April 22, 2020

MS in Translation Graduate Minxuan Sun Translates Documentary on Chinese Poet Xu Zhimo

Recent MS in Translation (MST) graduate, Minxuan Sun, recently took on her first large-scale translation project, creating the English translation of the CCTV documentary Xu Zhimo and His Contemporaries, originally recorded in Chinese. Xu Zhimo was a romantic poet of the early 20th century whose Western influences and use of vernacular language challenged traditional Chinese poetic forms. Minxuan was selected for the translation position through MST instructor Yong Ho, PhD, who recommended her for the role. In the interview below, she describes her experience working on this project, the challenges she faced, and the lessons learned from her first major translation effort. 

Q:  Tell us a bit about your subtitling project on Xu Zhimo. How did you come to work on this project, and what were your responsibilities?

A:  Xu Zhimo’s grandson Tony Hsu was collaborating with a Chinese director on this documentary and he wanted to have it broadcast in the US. He turned to professor Yong Ho to see if he knew any translator who could translate the documentary. 

My job was mostly translating the documentary from Chinese into English. There were cases where Tony wanted to rewrite the English script and I would translate it back into Chinese accordingly. After the documentary was aired on CCTV, we found out that the script we received was incomplete and thus some parts were untranslated or poorly translated. So, in November, we did a second round of translation and revision. This time, an editor would first edit the translations of those parts and have me correct any mistranslations. 

Q:  What were some of the major challenges you faced on this project? What were the most rewarding elements of the process?

A:  This project involved many historical events and figures, so doing research was key. Also, it was important to keep in mind that the American audience may be unfamiliar with some terms or figures that I am familiar with, so I had to include some brief introductions in the translation. It was a great learning opportunity for me: I would not have spent so much time studying the history of literature during the Republican era and poet Xu Zhimo if it were not for the project. Of course, nothing is more rewarding than seeing the final product.

Q:  How did your training in the MST program prepare you for your work on this project? Did you have any previous professional or academic roles involving subtitling or translation?

A:  I’ve learned a great deal in the MST program: how to quickly gather useful information, how to prepare glossaries, and, most importantly, how to work with fellow translators and editors. 

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to share about this project or your background? 

A:  I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful editors during this project. When I finished translating each batch, I would send my product to the editors and they would polish it up. One batch could undergo three to four rounds of editing. We learned from each other through the process. Translation projects involve more than just translation and any final product is the result of a joint effort. 


Thank you to Minxuan for sharing your experience working on this fascinating translation project. 

A translation degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate degree.


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