TED Translators at TEDxUSP


On October 7, Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Mario Gioto gave an informational presentation on TED Translators to an audience of about 700 people at TEDxUSP in São Paulo, Brazil. The talk was the brainchild of both Gioto and fellow TED Translator Gustavo Rocha; its goal was not only to increase awareness of TED Translators and its work, but also to encourage attendees to translate and transcribe their favorite TEDx talks from the event.

Rocha’s idea for such a presentation was inspired by a discussion session at the Translators Workshop at TEDSummit 2016; he and Gioto hope it will serve as a template for similar talks at future TEDx events throughout Brazil. Gioto and Rocha’s presentation received numerous enthusiastic responses from TEDxUSP audience members and speakers alike.

Amara development news, part 2

Design options explored for mentor badges

A few weeks ago, we detailed the completion of the first of three development phases on Amara. We’re excited to report that the second phase is well underway, and we’d like to share our most recent progress with you:

  • The remaining page designs are close to finalized and will enter front-end development next month.
  • As part of this design round, we’re reviewing several fun and interesting ideas for mentorship badging.
  • We’re also designing a mentorship dashboard that offers various tools for managing and communicating with collaborators.
  • We’re in the process of devising data visualizations for the user dashboard, which will show translation activity both across the TED Translators community and at the individual-user level.
  • As of this week, more than half of the front-end development of Amara’s new UI has been completed. This includes the new messaging center, member directory and member-profile pages.
  • And finally, front-end work on the second of three batches of pages is finished, and Amara is integrating this second batch into the platform.

We’ll have more news on the ongoing Amara upgrade for you soon, so be sure to check back.

TED Translator Umar Anjum selected to TED-Ed Innovative Educators’ third cohort

16640245078_efdc372f42_hLast week, TED-Ed announced its third cohort of Innovative Educators. Among the 30 individuals selected for the program was Urdu TED Translator Umar Anjum, who hails from Lahore, Pakistan. Inspired by his visits to a center for runaway children in Lahore, Umar became an educator and currently works for the University of California, Berkeley’s study-abroad program in Pakistan.

Umar’s appointment to TED-Ed’s third cohort comes about a year after Armenian TED Translator Kristine Sargsyan was chosen to participate in the first cohort. Check out the links above to learn more about Umar and the TED-Ed Innovative Educators.

100K subtitles and counting!


In 2009, TED launched its Open Translation Project (OTP) to enable TED Talk viewers around the world to freely translate and share talks in any language. The project kicked off with 300 translations in 40 languages, courtesy of 200 volunteer translators, and it spurred a remarkable increase in new translations—a prolific output that continues today.

Eventually, the OTP expanded to include TEDx talks, TED-Ed lessons and content for TED’s global distribution partners. Earlier this year, the project rebranded itself as TED Translators, evolving to an identity that more personally represents TED’s volunteer-translator community.

Now, seven years after its initial inception, we’re very excited to announce that TED Translators has published over 100,000 subtitles. Reaching this milestone is due in no small part to our nearly 25,000 volunteer translators, who currently work in over a hundred languages and in 155 countries. Without their tireless, meticulous efforts, TED Talks like Matt Cutt’s and Derek Sivers’s (which are among the most translated and viewed talks on TED.com) would not, it’s safe to say, enjoy the worldwide popularity they do.

As always, though, TED Translators has its sights set on the future, on building upon its success. New subtitle languages are regularly added to our talks (Mauritian Creole and Rusyn are recent additions), and new volunteers continue to join TED Translators at a steady rate. What’s more, languages with relatively small populations of native speakers, like Nepali, Galician and Kazakh, account for some of TED’s fastest-growing subtitle groups.

The future of TED Translators will focus on supporting the community’s needs so that they may continue to extend the reach of great ideas. “First and foremost, TED Translators is about growing the global exchange of ideas,” TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler says, “and that’s exactly what we’ll continue doing. Of course, our community of transcribers and translators is key to this growth, and we’re extremely grateful for our amazing volunteers’ ongoing contributions. Without their unending hard work, we might never have reached this milestone.”

TED Translators in Latvia

Photo: Aleksandar Korom/TED

This past weekend, several TED Translators conducted a workshop at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, Latvia. Co-hosted by TED Translators staff Dimitra Papageorgiou and Krystian Aparta, the gathering focused on enhancing collaboration and communication between TED Translators, particularly those based in the Baltic states and Russia.

Following local TED Translator Kristaps Kadikis’s introduction, Hanna Baradzina, a Belarusian TED Translator, presented TED Translators and Endangered Languages, an insightful look at her and others’ efforts to promote widespread Belarusian translation in her Russian-language-dominated country. Afterward, the attendees discussed Baradzina’s presentation and its implications, and then broke into groups to home in further on collaboration and communication.

Some of the main issues taken up during the breakout session were how to better recruit new translators and how to encourage more veteran translators to review others’ work. Professional translators and linguistics students were identified as key potential candidates who could help in these areas. The workshop attendees also highlighted various usability concerns related to Amara—concerns which the ongoing Amara upgrade will address.

As the gathering wrapped up, plans were made for future workshops and similar events to bolster the Baltic and Russian translation communities; the consensus was that such meetings will go a long way toward enhancing collaboration and communication among TED Translators in the region.

Amara development news

A sneak-peek at part of the Amara dashboard developed in phase 1.

At the recent TEDSummit 2016, we announced that Amara was undergoing a series of upgrades to enhance its collaboration capabilities. We’re pleased to report that the first  of three development phases has been completed. The second phase is currently underway.

Although these upgrades won’t appear on Amara until all three development phases are finished, we’d like to give the community visibility into our progress thus far. For starters, we carried out front-end development and platform integration on the dashboard and video page. We also completed design on a number of components, including:

  • The video index: where volunteers find videos and new assignments.
  • The subtitle-management page: where staff and admins manage community assignments.
  • The messaging center: an email-style communication system.
  • The subtitles page: where the latest subtitle revision appears with crediting information.
  • The member directory: where volunteers find and message others.
  • The member-profile page: where volunteers see current and past assignments.
  • The application-review page: where staff approve new applicants.
  • The activity page: where volunteers see community and language stats.
  • The team landing page: where new users sign up.

We’ll have an update on the second part of the development roadmap soon, so stay tuned.

An interview with TED Translator Meriç Aydonat

Photo: Marla Aufmuth/TED

Meriç Aydonat was born in Turkey, educated in Turkey, the US and Canada, and she currently lives in Chicago. With several years as a prolific TED Translator under her belt, we figured it was high time to get to know Meriç a bit better. Read on to learn more about her translation work, why she regards herself as a global citizen, Hünkâr Beğendi and what she’d do with her TEDPrize wish.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey, on the coast of the Aegean Sea. However, thanks to my education and career, I’ve lived in seven different cities in three different countries in the past decade. Because of this experience it’s easy for me to feel at home just about anywhere, and I’ve come to consider myself a global citizen. But Izmir is definitely my favorite place in the world, and I’d love to live there again in the future.

As for my passions and interests: I’m quite a bookworm and news junkie, and I can’t get enough of documentaries or TED Talks. My love for learning and sharing what I learn with other people was why I began translating TED Talks, and it’s why I don’t plan to stop translating anytime soon.

You studied engineering and business. What drew you to these fields?

I became interested in electronics and computers at an early age; I loved to take things apart and put them back together. When I got older, I decided to study electrical and computer engineering so I could learn both the physics that make electronics work and the algorithms that make electronics useful to us.

At the same time, I wanted to try to figure out why (beyond obvious design factors) only certain electronics and software products succeed, so I also decided to study business.

My current job has a foot in both of these worlds, and I love it.

What is the Turkish translation community like?

It’s a very strong and vibrant one. Turkish volunteer translators are always eager to produce new translations as accurately and quickly as possible. If anyone needs help with their work, they don’t hesitate to reach out to more-experienced translators for assistance. Sometimes, speakers will contact the Turkish translation community directly and request a translation for one of their talks, and in these cases I’m always amazed by how fast the volunteers respond.

You currently live in the US. How does that influence your relationship with the Turkish translation community?

Fortunately, current technology makes it easier than ever to communicate over long distances, so I’m constantly in touch with Turkish translators via Amara, Facebook, Twitter and email to help mentor them and solve their technical problems. These exchanges are often very fruitful for both the volunteers and myself. I consider all the translators I’ve worked with friends, no matter how far away from me they might live.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new TED Translator? And to a veteran TED Translator?

I’d advise a new TED Translator to focus on conveying the tone and “feel” of the speaker and her talk. This may require swaying a bit from a literal translation, but that’s fine: viewers will follow more seamlessly a translation that’s attentive to fluidity and engaging language.

To a veteran TED Translator, I’d suggest remembering that you’re a mentor to novice translators, so keep courtesy at the forefront of your feedback and corrections; this way, newer translators will be more inclined to learn and grow from their mistakes.

Have recent political events in Turkey, like the attempted coup, impacted the Turkish translation community?

Unfortunately, recent events in Turkey have been turbulent to say the least, and it seems almost every day brings upsetting news from the country. Even if the turbulence doesn’t directly impact the Turkish translation community, it takes a psychological toll on all of us. But I think we all try our best to not let the bad news steal our joy; yes, we each process what happens, in our own ways, but we eventually return to doing what makes us happy—namely translating TED Talks and spreading ideas.

Your TED profile says people don’t know you’re good at cooking. What’s your favorite dish to cook? How do you make it?

Yes, I love cooking. My favorite dish to make is a Turkish one called Hünkâr Beğendi, which translates literally to “The Sultan liked it.” It’s a traditional dish that originated in the kitchens of Ottoman royalty. As such, Hünkâr Beğendi takes a while to prepare, since dishes with short preparation times were considered an insult to the Sultan. Generally, though, Hünkâr Beğendi consists of a dairy-based eggplant paste served with lamb stew.

Is there a work of art (a book, film, painting, sculpture—anything) that’s resonated with you recently?

I just read Rebecca Skloot’s book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and I loved it. It’s the story of a woman—Lacks—who died of cervical cancer in the 1950s, and her tremendous legacy. After Lacks died, doctors harvested cells from her body for future study without her family’s permission—cells which eventually yielded amazing breakthroughs in the field of genetics. Needless to say, the Lacks family was stunned when it learned the fate of Henrietta’s cells.

One of the many powerful ideas the book conveyed to me, through the Lack family, is that recognition is sometimes more important to people than monetary reward: Henrietta’s family is proud of her contribution to medicine and science, to humanity, and only asks that Henrietta be credited for it. Funny enough, this reminds me of TED Translators everywhere: we don’t seek an award for our contributions, just due recognition. And TED does a great job of recognizing our efforts.

What would your TEDPrize wish be?

It may be far too big of a wish for TED (or any other organization) to realize, but I’d like to see the borders we’ve drawn between countries dissolved. I think these borders are arbitrary constructs that do more to divide than unite us: they separate people into nationalities and races, categories which obfuscate the fact that we’re all human beings. This in turn leads to dangerous and irrational group psychologies, like nationalism, racism, xenophobia and, sadly, so many more.

But if we were somehow able to do away with borders, I think we’d take a huge step toward preserving and strengthening our collective humanity, as we’d begin to free ourselves from the physical and psychological divisions that borders impose on us. And no, I don’t think this would lead to a migration “crisis”: plenty of research shows that people around the world prefer, whenever possible, to stay in or near their birthplaces, with family and friends. In the end, I believe we’re all obligated as global citizens to make the world as livable and accessible for each other as we can, and dissolving our borders would be a giant commitment to fulfilling our duty. Easier said than done, perhaps—but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.