Marco Polo Marathon

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!

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