One major feature of the ‘China’ blogosphere is the divide between the Chinese and English-language parts of it. Readers who only read English risk having a blinkered view of what’s going on in China if they rely only on English-language blogs, and vice versa. That’s where bridge blogs come in. The bridge blog (as opposed to the ladder blog) connects the two sides of the language chasm, allowing information to flow. The problem is, translating posts accurately is a time-consuming and not particularly lucrative affair.
Enter Yeeyan. It’s a group blog that’s been translating posts from the English-language blogosphere to Chinese since December. Now the inevitable has happened: It’s started translating Chinese-language posts into English. This is a real boon for readers stuck in the English-language ghetto of the China blogosphere. Technology news is of particular interest to Yeeyaners(?), so I read with interest a translated post on US internet companies’ top 10 mistakes in China. According to China Web 2.0 Review, Yeeyan has done a good job in the English-Chinese translations, so we can only hope they do similarly well the other way round.
That’s not to say Yeeyan is the first attempt at bridge blogging. Plenty of other China bloggers have expended considerable effort in trying to close the language gap. Roland Soong’s ESWN is probably the best example of this. What Yeeyan has done is cast a wide net into the pool of bilingual bloggers, harnessing the collective abilities of this rare group instead of relying on bloggers’ individual efforts (another group translation effort by China bloggers like Soong is here). A translation on Yeeyan, for example, isn’t set in stone once it’s published. Readers can leave comments pointing out mistakes and the translator often makes changes based on those comments, improving the overall translation as more eyeballs ‘proofread’ it. The distributed nature of the translating and proofreading means accuracy and readability improves as more people participate, triggering a virtuous cycle — which is great for us Hanzi illiterates.