Reading Chinese: engaging new audiences

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Modern Languages and Cultures

Abstract

Emerging from our previous AHRC-funded research on new Chinese writing, this project, "Reading Chinese: engaging new audiences", primarily responds to an urgent need arising from recent guidelines from the Department for Education on language teaching. These guidelines specify a new requirement for a significant amount of literature to be taught within the modern language curriculum, from the early years of secondary school. The Chinese curriculum is modelled on that for European languages. When these guidelines were discussed with UK-based teachers of Chinese, during a presentation we made about our previous research project at the annual Chinese Teachers Conference in the Institute of Education, many expressed anxiety about finding resources which were both age-appropriate and covered the necessary topics. There was a strong consensus that to be practicable with a challenging language like Chinese works needed also to be available in English translation. In a follow-up survey, many teachers expressed a lack of awareness of literature which was written in simple modern language, as these works are not generally covered either in school curricula in China (where the focus is often on traditional, classical works) or, for the UK-trained teachers, in many University programmes. This also comes at a time of significant Government investment in Chinese at school level, with a £10 million Mandarin Excellence Programme having been launched in 2016.
The second identified need has emerged from our discussions in the research network with publishers, translators, and authors of new Chinese writing. There is broad agreement across our network that the lack of non-academic reviews of new Chinese writing in English translation is a key obstacle in promoting new works. Publishers are wary of taking on new projects without these, particularly if the topics do not fit the standard 'acceptable' tropes such as memoirs of the Cultural Revolution.
The third need (established via survys amongst the membership of the Association for Speakers of Chinese as a Second Language) is for CPD training for graduates and other professionals who have learned Chinese to a high level, but need to source appropriate and accessible reading material to maintain their language skills, despite busy working lives -- contemporary literary texts can provide an obvious, and enjoyable, solution, but they need to be selected appropriately.

To address these needs, we will develop a new user-led sustainable web resource on Chinese literature, with teaching materials and book reviews, and linked to a fully searchable, free-to-view full-text database of new Chinese writing in English translation. We will also develop a training programme for teachers to address the practicalities of teaching literature, which will involve an annual seminar at the IOE's PGCE training programme (Mandarin pathway) and a residential workshop for selected teachers, leading to the establishment of a network of ambassadors for teaching literature in the curriculum. Finally, in partnership with leading publishers, we will set up a volunteer book review network, modelled on the BBC Radio 2 bookclub, where reviewers are sent a free copy, 'blind' in return for providing a review for our site.

The teaching materials and training programme will be developed in partnership with the Confucius Institute based at the Institute of Education, which hosts a network of over 800 teachers of Chinese in the UK, and which leads the development and mainstreaming of Mandarin Chinese in secondary and primary schools across England The database will be developed in partnership with Paper Republic, a Beijing-based collective of translators and authors at the forefront of new Chinese writing. The book review network will be facilitated by titles provided free of charge by our partners Penguin Books and Balestier Press (the leading independent publisher of Chinese fiction in translation).

Planned Impact

The first beneficiary of this project will be schools in the UK, or following UK curricula. The new web resource will be developed in conjunction with school teachers and will provide bespoke teaching materials designed to meet the new DfE guidelines. School teachers will be provided with an innovative, fully searchable, free-to-view database of texts with keywords relating to topics in the curriculum. These keywords will be chosen in consultation with teachers, and the database design will allow entries to be amended after feedback throughout the project, and from the mid-project review. Alongside the web resource, the training sessions for Mandarin pathway PGCE students (which will be repeated annually at the IOE after the end of the project) and the creation of the network of Reading Chinese ambassadors, will together ensure that support for the teaching of literature within the Chinese curriculum is fully embedded and sustainable.

The second beneficiary of this project will be those involved in translation and publishing of Chinese fiction in English. Representatives of these fields who joined our AHRC-funded research network have told us repeatedly in discussions of the problems in promoting translated fiction in the West, and indeed of finding publishers willing to take on these books, and have identified a key issue as being the lack of an online presence and especially of 'non-academic' book reviews of new titles. The book reviewers network will address this need directly and will be provide a fully sustainable source of new reviews after the end of the funding period.

The third beneficiary will be professionals with Chinese interests and/or graduates of Chinese who have identified a desire to maintain their Chinese reading skills. The CPD residential weekend will allow delegates to engage with the latest in new Chinese writing, with author readings, Q&A and bookclub discussions in both Chinese and English, led by leading translators. All who attend will be required to submit at least one book review for the website. Delegates will be invited to apply for a place initially via the 800+ strong international membership of the Association for Speakers of Chinese as a Second Language (of which the PI is co-chair) and also the ASCSL's partner organisations, including the British Association for Chinese Studies, and the British Council's Generation UK China network. After the event feedback surveys will be used to evaluate the impact of this event.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Findings were the key obstacles to publishing Chinese literature in translation included risk-averse behaviour by publishers and markets, and lack of online presence of works.
To address this we have held, and continue to hold:-
An annual academic symposium to bring together academics and practitioners.
An annual translation competition.
A whole host of public engagement activities connected to contemporary Chinese literature, as detailed on our website.
A thriving book reviewers network with over 200 reviews published online. Publishers have reported positive impact.
Residential weekends for reviewers.
Schools workshops, book clubs, and translation competitions.
Teacher training delivered on incorporation of literature in the curriculum, and related publications.
Exploitation Route The award has directly contributed to the establishment of a research Centre for New Chinese Writing at Leeds, which continues to take these outcomes forward, create new partnerships, and organise events. The biggest obstacle is the lack of sustained and secure funding, but since the end of this award we have been awarded various smaller funding from different sources to enable the activities to continue, (albeit without dedicated admin support).
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk
 
Description 8,000 word Article on "Literature in the non-European Language Curriculum" included in Teaching Literature in Modern Foreign Languages. Various practical teaching materials, as published on our website. Publications, including a bilingual picture book by our first schools competition winner, New collaborations, between audio/print publishers, and new translations commissioned directly as a result of our work. Two new translations published on our own website. Our work is being submitted as one of our Faculty's Impact Case Studies for REF 2020
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Education
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description Partnership with Chinese School Teachers' Network at Institute of Education 
Organisation University College London
Department Institute of Education (IOE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We work with the CSTN to provide resources to support the teaching of Chinese literature in the school curriculum.
Collaborator Contribution The CSTN is a network which helps publicise the events we run, and the IOE has provided venues and administrative support.
Impact We launched a translation competition for schools (Oct 2017-March 2018). We ran a translation workshop for school pupils at IOE (Jan 2018). We led a PGCE training seminar on teaching literature in the curriculum for current PGCE students (Feb 2018). We are developing teaching resources for schools.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnerships with Publishers 
Organisation Amazon.com
Country United States 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have established a thriving reviewers network, and collate books, assign them, distribute them, collect reviews, edit and publish them to our website
Collaborator Contribution The publishers provide books (either hard or soft copy) free of charge and deliver them to us, plus any other relevant copy, and then publicise our reviews where appropriate via their social media channels.
Impact Around 100 book reviews
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnerships with Publishers 
Organisation Balestier Press
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have established a thriving reviewers network, and collate books, assign them, distribute them, collect reviews, edit and publish them to our website
Collaborator Contribution The publishers provide books (either hard or soft copy) free of charge and deliver them to us, plus any other relevant copy, and then publicise our reviews where appropriate via their social media channels.
Impact Around 100 book reviews
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnerships with Publishers 
Organisation Muse Publishing Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have established a thriving reviewers network, and collate books, assign them, distribute them, collect reviews, edit and publish them to our website
Collaborator Contribution The publishers provide books (either hard or soft copy) free of charge and deliver them to us, plus any other relevant copy, and then publicise our reviews where appropriate via their social media channels.
Impact Around 100 book reviews
Start Year 2017
 
Description Audience with Chinese poet Xi Chuan 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Xi Chuan gave a talk which was very well received
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description Audience with translator/author Jeremy Tiang 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Event with translator/author Jeremy Tiang, also chair of judging panel for our translation competition
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description Author event with Jeremy Tiang 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 30 people attended a talk on Singapore literature by the prize-winning author/translator Jeremy Tiang in November last year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events/writing-from-singapore-with-jeremy-tiang/
 
Description Author event with Sheng Keyi 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The author Sheng Keyi, as well as attending our residential workshop, gave a presentation and Q&A with students from across the University and guests. This was very well received and several of the students have since gone on to explore Chinese contemporary women's literature further.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Chinese Literature Roadshow: audience with Yang zhijun and Ma Pinglai 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Collaboaration with ACA publishing to bring 2 authors to Leeds
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description Launch of The Centre for New Chinese Writing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Research Centre launched, with presentation from author Zhang Xinxin and translator Helen WaNG
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk
 
Description Launch of website and book review network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We launched our website and book review network in Hong Kong in May 2017. There were around 50-100 people in the room, but the launch was simultaneously circulated via social media. We now have over 30 reviewers signed up, who have produced 100 reviews of contemporary fiction, and have around 1500 followers on Twitter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/book-reviews/
 
Description Narrating Rural China 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Author/academic Liang Hong from Renmin University Beijing talked about narrating Chinese villages.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description New Writing from Tibet 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact 3 speakers, from Leeds, University of Columbia and University of Copenhagen, all talking about new writing from Tibet and its reception in the West. 2 formal presentations followed by roundtable discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description Politics and Literature in China, with Prof Perry Link 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Talk from Emeritus Prof Perry Link from Princeton Uni, which sparked much debate and interest.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description Residential Weekend for Book Reviewers Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact We held a residential weekend in Leeds for selected members of our book review network, with authors and translators in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/2017/12/12/the-reading-chinese-book-review-network-residential-we...
 
Description Schools translation workshop at Schools and Universities Day in London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 100-120 pupils studying Chinese in UK schools attended a translation workshop entitled 'Translating with Pictures' which we ran at the Institute of Education in London in January 2018. This sparked lots of interest and further entries for our schools' translation competition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Translating with pictures workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Two workshops on translating with picture books for 140 Y7 school children from MEP schools in the North of England, as part of the MEP culture day. Co-led by winner of our translation competition, Y11 pupil, and the translator Helen Wang.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Translation Competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Annual translation competition launched -- 88 entries received from all over the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/competition
 
Description Women in China 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Afternoon workshop with two Chinese authors/journalists, Yan Ge and Zhang Lijia followed by roundtable discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/events
 
Description launch of schools translation competition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We held an event with the Taiwanese author Lin Man-chiu, who is the author ambassador for our project, and the translator Helen Wang. Around 30-40 people attended the event in Leeds. We also used this to launch our schools translation competition both in the room and online via the teachers' network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://writingchinese.leeds.ac.uk/translation-competition/