Where TED Translators can take you

Hanna Leliv at EdCamp Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Hanna Leliv.)

Here at TED Translators, we often report on large TED and TEDx events; but today we’d like to share a brief yet illuminating story from one of our Ukrainian translators, Hanna Leliv.

Several years back, Hanna translated a TED Talk by author and educator Sir Ken Robinson. Her excellent work on that eventually led to her translating two of Robinson’s books into Ukrainian, as well as a professional relationship between the two that’s still going strong.

Case in point: At the end of April, the third annual EdCamp Ukraine gathering took place. The event brought together over 700 educators from Ukraine (including the country’s Minister of Education) and many other nations around the world. Hanna was among EdCamp Ukraine’s attendees, and she presented a ten-minute video address by Robinson (which she’d coordinated with him prior to the gathering) to the audience. Viewers received insightful encouragement from Robinson, particularly with regard to furthering collaborative and holistic education methods over standardized ones.

Here, then, is proof positive that TED Translators’ efforts aren’t confined to the individual level; translating TED or TEDx Talks can open doors and transcend borders in profound and surprising ways. Join us and see for yourself!

TED Translators at TEDxBlumenau 2017


On April 30, TEDxBlumenau 2017 went down in Brazil, under the theme Momentum. Claudia Sander, a Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator, and her daughter were in attendance to help build momentum for TED Translators.

The pair set up and ran an info station where event participants could engage with a PowerPoint presentation on TED Translators, as well as check out the Amara platform and its translation, transcription and other capabilities. Claudia and her daughter also collected the names and email addresses of attendees who expressed interest in volunteering with TED Translators, and they handed out cards with their contact information so participants could reach out to them, too.

Following TEDxBlumenau, Claudia and her daughter emailed the folks who’d signed their mailing list, detailing how they could join TED Translators and providing them with several tutorials—all with the aim of mentoring these attendees to become regular volunteers in the near future.

TED Translators at TEDxUlaanbaatarLive

TEDxUBLive organizers

TEDxUlaanbaatar events have been taking place in Mongolia for several years now, contributing substantially to the Mongolian translation community’s steady growth. On April 27, Tuya Bat, a Mongolian TED Translator and TEDWomen 2016 attendee, along with a number of other TED Translators and TEDxUlaanbaatar volunteers, added to this growth with TEDxUlaanbaatarLive.

The gathering featured talks from TED2017, which Tuya and her colleagues translated into Mongolian and then screened at a new theater in Ulaanbaatar. Attendees were treated to some of the newest TED Talks in an atmosphere meant to approximate TED2017 as much as possible.

As Tuya said after TEDxUlaanbaatarLive, the event was a resounding success, particularly because it marked the first collaboration between Mongolian TED Translators and TEDx volunteers, and because it provided those in attendance with a unique opportunity to engage with recent TED Talks in their native language in almost real time.

Plans are already under way for more TEDxLive gatherings in Mongolia, so stay tuned here for updates on those.

TED Translators Translateathon in Syria


On April 17 and 18, the TEDxArabInternationalUniversity translateathon took place in Damascus, Syria. The event was a collaboration between Magma, a Syrian educational and social enterprise founded and headed by Arabic TED Translator Ghalia Turki, and TEDxArabInternationalUniversity organizers.

Day one saw the eight participants translate six recent TEDxArabInternationalUniversity talks from Arabic to English. On the second day, the translators reviewed the previous day’s translations. The talks will be available online soon.

To round out the translateathon, the attendees watched a video of Mario Gioto discussing his experience as a TED Translator and the benefits and possibilities afforded by translating TED and TEDx talks. The participants also received gift bags that included books published by TED, as well as bookmarks containing inspirational quotes from TED Translators around the world. As Ghalia remarked after the gathering, everyone involved walked away with not only sharpened translation chops, but palpable excitement to ramp up their translating efforts in the future, too.

TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler Says Goodbye

Written by Kristin Windbigler

I like tidy endings, so it seems fitting to say goodbye just a few days before the TED Translators program celebrates its eighth anniversary. There are so many reasons for all of us to be proud of what we’ve achieved in that time, but what makes me beam unabashedly is that this program demonstrates every single day that people — often strangers, at least at first —  can collaborate remotely across borders, cultures and languages to do something as important as translate the ideas presented on the TED stage.

In the months leading up to May 13, 2009, I was already working with more than 200 of you to create a pool of translations that would seed our initiative. Finding that many people who were willing to volunteer dozens of hours of time subtitling videos seemed like quite an accomplishment in itself, although in all truth it really wasn’t that difficult. Ever since TED first unveiled the talks online in 2006, people had been writing for permission to translate and share them with others who didn’t speak English. So the idea for the TED Translators program wasn’t actually ours. It was yours.

Our job was to design a scalable system that would allow anyone—anywhere—to translate any talk into any language while still achieving the best quality possible. We had a hunch that if we were able to do that, it would foster a community of translators around the world, passionate about language, accuracy and quality—and, of course, TED. Now that our ranks have grown to more than 27,000 volunteers who have produced 111,000 sets of subtitles in 114 languages, it’s easy to forget that in the early days there were plenty of doubters who said, “You can’t just let anyone translate a TED Talk!”

In the spirit of radical openness, though, we pressed on — which isn’t to say we were certain what would happen when we flipped the switch on that day in 2009. We suspected there would still be more people eager to join, but we weren’t prepared for just how many. The response was so overwhelming that colleagues from other TED departments had to pitch in to help me process the applications for several weeks afterward. That’s how I first met Jenny Zurawell, now the TED Translators program deputy director. Later the team grew to include Dimitra Papageorgiou, Ivana Korom, Krystian Aparta, Helene Batt and Barb Allen. The confidence I have in this team is immeasurable. The program couldn’t be in more capable hands, and I look forward to seeing what you all achieve together next (spoiler alert: you guys are going to remain awesome!).

Beginning next month, I will embark on a new adventure as the executive director of the Western Folklife Center, which hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every year in Elko, Nevada. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to work with all of you. Not many people in the world are lucky enough to have friends in 155 countries, but I am among at least 27,000 or so who do. Thank you so much for your friendship and what you have shared with me about your corner of the globe. And keep contributing what you do to the world. It’s important.


TED Translators at TEDxExeter

TEDxExeter / Exeter School of Art

On April 21, the sixth TEDxExeter event took place at the English city’s Northcott Theatre. Over a dozen speakers and performers—ranging from renowned author and TED Speaker Andrew Solomon to the music and empowerment group Kagemusha Taiko—and more than 900 attendees gathered to explore the theme of Hope.

Among those in attendance at TEDxExeter were TED Translators community manager Dimitra Papageorgiou and nine TED Translators, representing eight different languages, who’d been invited as honored guests by the conference’s curator, Claire Kennedy:

Screened from the main stage was the short video Everybody can transcribe TEDx talks!, a primer on the importance, benefits and relative ease of getting involved with transcribing TEDx talks. After the screening, a number of TEDxExeter attendees availed themselves to start transcribing and translating the conference’s talks into their respective languages. In addition, the eight UK-based TED Translators present at the event created a Facebook group for future exchanges and collaborations.