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.

“几经折腾终于坐上了去喀什的长途汽车,踏上客车,一眼望去,都是一样的面孔,说的是一种语言,好像只有我是一个外来人,显得格外分明与另类,周围的眼光都投向了我,那些异样好奇的眼神,看的我心里一阵颤栗。偏偏我的座位是最后一排,等我走到座位的时候,座位上已经坐了一位维吾尔族的老奶奶。白色的头巾,一身黑色的长衣,两鬓的皱纹一轮高过一轮,我想和她说话,可是不知道怎么说,因为为不会维语,她也听不懂汉语。 ”

“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.”

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.

Our Shanghai event was very special for two reasons. One, we partnered with United Verses, and translated poetry – including micro-poems by Kate Larsen. Second, we partnered with Fudan High School, and some of our translators were teenagers from their International Baccalaureate stream. This is the case of our winning team – Edwin, Erika and Blair -selected for their translation of a poem by Yisha, which we will publish here in its entirety. We wish to particularly underline the apt translation of ‘降龙十八掌’ as ‘eighteen dragon fist’ – and remember fondly the discussions and gestures that accompanied the explanation of this Kung-Fu position.

三个死囚 / 被反剪双手 / 跪在战壕中 / 等待行刑 / 蒙面刽子手 / 立在其对面 / 马步蹲裆 / 运足了气 / 大喝一声 / 忽然使出 / 降龙十八掌 / 三个死囚 / 三声惨叫 / 呜呼哀哉 / 当场毙命 / 变成了 / 三股青烟 / 直上云天

我就在现场 / 目击到这一幕 / 作为一名神甫 / 为死囚的灵魂 / 祈祷 / 并聆听他们的 / 忏悔 / 此刻 / 我安慰下一组 / 将要受刑的一位毒死 / 对其长年施暴的丈夫 / 留下一个儿子的女囚道:/ “忏悔吧 / 你会重生 / 投胎转世 / 与你儿子重逢”

“拉倒吧 / 下辈子谁知道 / 投胎成啥玩意” / 刀条脸

Three of the condemned
With their hands bound
Kneeling in a trench
Awaited execution

The hooded executioner
Standing in front of them
Going into the horse stance
Breathed deeply
And cried out
Suddenly striking out with
His Eighteen-Dragon Fist

Three of the condemned
Three great shrieks
Oh, the pain
Killed instantly
Becoming three puffs of smoke
Floating up to the sky

I was there
And witnessed the scene
As a priest
For the souls of the condemned
Preying
And hearing their
Confessions
At this moment
I was comforting the next prisoner
A female prisoner who would receive punishment
For poisoning her husband
Who had abused her for many years
Leaving her son alone
“Confess,
And you will be born to new life,
You will live again in the next world,
You will meet your son again.”

“Save it,
Who knows about the next life,
And what you will become.”
The female prisoner with high cheekbones
Said indifferently
But then became full of longing
And said, “If there really were a life after this,
I want to be a cricket,
And be trapped by my son……”

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.

In Leeds, we worked in partnership with the Leeds University centre for translation. This time, the winner was a group translating from English into Chinese, for their beautiful rendition of a text by Professor Sherman young on the electronic future of books, called ‘The Living Dead’. Here is what our judges have to say: “This is a very impressive translation starting from the title – ‘不朽之书’ ! It can be sensed from the translation that a good understanding of the original article and a skilled transfer are between English and Chinese – both in the word choosing and structure modification. The use of Chinese words is rich and appropriate, which is a perfect example of localization.”

Read the original first paragraph below, follow by its Mandarin translation. The full original text is accessible here.

Five years is an eternity in the digital age. The Book is Dead was published in 2007 (and written in 2006) so it’s no surprise that the book world is now dramatically different. Back then, suggesting that the future of books was electronic was pretty provocative. Luckily for me, things unfolded pretty much as I’d expected (or hoped!) While printed books are obviously still around, it’s clear that the momentum in publishing (whether it be books, magazines or newspapers) has shifted from paper to screens. Amazon now sells more electronic books than printed ones and almost all the things we used to read on dead trees — from The New York Times to Ulysses — have migrated to an electronic format. The entire book industry from publishers, through booksellers to readers and writers is in the midst of enormous upheaval – mostly to do with how they might survive in the brave new digital world. Yes, some doomsayers continue to cling grimly to old leather bound editions and scare young children with their gloom, but I think we’ve reached the tipping point, and ebooks are fast becoming normal.

在当今的数字时代,五年内就能发生翻天覆地的变化。《不朽之书》写于2006年,并于2007年出版,因此不难理解如今的书界早已截然不同。在当时,提出书将向电子化发展是极为激进的。幸运的是,事情正向我所预料(或者说期待!)的方向发展。显然,尽管纸质书籍依旧存在,如今出版潮流已由纸质发行转向电子出版,无论是书籍、杂志还是报纸。现在亚马逊电子刊物销量已反超纸质刊物,而且我们过去读的几乎所有纸质刊物,从《纽约时报》到《尤利西斯》,都已向电子版转型。整个图书产业——上至出版社,经由书商下到读者和作者,都深陷巨大的震荡之中——大多事关他们将如何勇敢地在这新数字世界中生存下去。的确,一些灾难预言者依旧固守着老皮革精装书,并以其肃穆震慑后辈,但我认为转折点已经到来,电子刊物正迅速成为常态。

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.

In Suzhou, we were particularly happy to welcome a team of French translators – and they did such a good job that we decided to give them the first prize for the translation of this paragraph of a text by Zhang Tianpan. Have you ever come across the word ‘. Well? Here is a short, synthetic description of the concept and its history. We particularly appreciated the choie of idiomatic French expressions, and effort to create smooth syntactic flow in the French target text. Well done to Martin Delasalle and Emmanuel on this one!

土豪被中国人所熟知,与土改和革命时期的“打土豪,分田地”有关。那时的土豪,是被专政与被打击的对象,因为为富不仁、盘剥贫苦农民、破坏革命等是他们的标签。但现状的“土豪”,其含义已经彻底改变,这个网络词语最简单的解释就是“土气的富豪”,它多被用来形容网络上的花钱无脑的人和极爱炫耀的族群。

“Tu Hao”, dans l’imaginaire collectif,renvoie aux tyrans locaux victimes de la répartition des terres durant les périodes de troubles révolutionnaires et de la réforme agraire. Ils étaient à l’époque la cible des changements de régime, puisque étiquetés comme riches, sans merci, profiteurs de la misère paysanne, saboteurs de la révolution, etc. Quant aux “Tu Hao” de nos jours, le sens de l’expression perdure malgré le changement d’époque, à savoir que celle-ci est utilisée pour désigner la “suffisance des nantis”, de ces gens qui dépensent sans compter et qui aiment particulièrement faire étalage de leur fric.

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.

This translation comes from a Chengdu team, consisting of Grace Luo, Yi Wong, 孔垂, Paola Campanelli and Dorothy Yang. They translated a piece by Melbourne writer Philip Thiel about Nanjing, into Mandarin. In this opening paragraph, the author explores the Avant-Garde, China’s largest independent bookstore. This is an Australian look at literary China, brought back to the Chinese language through one of our events.

“这边”朱利安带我走上水泥坡道。我们朝书店走去,先锋书店几个大字闪闪发光,下面还配着法语 Librairie Avant-Garde。“它看起来像个停车场”朱利安说它曾经是。被书布置过后的隧道,地上的路线与箭头依然清晰可见,同时还有个发光的十字架,看起来是那样的格格不入。我随意地挑了本济慈的书。“他们真的会读济慈吗?”我问,但朱利安没听见,因为他已经走到了读书区,那里人们正坐在扶手椅上沉浸在书香中。这是我在南京的第一天,但我已经窥见了一座文学城市。

“Down here,” said Julien, stepping onto a concrete ramp. We descended toward immense Chinese characters glowing above a French translation: Librairie Avant-Garde – the Avant Garde Bookstore. “It looks like a carpark,” I said. “It once was,” Julien replied. Inside, books decorated tunnels still marked with lanes and arrows; also, incongruously, an illuminated cross. I picked a book at random: a translation of Keats. “They read him here?” I asked, but Julien had wandered out of earshot toward an area where people sat in armchairs reading to themselves. It was my first night in Nanjing, but I already saw a literary city.”

Our world-tour ended at the Beijing Bookworm, a beloved landmark of the Beijing cultural expat scene, and China’s largest English-language literary space.

bookworm

 

This event was organised in partnership with Yeeyan, who invited one of their lead translator to share her experience of community translation as a prelude to the event.

bookworm good talk

 

We then proceeded with our peer-to-peer collaborative translation! More than twenty people joined us, making the room suitably 热闹! Among the participants, we even counted a translation hobbyist, whom we hope will continue to use our platform for his activity.

renao bookworm

Over the last two weeks, our events brought together close to 100 people around translation, literature and language exchange – and together, we translated over 30,000 characters. In the coming weeks, we will be publishing the best quality translations on this blog, with a small commentary – so please come back, or follow us!

On Sunday 22nd, we landed in the Sichuan capital of Chengdu, for the second part of our ‘Bookworm Tour’. But it’s really people who made this day special.

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 We had the honour of welcoming the Australian Consul General in Chengdu, Nancy Gordon, who opened our event – and of local poet Zhifu, who observed and inquired with interest about our model.

With Zhifu

But more important, still, we were particularly happy to welcome our youngest participants to date! Two friends from a nearby international school who bravely translated two paragraphs of English into their native Chinese!

With the girls

And let’s not forget our fantastic organiser, Joanna Karmasz, events manager at the Chengdu Bookworm!

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It was an appropriately rainy day in the Yangtse delta to visit the Suzhou Bookworm, beautifully set in a traditional building by a canal.

Suzhou bookworm

Australian, Chinese and French participants braved the rain, however, to join our translation race – and made this our first trilingual event!

Suzhou race

And after translating over 3000 characters of cultural analysis from Zhang Tianpan and Mel Campbell, our worthy participants joined on a friendly debrief around a cup of local Bi Luo Cha.

Tea set

The stop in our China tour was at Hu Cafe, next to Zhongshan park in Shanghai.

Hu Cafe

 

This event was a collaboration with United Verses, a Shanghai-based association organising bilingual poetry readings and publications. It was also the first of our event involving teenagers – high-school students from the International Baccalaureate stream at Fudan High School – some of whom worked in a group with poet Tom Mangione.

Committed group

Together, the students translated two poems by Yisha, and seven of Kate Larsen’s Tiny Little Poems – which they immediately published on her weibo stream. This was a cheerful event, and a great start to our time in China – next events will take place in Suzhou on Saturday 21, Chengdu on Sunday 22, Beijing on Monday 23, and Tianjin on Tuesday 24. Come along!

Jumping horse

 

The last stop in our UK tour was at the University of Manchester, the leading institution in Northern England, with large numbers of international students.

 Manchester university

Participants in our event were more diverse than ever before. An invited professor from ECNU took part in one of the groups – another had two first year textile students.

Manchester participants

Together, the groups translated 3000 characters, English to Chinese and Chinese to English – bringing our UK total to 11,000 characters translated over three events only.

Chinatown manchester