of collaborative translation events in China and in the UK. Our events invite small bilingual groups to translate a text English to Chinese or Chinese to English, and are organised on a competitive basis, with two kinds of prizes – one for speed, and one for quality. We announce a winner for the most characters translated on the spot, but quality takes more time to judge.
Over the coming weeks, we will post here the best translations produced during this first Marco Polo world tour. The series starts beautifully with this paragraph translated during our first event, at the School of Oriental and Asian Studies in London, by Ibtehaal Mukhtar Manji. The piece is set in Xinjiang, and describes the experience of a Han Chinese person travelling on a bus to Kashgar.
“After much frustration, I could finally board the long distance coach to Kashgar. I stepped on the bus; as far as the eye could see, all the faces were the same, speaking one language. It seemed as though I was the only foreigner. I looked particularly distinct and unusual. All the surrounding eyes were cast on me, those unusually curious eyes saw the trembling in my heart. Unfortunately my seat was in the last row. By the time I made it to my seat, an old Uyghur woman was already sitting in it. A white headscarf, a full-length black coat (abaya), two wrinkles on her forehead, one higher than the other. I want to talk to her, but I don’t know how to, because I can’t speak Uyghur, and she doesn’t understand Chinese.”
And here is a self introduction by Ibtehaal: ” My name is Ibtehaal, and I’m currently studying for a degree in Chinese and Economics at SOAS, London. Less than three years ago, I didn’t know a word of Chinese, but I didn’t let that stop me from pursuing my interest in languages. I have since developed a particular interest in China’s Xinjiang, having read extensively about the region’s rich cultural heritage, and witnessing her beautiful landscapes.”