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See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

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Blogger of the Week: Leonard Chien

I would like to introduce you to Leonard Chien, English-Chinese translator and interpreter from Taiwan, and a Lingua powerhouse for Global Voices. At the recent GV Summit in Budapest, Leonard famously announced that we would always know when he had a day off as he would translate more articles of Global Voices that day. In fact, when asked what he would chose for a superpower he said “May I increase my translation rates?” So what more can we learn about Leonard than his love for translating? Read more to find out.


Photo courtesy of LuisCarlos Díaz

You have been writing in your blog “Back from the World” since July. Why did you start writing, and why did you decide to write in English?

I start this blog after coming back from GV Summit in Budapest. I used to blog only in Chinese. After the summit, I feel strongly motivated to stay connected with all the people I know during the Summit. In this case, blogging in English seems to be necessary. GV people “know” each other more or less via internet, but meeting in person is a totally different story. With that experience in Budapest, I am more attached to Global Voices and this group of people. We often say “keep in touch” when we leave, and having an English blog, to me, is really the way to keep in touch with them.

How and when did you get connected with GVO?

I started to translate English posts into Chinese as a practice and put them online since 2004. On November 15, 2006, I got an email from PipperL, another Lingua Chinese translator, inviting me to translate for GVO. I clicked the link, read it, and I am hooked. GVO combines two things I like the most: translation and international issues. That's how the story begins. I keep that particular email he sent to me until now, because in retrospect, it is truly a watershed moment in my life.

Explain the work that you do for GV Lingua.

I translate GVO posts from English to Chinese. Also, Portnoy and I are managers for the whole GV Lingua projects. All we do is try to make the whole Lingua experience as enjoyable as possible.

How does what you do for GV Lingua fit into the world of citizen media?

Traditional media, in every part of the world, only focuses on a few big powers and nearby countries, which leave most of the world in the dark. The beauty of citizen media, in my opinion, is to reveal news and perspectives that may be neglected or overlooked by traditional media. To many of my friends who only speak Chinese, GV Lingua has become the major source of African and Latin American news, for instance. We shine lights to places they won't be able to see in the past. Of course it is due to precious efforts from our authors around the world.

As a translator, how do you decide what to translate?

I translate what I am interested. Some people emphasize we should translate what interests readers, but to me, they are “unimaginable mass”. I never know what readers really prefer, so I follow my heart. Time is sometimes a constraint. If I have other translation or interpretation works to do, I tend to do shorter posts. Earning a living is still crucial to a freelancer like me. I don't and can't oppose long, long articles. GV authors have every right to write posts as long as they want or need. Lingua translators will try their best.

What is your most memorable blogging or translating experience?

The other day, one classmate asked me about the presidential election in Paraguay. I was surprised and wanted to know how she knew about it. It turned out that she read my Chinese translation of Eduardo Avila's post. That's when I know my translation has an influence to others for sure.

How would you characterize the Taiwanese blogosphere?

The blogosphere in Taiwan has a wide variety of interests, such as travel, cuisine, and celebrity. Unfortunately, I am occupied by GV and other things that interest me more, so I don't pay much attention to it.

Give me an example of your average day.

It would be quite boring to most people. I wake up normally at 8, do translation (GV included) before and after lunch, take a walk before sunset (to bookstores sometimes), read after dinner, and watch TV or movies for pleasure. Before bedtime, I write blogs or do more translation (GV included). The more paid works I have to do, the more eager I want to translate GV posts. Weird, huh?

How do you see GV Lingua progressing over the next few years?

GV Lingua is booming in numbers for the past one and a half years. The trend will probably stay for a while. Then we should focus on ensuring every Lingua team is sustainable, as volunteers come and go. As Lingua manager, I feel obligated to help volunteers be connected to the whole GV community. I am still thinking of ways everyday.

Do you have any hobbies?

I love reading, be it magazines, books, newspapers, websites, or others. I read four or five books at a time. After one or two chapters, I put down one book and read another, no matter how attractive the plot is. It may not sound good to others, but it's the way I am.

What is your worst habit?

I love to collect advertising postcards, which my mom always complains because it occupies a sizable part of my place. Everyone should only take one postcard each, but I often end up bringing back two or three of the same kind, as I think I should have backup if I lose one of them. I even waste weekend afternoons walking around Taipei and looking for new ones. It's silly. I don't buy postcards for myself when I am abroad. I look for free ones.


Photo courtesy of Joi Ito

How did you view the people of GV before you met then in Budapest, and afterwards?

I always think of GV as a group of people devoting their time and efforts towards their different goals. It's great that people with different interests can all benefit from GV experience, be it bloggers, translators, activists, etc. After meeting GV people in person, I can really feel this huge energy among us. Outsiders may think GV people are idealistic, opinionated or aggressive. These impressions may or may not be right, but the most important thing is, just as our Outreach Director David Sasaki says, “we are having a good time in GV.” I had a wonderful time in Budapest.

Finally, describe yourself and how you see the world.

I am always optimistic, believing the world will be better in some ways tomorrow. I am always curious, wondering what surprises may come next. I am always talkative, trying to fill up all blanks in conversations. The world, online or offline, is a playground to me. We can always have fun.

13 comments

  • He was a spark of energy in the Summit…
    Go, Leonard

  • Awesome! I am glad that you translated the Paraguay article. I have some free postcards from Bolivia that are pretty nice. I will give them to you at the next GV Summit :)

  • That’s a great interview and a great photo by Joi Ito too. Leonard, thanks so much for all your translations!!

  • Renata Avila

    Did I mentioned how excited I am every time I see my posts in unreadable but beautiful characters, written by Leo?

    You are doing an amazing job, connecting our small countries and situations with your readers, and even from the distance, you are closer and closer to us. Thank you, and I will keep collecting postcards for you, too…

  • Good times indeed. And big thanks to both Deborah and Leonard for the daily digests of GV and Lingua.

  • Leonard, you are seriously a “spark of energy” (as LuisCarlos so aptly put it). Fanning all of the ladies at the Summit, staying up late to translate…you’re the best. I’ll save some free postcards for you next time too.

    And Deborah, so glad you included the LOL photo :)

  • […] Global Voices profiles blogger Leonard Chien. […]

  • I guess Leonard will be too shy to translate this great interview into Chinese, so I along with others with do that for you~

  • YAY, Leonard!!!

  • Having Leonard into GV community is one of my GREATEST contribution for GV Chinese team :-P

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