Why is Yeeyan translating the Guardian into Chinese?
In his April 16th CIF piece, Mr. Timothy Garton Ash rightly pointed out that “in today’s interconnected world, it matters more than ever that countries understand each other”. He further argues that media is the “public good” by which this understanding may be achieved. Though his argument mainly refers to the necessity for western media to expand and enhance its foreign reporting, particularly about China, it can and should be extended to the need for Chinese readers to access foreign reporting about China, as well as about other parts of the world, in order to get a perspective through the eyes of Western reporters. Mr. Ash’s conclusion can also be applicable in another respect which is that with less of the global public good of this kind, the results could also be “downright dangerous”.
The year 2008 witnessed some of the greatest clashes between the Chinese people and Western media. To some extent, the differences between Chinese and Western cultures and values were part of the causes. Is Western democracy a universal value applicable to China? Is the priority for stability, economic development, and harmony that Chinese government values important enough to overlook environmental considerations and the human rights of the individual? Or will the loss of stability further trample environment and human rights?
A simple yes-or-no answer to such questions easily generates fierce opposition from the other camp. Making hasty judgment leads each party into muddy ground, bringing to stark clarity only the fact that there are great gaps between the way China understands things and the way the West does. These chasms of understanding can potentially lead to greater clashes and even more dangerous territories, while the only way to prevent the gap from widening is by recognizing and exposing the gaps. That is precisely what Yeeyan’s bilingual community believes we can collectively achieve by translating.
As the page turned to the financial storm swept 2009, Western media viewed the seemingly meteoric rise of China, as seen in the G20 submit, with both applause and doubts. Interestingly, during our intensive translation of the Guardian’s exhaustive G20 reporting, one of the stories that stood out was the investigation of the death of Mr. Ian Tomlinson, a bystander of the G20 protest.
Again, divided opinions emerged from readers of the Chinese translations of those stories. Some saw the event as evidence that Western democracy is indeed a joke; others were of the opinion that it was positive proof that Britain’s state apparatus was effectively scrutinized by the public. Some readers, however, did hold both views simultaneously. And some further noticed that the 100-plus years of Britain’s experience in seeing and handling public dissidence, as described in the Guardian’s editorial on this incident, can itself become constructively valuable for Chinese society.
Recognizing these values, the Yeeyan community has been making constructive progress by gathering bilingual members who individually would have little impact in making a difference in diffusing these tremendous gaps in cultural understanding. With the Guardian’s openness toward the Yeeyan community’s translation model, there have been more than 1500 Guardian stories translated in the past year. And that effort will continue its legend in the form of a groundbreaking new service – the Weibao powered by UGC (User Generated Content).
The great challenge to this project will be to provide the best possible Chinese representation of the Guardian’s stories, in conformity to the high standards the Guardian imposes on its news gathering and presentation. Yeeyan solves the challenge by a combination of community mechanisms and dedicated resources. At the same time, like any UGC effort, such as the admirable Wikipedia project, the works of the ‘U’ are subject to continuous improvement. We encourage our future readers to participate in our efforts to push the translations to its ultimate level of xìn dá yǎ (faithfulness , expressiveness and elegance).
As a website operated within China and with the majority of the community living in the country, to the best of our effort, Yeeyan will bring to our fellow Chinese readers the most valuable translations from the Guardian. We believe our collective effort will form a bridge of understanding that leads to greater openness.