On July 28, our Singapore lead Ting Wei Tai organised a first translation event with Raffles Institution.


Raffles is one of Singapore’s leading High Schools, and we convened eight students from section 3 and 4 of their ‘bicultural program’ to translate contemporary Singaporean and classical Chinese poetry. Discover new voices from the South East Asian metropolis with these four poems: Left, Medical history, Legacy, Waking up at night.


Singapore’s unique mix of languages and cultures – in particular, the strong presence of Mandarin and English – make it a particularly fitting place for our activities, and we look forward to more involvement with local writers, schools and bilinguals!

Today, we ran our first translation event in partnership with the Australia China Youth Association (ACYA) at Monash University. There were sixteen of us in an amphitheatre, and we translated over 2000 words in an hour.


Key learnings? Translation is the pathway to diplomacy. Some people write unnecessarily poetic prose. Translation can be fun.

If you’d like to know more about ACYA Monash, check out their facebook page.

If you’d like to work with us on organising event, send us a line at info@marcopoloproject.org.

On Sunday, June 7, we held our second event with Beijing Foreign Language University – organised by our Beijing super-champ John Paul Grima.


The event brought together 20 emerging translators – and because Marco Polo Project is ever improving, this time, we incorporated a projector and screen as part of the event!


This year’s keyword for Marco Polo Project is engagement, and we’re looking to grow the number of our events. If you’d like to partner with us or run a translation event in your community, please contact julien@marcopoloproject.org!

Translating online is great – translating offline with buddies is even better! That’s what we figured – and so, in line with this insight, we decided to launch a regular Marco Polo Project Melbourne Meetup!

The first of those took place last Wednesday, March 20, at the Melbourne Multicultural Hub, in partnership with Language Connection.

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The Marco Polo meetup is a low-key get-together for Mandarin language enthusiasts to practice translation in small teams of three. During this first event, we translated the opening paragraphs to three pieces from China30s: From Harvard to the alpaca business‘, ‘Triathlon changed my view of life‘ and ‘A young man’s magic time machine‘.

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We’re planning to run these events on a monthly basis – so, help us spread the word – and come along next time!


On Wednesday, March 18, we’re running the first Marco Polo – Fudan – China30s massive translation event: an epic translation race with 90+ students of year 9-12 from the International Section of Fudan High School in Shanghai, translating interviews with leading Chinese innovators published on China30s. 

In preparation for this event, we’ve been publishing a wide range of texts from China30s, but won’t be offering a detailed digest this week. Log into our website on Thursday, March 19 to our China30s page to check out the results of the translations – and find out more about the lives of the coolest people in China!

On November 1st, we run our first Marco Polo Marathon. 40+ learners, experts and enthusiasts joined us to discuss, explore and celebrate language and cultures through a range of activities.

Professor Charles Qin, Chief interpreter and Managing director of Chin communications, kick-started the day in style. Charles took us on a reflective journey from early Buddhist translators to recent film titles and song lyrics, framing a Chinese perspective on ‘the art of translation’ as it evolved through history.

Food race

In the morning, participants were invited to reflect on the local presence of China during the ‘Marco Polo Food Race’. Teams scouted nearby shops and markets for products that represent the four corners of the Middle Kingdom, and presented a gastronomic journey across China through local photographs. Later in the morning, our caption competition invited participants to connect words and images in a humorous, unexpected way: the first prize went to the caption ‘the Great Wall of China’ for this image.

sausage wall

After lunch, a panel discussion reflected on ‘the translator in context’, exploring the multiple ways that translators and interpreters interact with existing systems – whether technical, educational, legal, or medical. The panel brought a broad range of experts: Chau Wee was a conference interpreter in the US, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore; Zhiling Hollitt worked as a court and medical interpreter; Michael Zuo both interprets and trains new generations of Chinese interpreters in Australia; and Tiang Chen shared his experience of IT localization work in Europe, and gave us a tech perspective on the art of translation.


Finally, our participants came together for collaborative translation, bringing new Chinese voices to Western readers.


This event was presented as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week. Melbourne Knowledge week is a multidisciplinary, cross-sector festival that showcases innovative projects and the wealth of knowledge and talent in Melbourne – and we were very honoured to share our own experience in cross-cultural engagement, language and China alongside prestigious organisations.

We look forward to running another Marco Polo Marathon in 2015 – please don’t hesitate to contact us for suggestions or advice on activities you would like!

We would like to acknowledge and thank Language Connection for helping us with the logistics, the Multicultural Hub for hosting us, Chin Communications and Charles Qin for their fantastic keynote address, our panellists for sharing their stories and insights, Ross Ensbey and Lucy Qianqian Lv for their help on the day, Philip Thiel for brainstorming activity ideas, the City of Melbourne for their support, and the whole team at Melbourne Knowledge Week!

On Sunday October 5, Marco Polo Project was featured as part of ‘Poetry Cafe’ at Montsalvat Open Day.


Montsalvat, in Eltham, is Victoria’s oldest artist community, and still offers studio space to painters, sculptors and writers. This event, organised by resident Lella Carridi, brought together poets and translators from China and Australia. The very diverse group spoke Mandarin, Italian, Greek, Dutch, french, and English. Together, we discussed the challenges and thrills of collaborative translation, and read five poems from Yisha’s collection ‘Poems for the new century’, and extracts from Katie Keys’ Beijing poem series.

Poems were translated in partnership with the Monash University Centre for Translation Studies.

On November 1, we’re running the first Marco Polo Marathon – a guided journey through language and culture.

Marco Polo Marathon

Join us for an exciting day of varied activities, at the Multicultural Hub, 509 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne

10h00 – 10h30Language in your hand How would you sculpt a word like ‘home’, ‘friend’ or ‘animal’?

10h30 – 10h45Interpreting the world – Opening address by Charles Qin, Founder of Chin Communications

10h45 – 11h45China food tourhunt and gather food from the four corners of China at nearby shops, and share your bilingual stories of China’s diversity through food memories

11h45 – 12h45 – Twitterpretation – take part in a bilingual-live-tweet-fest of iconic Chinese and Australian videos

12h45 – 13h30 – 一起吃饭 informal language exchange around lunch.

13h30 – 15h00 – Translators in context join leading translators and interpreters in a panel discussion, exploring the complex interaction between language experts and the diverse institutions and systems they work with.

15h00 – 17h15 – All you can translate – join a bilingual team and translate new writing from Australia and China – the fastest translators will receive a small gift.

17h15 – 17h30 – Closing address – how to live happy bilingual lives in Australia and China.

Booking is free, but necessary. Please book here, or through our facebook event page.

Who’s your favourite Beijing writer? Lao She, and his insightful observations of life among the Hutongs, from theatrical ambitions to family tensions? Wang Shuo. and his dystopian exploration of the Beijing underworld? Or Feng Tang and his chronicles of dispassionate Beijing youth?

Beijing concert

On Saturday 23, 2h30pm, come to ACMI – The Cube, and discover Beijing through the eyes of Melbourne writer and Marco Polo Festival director Julien Leyre, and 南方都市报 cultural analyst and senior Beijing correspondent Zhang Tianpan. This imaginary journey through the Chinese capital will be facilitated by writer Nic Low, as part of a Melbourne Writers Festival series called ‘City to City‘ – and as part of the Marco Polo Festival.

We wish to particularly thank Chin Communication for sponsoring this session!

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