Q: What is the Marco Polo Project?

A: The Marco Polo Project is a not-for-profit organization that uses the possibilities of online collaboration to improve cultural and linguistic understanding between China and the West.

Our website presents a diverse selection of new writing from China – non-fiction and social commentary from leading intellectuals and independent bloggers – formatted for non-Mandarin natives, with bilingual titles, tags, and author biographies. Our selection reflects the diversity of Chinese writing today, and does not follow any political or ideological agenda.

This website is also a collaborative translation platform, where you can practice your translation skills on authentic material and receive feedback on your translation from other, more advanced users.

With Marco Polo Project, you can practice your language skills, learn about China today, join a community that actively promotes cross-cultural dialogue, or discover the voices of Chinese writers even if you do not read Mandarin.


Q: How does it work?

A: I think you need to check out our ‘help‘ page


Q: Why should I join the Marco Polo Project?

A: As a non-registered member, you can go through all the contents freely. But you can also register for free, and access all of our cool features. You can leave comments on a text or its translation and directly interact with other users. You can also submit your own translation or improve someone else’s, and build an online portfolio demonstrating your translating capacity. And if you’re willing to learn more, you can see what changes native speakers made to your translation, or discuss language difficulties with them.


Q: How can I join?

A: Just use our registration and login widget box, on the right hand side column.


Q: What can I contribute?  

A: You can post a comment on a text or translation, to clarify a point that might cause linguistic or cultural confusion, or simply to share your opinion and take part in a conversation.

You can also translate a new text, or improve an existing translation, and contribute to sharing Chinese writing across the world. Every word matters, so even if you only have a few minutes, jump in, and contribute to our project one sentence at a time.


Q: I love your project, is there anything else I can do?

A: YES! There is a lot you can do.

You can also contact us to organise a workshop, or join our team and help us spread the word. We run regular internship programs in Melbourne, and we’re looking for community leaders in other emerging centres.

Besides, we’re also looking for partners sponsors and donors. You can read more on our partners page.


Q: How do you select your texts? 

Our editorial team regularly runs through douban, my1510.cn and 21ccom.net, and picks out pieces we think are good candidates for translation, and would appeal to international readers. You can learn more about these sources here.

We are looking for quality writing that will stay relevant over time. We are interested in thought-provoking writing that reflects original aspects of Chinese society. We plan to cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on social issues, interpersonal, gender and family relations, alternative arts and culture, and urban life in second and third tier cities.


Q: Can I submit a piece? 

Yes! If you find a good article on the Chinese web and would like to propose it for translation, send us a link at info@marcopoloproject.org. Our editorial team will review the proposal and, if it fits in with our editorial guidelines, we will publish it on our website.


Q: How can I contact another user?

A: The Marco Polo Project is a social interface, and one of our goals is to bring people together. Our developers are currently building an internal messaging system that will allow you to directly contact another user. Meanwhile, you can try posting a comment on a text they submitted, and they will receive a notification.


Q: Can I correct someone else’s translation?

A: Yes. The Marco Polo Project translation interface is based on a wiki system that allows any user to change and edit other users’ translation. Previous versions are stored in our database, and you can compare them through the revision tool bar at the bottom of the screen.


Q: What if I disagree with the changes made

A: Two minds work better than one, and we strongly encourage you to edit and improve translations. But sometimes, you may disagree with the changes someone made to your text. Don’t be upset! If you disagree, you can restore the previous version, or manually edit parts of the translation back to what you thought was right. But please, don’t set into translation wars. If you see that someone corrected you, maybe you can start a comment thread to discuss certain points of translation. Also, consider their native language, and whether what they wrote isn’t a better way of bringing across the meaning of the original.


Q: How will the Marco Polo Project help improve my translation skills?

A: First of all, practice makes perfect, and languages can get rusty. Every sentence you translate on the Marco Polo Project will either improve or maintain your language skills. And it’s fun, and it’s rewarding: with the Marco Polo Project, your language drills turn into something useful for the community.

You can also learn from the changes made by others. By comparing versions of a translation, you can see what users identify as a mistake, and learn. If you’re doubtful about a certain change, check the user’s level of fluency in various languages, and what else they have translated. If they’re an expert, chances are their translation is right – but not always. Don’t hesitate to contact them about it, or use the comments thread to discuss language subtleties.


Q: How accurate are your translations?

A: Our translations are all peer-produced and peer-revised, so there is a chance that a translation may not be accurate. However, to guide you through the maze, we’ve set up a green-light system to indicate how advanced any translation is. Users can change the status of a translation from ‘require translation’ (red) to ‘in progress’ (orange) and ‘completed’ (green). Translations marked ‘finalised’ (blue) are locked from edits after proofing by our expert internal translators. But you can suggest changes on those in the comment section.

All of our translations may contain errors, so we very much appreciate your feedback on any translation mistake you may find. The Marco Polo Project will not be liable for the consequences resulting from inaccuracies in our translations.


Q: My Chinese is really bad, Can I still translate from, say, English to Spanish?

A: Yes. If you can speak French, English or Spanish, and a text is only available in one of these languages, you can draft a translation. Other users will be able to proof it by referring to the original, Meanwhile, it will make that piece available to a wider audience.


Q: Why did my comment disappear?

A: We reserve the right to delete any comment we identify as a spam. This includes comments with links to commercial or other websites unrelated to the subject of the post, or comments of a vague and general nature from non-identified users. We also reserve the right to censor comments of an offensive or derogatory nature. If you believe your comment was wrongfully edited out, please contact us at info@marcopoloproject.org, or through this link.


Q: There’s a text I find offensive on your website, will you do something about it? 

A: If you find a text offensive, please contact us about it at info@marcopoloproject.org, with a reference to the text, and a quick explanation of why you find it offensive. The mission of the Marco Polo project is to build dialogue between speakers of Chinese and speakers of other languages, and to that end, we are trying to strike a balance between open speech and respect. In particular, we monitor the contents published on our website. Our editors will consider your comments, and may decide to delete the offensive contents.


Q: How frequently will articles and translations be upgraded?

A: The Marco Polo Project is a collective platform, and the growth of our collection will depend on the rate at which users are submitting and translating articles. But to keep things interesting, our in-house editors will refresh the front page selection each week and highlight a few pieces worth translating in priority.


Q: Can I repost?

A: We believe in the free sharing of information, and in line with that philosophy, we encourage reposting. Unless otherwise specified, all material on the Marco Polo project website is published under creative commons license, with attribution. But also believe that writers and intellectual workers should receive proper recognition for their work. If you really like a translation, consider contacting the Chinese author and the translator(s), to let them know that it’s getting around. For more information about our copyright policy, please read our Terms.


Q: Something’s wrong with the website, what should I do?

A: Our web-team is regularly working on the website, to develop new features or improve usability. Maybe that was a temporary problem? Check in after a few hours, or try opening it in a different browser. If the problem does not disappear, please let us know! Contact us at info@marcopoloproject.org, with a description of what’s wrong, and we’ll get to it as soon as we can.


Q: Are you making money from this website?

A: The Marco Polo project is a not-for-profit public company limited by guarantee incorporated in Australia. According to the terms of our Constitution, all profits are reinvested in the company to pay for administrative, editorial and web development costs. At the moment, all of our team members are volunteers.

We depend on donations for our survival. If you want to help the Marco Polo Project through a donation, click here. Every cent counts! Thank you.


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