Mosaic of China 英语脱口秀

s01e24 The Ode Decoder (Gigi CHANG, Literary Translator)

We all take translation and translators for granted these days. There are now apps on your phone that can translate inputted text, can magically convert text within photos, and can even simultaneously translate audio as you’re speaking. But once you listen to Gigi Chang talk about the philosophy behind her work translating literary texts, you’ll know that there can be no substitute to the human touch. 


If you’ve worked in any kind of international arena, you will have had some experience in having work translated, be it for marketing slogans, short texts, or longer pieces. So I hope that listening to this episode will give you a broader appreciation of the process behind it.




Gigi Chang’s object: A clipboard. Old school.


Gigi Chang’s favourite WeChat sticker: This pooping pup. 
(Add @oscar10877 on WeChat to join the Group and see the original sticker)


Gigi Chang: A big fan of the Harry Potter series as a child, she now uses it as an example of how difficult it can be to translate a story without knowing where its going. 


Gigi Chang: Her first experience in translating literary texts was when she worked with Chinese artists being showcased at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games. 


Gigi Chang: Working on Jin Yong’s “Legends of the Condor Hero” was the ultimate challenge in translating ancient kung fu training techniques from Chinese into English. 


Gigi Chang: A display of her translated works at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Singapore. 


Gigi Chang: Translating can be a lonesome task, so where possible she enjoys working in a team. For the “Legends of the Condor Hero” project, she worked alongside fellow translator Anna Holmwood, publisher Christopher MacLehose and editor Paul Engles.


Gigi Chang’s favourite China fact: Noel Coward wrote the quintessential upper class British play “Private Lives” while holed up at the Cathay Hotel (the latter day Fairmont Peace Hotel) in Shanghai. 


Gigi Chang didn’t have a single favourite word or phrase in Chinese. But she appreciates the kind of language which has one meaning on the surface, but an entirely different meaning buried underneath. 


Gigi Chang’s favourite place to visit in China: 运城 (Yùnchéng).


Gigi Chang’s favourite place to eat: the Hunanese restaurant, Spicy Moment.


Gigi Chang’s best “purchase” in China: her rescue dogs and cat.


Gigi Chang’s favourite songs to sing at KTV (karaoke): Either an old Hong Kong TV theme tune (such as 上海滩 by Joseph Koo) or anything by New Pants (新裤子).


Gigi Chang’s favourite China-related information source: Sixth Tone.


Gigi Chang’s selfie with Oscar.


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