#BookTube “Voices under the Sun” Episode 4: “Homecoming Part Two”, with ENG SUB

This morning I published the fourth episode of my BookTube series “Voices under the Sun”, to continue discussing “homecoming” as a literary theme. You can watch the episode HERE.

In Episode #3, I observe that in many Chinese writings, the protagonists leave home carrying the full expectations of their families. Their eventual homecoming is a result of the unbearable feeling of homesickness. Whether they get to return home in fame and glory is beside the point.

In this episode (#4), I point out that many Western writers and artists are treating the theme of “homecoming” in considerably different ways. Examples include the movies Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Top End Wedding (2019) and the books ‘Salem’s Lot (1975) and It (1986). I then provide a detailed analysis of two books by Australian authors: Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker (2000) and Saroo Brierley’s A Long Way Home (2013)

I wrote about A Long Way Home and its movie adaption Lion (2016) back in 2017 (see here and here). Interestingly, just as I was finalising my BookTube episode last night, Brierley appeared on TV to discuss his awesome story. You can watch Brierley’s conversation with Anh Do in Anh’s Brush with Fame here on ABC iView. Just look for Episode 9 of Series 4, broadcasted at 8pm on June 19, 2019.

I also find it interesting, how much I have learned since the beginning of this BookTube series. It is a good case study of learning by doing, as I never expected so many steps to take and so many important issues to consider throughout the production process. For example, I have learned that writing a script does not make it easy to verbally deliver the content. Compared to writing, verbal communication is much more direct and straightforward, with no need to dress up the sentences. Not only is it necessary to deliver each word in a matter-of-fact manner, but occasional repetition is also required because the words are delivered “in real time”. That is, unlike writing, where readers can flip back the pages to confirm or dispute a certain point made by the writer, in verbal communication the speaker has to remind the listener of an aforementioned point by repeating at least some part of it.

As a result, script writing becomes an interesting exercise because I have to verbally read through my written content to make sure it works. The process gets further complicated because I am creating written content in Traditional Chinese to be conveyed verbally in Mandarin for Chinese audiences, while fully anticipating the translation of the content from Traditional Chinese to English in order to provide subtitles for Anglophone audiences. As a result, whatever research I do online and offline, it has to be done bilingually. It also helps to always take bilingual notes, and, particularly in the context of written Chinese, to pay attention to any difference between Traditional Chinese (mainly used in Taiwan and Hong Kong) and Simplified Chinese (mainly used in China).

The next step is filming, and adjusting the script accordingly. Often the seemingly plain written content can become daunting tongue-twisters when delivered verbally. Meanwhile, I have learned from other BookTubers that lighting is absolutely critical. Problem is, my eye-glasses reflect the light(s) in so many unexpected ways that I often look like an alien on screen. Further worth learning is a range of applications. For example, I use Photo Booth to film myself and QuickTime Player to record my screen, and then put all the bits and pieces together in iMovie. Rather primitive, I know, but these are all I have at this stage. Necessity is indeed the mother of all inventions.

When it comes down to editing, I have learned to “kill my darlings”, something I hardly do in writing. It may be easy for me to write a 3000-word blog article, but these days it is nearly impossible to hold people’s attention to a video online for longer than 10 minutes. Not to mention a 20-minute video featuring “boring” content such as discussion of literary themes, topics and trends.

As for doing the English subtitles, YouTube has made the technical work relatively easy. It is a bit like doing spontaneous interpretation for myself. The key, however, is to make sure the English subtitles appear at the right moments, are divided into proper segments of appropriate sizes, and remain on the screen long enough for Anglophone audiences to read through. More importantly, Chinese and Anglophone speakers express the same things in considerably different ways. Think of it this way: Yoda, from the Star Wars franchise, may find it difficult to survive in the Chinese World. In contrast to Yoda’s characteristic speech pattern, which has an “object-subject-verb word order”, the Chinese spoken language most commonly adopts the subject-verb-object word order. Here is an example near the end of Episode #4:

In English: “If we explore the extraordinary circumstances in which the couple from Australia decided to adopt children from developing countries, then…”

In Chinese, this sentence is expressed like this: “We if explore from Australia the couple under extraordinary circumstances decided to adopt from developing countries children, then…”

So, renowned Yoda quotes such as “Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you” and “Patience you must have my young padawan” are extremely difficult to translate from English to Chinese on paper, not to mention verbally. Issues like this need to be considered as early as possible, with much editing/adjusting to be done during script writing and filming.

Finally, more editing is required in the process of turning the Chinese scripts and English subtitles/transcripts into zines. I have learned to improve the English transcripts by publishing them as properly formatted and referenced essays. I also learned how to format a 24-page zine from three sheets of paper and a 16-page zine from two sheets, as well as how to saddle-stitch them. Making these tiny books by hand has been quite a soothing experience.

OK, that’s a wrap for today. I hope you enjoy Episode #4, and look forward to hearing your comments and/or suggestions.

Updated June 23, 2019: You can find an English transcript of this episode, in the form of a 24-page zine, here.


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