Our first Chinese event

Last week-end, we ran our first event in China, at the Banpocun Cafe, 32 Qingdao Lu, Nanjing. This event was a partnership with the Nanjing University Graduate Students English Club and ACYA Nanjing. It brought together over 25 participants who, together, translated over 5000 characters during the evening.

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Running translation events has become a growing part of our organisation’s strategy. Our website offers a base for mutual language exchange among native Mandarin learners and English learners – or allows native Chinese speakers to practice their English writing skills. These events are also the opportunity for participants to gain confidence in their own linguistic capacity, and learn to define and elaborate meaning in a collaborative fashion.

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Last week, we were amazed at the speed and efficiency with which those coming formed into teams and interacted to find the best word or structure: more than translation training, these workshops build up participants’ awareness and skills in the collective negotiation of meaning.

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All-you-can-translate at the York Butter Factory

On the 14th of August, we’ll be holding our first all-you-can-translate event at to the York Butter Factory in Melbourne!

We’re gathering emerging translators and language learners for an evening of Chinese-English translation, followed by some food and drinks.

This is an opportunity to

  • practice translation in a stimulating setting
  • meet other China-geeks and language enthusiasts
  • help us bring more Chinese voices to the world.

There will be prizes for the most active and the most collaborative participants, and there will be time to discuss around a glass. So come along, and bring your friends!

Chinese translation workshops

Our online community now has a regular offline presence in Melbourne!

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On the 23rd of February, we ran our first collaborative translation workshop, in partnership with Language Connection. These workshops now take place every Saturday, 12h30 to 2h30, at the Multicultural Hub on Elizabeth Street.

Why run workshops?

Our mission is to develop Chinese and China literacy. The model we propose to use is a collaborative model, based on peer-learning and crowd-sourcing.

We form a digital community, with a primary web-presence. But our learners and translators are not only ‘web-users’, and their desire to read and translate new writing from China is not restricted to their internet selves.

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Running regular workshops is a way for us to better understand our learners and translators, and improve the services we provide. For learners, it is an opportunity to meet new people sharing similar interests, and practice their language and translation skills in a supportive social setting.

How do the workshops run?

In each workshop, a group of participants work together on a Chinese text, and produce an English translation.

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This is how the process runs:

  • Before the workshop, we post a selection of texts on our meetup and facebook pages, so participants can choose a favorite, and have time to read it
  • On the day, we start with a few warm up activities, then break up the workshop into small tables of three or four, trying to balance native Mandarin and English speakers.
  • Each table is given one or two paragraphs to translate, and works on them for about an hour. The facilitator circulates, and helps each group deal with translation difficulties.
  •  At the end of the session, the facilitator invites each table to read their translation, and reflect on the process – what was hard, exciting, surprising, familiar, etc.
  • The translations are then uploaded to the Marco Polo Project website, and published.

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What are the learning benefits? 

These translation workshops benefit learners in the following ways:

  • All participants speak at least some Chinese and English, and practice both languages at their table while working on the translation.
  • Mandarin learners not only practice reading characters and encounter new vocabulary, but by looking in-details at the structure of a Chinese text, they develop a much better understanding of Chinese grammar and stylistic patterns.
  • These benefits extend to native Mandarin speakers learning English. Not only can they learn new vocabulary from other participants:  more importantly, when trying to produce an adequate translation, they develop a better awareness of the stylistic and grammatical differences between Chinese and English, and develop strategies to write and speak more idiomatic English.
  • Finally, the workshops are an opportunity for participants to make new friends, and gain motivation to study further from a sense of collective emulation.

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So, why don’t you come and join our next workshop – all details for the Melbourne workshops can be found on this meetup page and facebook group.

Or if you would like help to start a workshop in your city, please contact info@marcopoloproject.org, or send us a tweet @mpoloproject.