ACIAC Seminar: Accessibility and Inclusiveness - Context and Text in Translating 'The Handmaid's Tale' into Chinese on SBS

Event Name
ACIAC Seminar: Accessibility and Inclusiveness - Context and Text in Translating 'The Handmaid's Tale' into Chinese on SBS
14 November 2018
02:00 pm - 03:00 pm
Parramatta Campus

Address (Room): Building EA, Ground Floor, Room EA.G.03, Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University



  • Date: Wednesday, 14 November 2018 Time: 2.00 - 3.00pm
  • Venue: EA.G.03, Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Parramatta Campus (South), Western Sydney University
  • Limited seats. RSVP Essential. Please RSVP before 13 November, 2018.


Australia is a migrant country, with the bulk of its immigrants coming traditionally from the British Isles and other European countries. Over the last two decades, there has been a marked increase in migrants from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. In 2006, Italian was the first most spoken language other than English (LOTE) in Australia; by 2011 it had fallen to number two. In the 2016 Census, Italian was only the fifth most spoken LOTE, followed by Greek as the sixth and Spanish as the ninth. In the decade to 2016 Mandarin grew by over 170%, and the total number of Chinese speakers now exceeds 927,000. In the list of the top ten most-spoken languages other than English, Arabic is now number two, with 321,728 speakers. It is followed by Vietnamese, Tagalog, Hindi and Punjabi. It is also relevant to note that from 2011 to 2016, the number of Australians who spoke a language other than English at home increased by almost one million, to 4.9 million. Australia, as a rapidly changing culturally diverse nation, strongly supports multilingualism and multiculturalism, with federal and state governments providing comprehensive translation and interpreting services in up to 104 languages and dialects. The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – one of Australia's two public broadcasters – focuses on multilingual and multicultural broadcasting for the purpose of enhancing a diverse but inclusive and cohesive society. Traditionally, SBS added English subtitles to programs in LOTE. In the last ten years, however, it began to subtitle in LOTE selected English-language programs that it had commissioned, with the biggest success being the three-part documentary series Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta (2012). Because a focal point of the series was the language barrier between English-speaking children and Vietnamese-speaking parents, the English version and a Vietnamese subtitled version were simulcast on SBS1 and SBS2 respectively. Most programs selected for subtitling in LOTE were SBS commissioned documentaries; the sole exception was an Australian comedy series featuring a Chinese migrant family, which was subtitled into Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. While this series was very popular with English-speaking audiences, the subtitled versions had only modest success, with the feedback being that the storylines were too familiar to people from those communities. In July 2017 SBS exclusively premiered the critically-acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale in Australia. This intriguing dystopian drama series attracted a record number of viewers. To enable even more viewers to enjoy the series, SBS decided to subtitle it in Chinese. This is the first time that SBS has subtitled an acquired English-language program in LOTE. The project was carried out in a unique partnership with Western Sydney University, which offers a comprehensive course in audio-visual translation. Dr Jing Han, the author of the initiative who led the project, will speak about the cultural and linguistic challenges encountered in subtitling this highly nuanced and complex drama into Chinese, challenges that are particularly revealed in the series’ range of language characteristics, including colloquial and crude expressions. The fact that Chinese communities in Australia are very diverse because some Chinese speaking people come from mainland China, while others come from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Fuji, etc, also poses a special challenge to the translation. Dr Han also subtitled the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale premiered in April 2018 on SBS. By the way, do you know what the most difficult English word to be translated into Chinese is? Dr Han will reveal the answer at the seminar.

Speakers: Dr Jing Han, School of Humanities and Communication Arts

Web page:


Phone: (02) 9685 9944

School / Department: Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture