Newsletter #11 – August 2013 – all-you-can-translate and Digital Lit Fest

Join the translation race on August 14!

We’re holding our first ‘all-you-can-translate’ event at the York Butter Factory, 62-66 King Street, Melbourne, on August 14th: a 2h30 Chinese to English translation race, featuring live and twitter collaboration, followed by drinks and food.

This event is part of our growing interest in developing offline events that offer  our website users – and indeed all China-geeks and aspiring translators – an opportunity to meet others like them, build up their language skills in a fun alternative way, and bring new Chinese voices to Western readers.

To register for the night, click here – or watch this video to learn more.

Thank you DFAT for supporting the first Aus-China Digital Lit Fest

In 2014, Marco Polo Project will run the first Australia-China Festival of Digital Literature. This event will present an exceptional opportunity to reflect on changes in the practice of reading, writing and publishing brought about by the development of a digital space. More broadly, it will allow Australian and Chinese online readers and writers to meet and learn about each other.

We will select three writers from each country –  balancing citizen journalists and fan-fiction enthusiasts with trans-media practitioners and twitter poets –  translate a selection of their work, and facilitate discussion among them and with a bilingual public through digital forums and a conference panel.

Bookmark your calendar: tentative dates for this festival are June 2014 for the launch of our collaborative translation process, and August 2014 for online and panel discussions.

We wish to thank our partners and supporters for this project, whose trust in our organisation have made our grant application successful, and whose support will make this project a success: the Wheeler Centre for Books and Ideas, Bookworm, Danwei,, La Trobe’s Centre for Creative Arts, the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Emerging Writers Festival, Language Connection, Asialink, AALITRA and LCNAU. And DFAT for their support: we’re honoured to announce here that this project is supported by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia-China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Marco Polo Project is a living online community. Without you, we do not exist. Now we need your help to grow. So that a larger audience can learn about us, please talk about the Marco Polo Project around you, send a link to your friends, or share our translations on Facebook, Twitter, Renren or Weibo.

We are also looking for donations and sponsorships, to support further web development. If you think you can help, please contact us.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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, or send us a tweet @mpoloproject.