On November 18, TEDxBeaconStreet took place at Boston’s JFK Library. The gathering featured a remarkably rich and diverse speaker lineup that included, among others, former NASA astronauts, Harvard and MIT professors, and a cast member of the critically acclaimed musical Hamilton. Also in attendance, to represent and promote TED Translators, were the program’s director, Jenny Zurawell, and deputy director, Helene Batt.
During one of TEDxBeaconStreet’s multiple sessions, Jenny and Helene presented an overview of TED Translators and its indispensability in terms of spreading TEDx Talks globally. The duo detailed the program’s current scope (30,000 volunteers across 157 countries who work in 115 languages), how anyone interested in transcribing or translating her favorite TEDx Talks can join TED Translators, as well as the unparalleled exposure the program can provide TEDx Talks.
To underscore the last point, Jenny and Helene cited Robert Waldinger’s talk at TEDxBeaconStreet in 2015: Following its English transcription, the talk was soon translated into Ukrainian, Arabic, Thai, Hebrew and dozens of other languages–an international ripple effect of translation that brought Waldinger’s talk to audiences it otherwise might not have reached. And, since TEDx Talks are officially published on YouTube, Jenny and Helene emphasized the fact that YouTube videos with subtitles are watched more often than those without them–which means that transcribing and translating TEDx Talks is the optimal way to maximize their views.
It’s safe to say that when all was said and done at this year’s TEDxBeaconStreet gathering, the attendees left encouraged and invigorated to get involved with the TED Translators program and begin spreading their favorite talks from the event around the world.
A few weeks ago, we highlighted the mid-September collaboration between the Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities for the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon in Damascus, Syria. On September 26, the two groups teamed up again at the Syrian Computer Society in Homs, Syria, for an Open Translation Week that ran through September 30. The third of its kind since it was initiated earlier this year, the event was organized by TED Translator Ghalia Turki and the TEDxMimasStreet team, and it was sponsored by the UNFPA.
At the Open Translation Week’s start, the 40 participants were divided into five groups of eight, in which they remained for the duration of the gathering. First on the agenda were several workshops and activities that introduced the attendees to each other and familiarized them with language and translation fundamentals. A two-day translateathon of 35 TEDx talks followed. During the translation portion, designated trainers supervised and helped each group work effectively, and then reviewed the groups’ translations for accuracy. Throughout the Open Translation Week, the groups acquired points for their “performances”; gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the top-three scorers on the final day of the event.
The participants, inspired by their Open Translation Week experience, have begun building a larger translation community in Homs. According to Ghalia, they’re planning a special translation-related gathering for the near future, so check back in soon for details on that.
The translators kicked off the conference before the first speaker session with a private brunch to meet and get to know each other a bit better. Representatives from TED’s mobile team joined the TED Translators there to discuss the importance of subtitles with regard to cultivating a larger international audience on TED’s mobile apps.
Over TEDWomen 2017’s three days, the translators participated in interviews with the mobile team in order to provide feedback on the mobile-app experience in different languages. They also held a second TED Translators meet-up to delve into community-development ideas, new ways to increase awareness of the TED Translators program and acknowledge translators’ contributions, as well as to plan future group meetings over Skype.
All in all, TEDWomen 2017 offered TED Translators yet another excellent venue for some of its members to come together, exchange new insights and broaden the program’s global reach.
Our closer look at the TED Translators who attended TEDWomen 2017 last week continues with Chinese translator Anny Chung. Her response to our questions—What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?—illuminates an essential bridge to be built if we’re to have any success in tackling our world’s biggest problems.
I believe one of the most important bridges we must build is that between our minds and our hearts. As a scientist, I deal in evidence, facts and logic. To me, many of our world’s most urgent problems persist because of the frequent disconnect between what our minds understand to be true and what our hearts obstinately wish were true.
For example, a wealth of evidence points to global warming and climate change as crises that will exact huge human and economic costs in the coming century; yet we do nothing to counter them because we’re comfortable in our current lives. Gun-control policies around the world have firmly established that gun-safety laws decrease civilian death tolls; yet scores of people still feel maligned and threatened by the prospect of increased firearms regulation. Research reveals again and again that institutional racism exists and that equality does not necessarily amount to justice; yet many American families and schools avoid much-needed conversations because even broaching the subject feels uncomfortable. Globally, women’s health and economic statuses improve when they can access birth control and exercise autonomy over their own bodies; yet groups and individuals continue to willfully deny women these rights.
The fact that one doesn’t personally perceive climate change, experience gun violence or struggle under systemic biases doesn’t mean that these (and other) pressing issues in our world don’t exist. If we could open our hearts to the collective wisdom of minds everywhere, our world would be a saner place. What’s more, it would be a place that celebrates solutions rather than turning a blind eye to its problems.
Late last week, in the first installment of our series intended to better get to know the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017 and what this year’s conference theme, Bridges, means to them, we featured Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes’s response to the following questions:
What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?
The next answer comes to us from Turkish TED Translator Cihan Ekmekçi*, whose response homes in on one of bridge-building’s fundamental elements: unity—between all people, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even as humanity seems to fracture more and more every day, Cihan, as you’ll discover below, is steadfast in his belief that the bridges of diversity, empathy and unity won’t weaken; if anything, they’ll grow stronger.
*(Unfortunately, due to the current visa crisis between the U.S. and Turkey, Cihan and his fellow Turkish TEDWomen invitee, Selda Yener, have been unable to obtain their visas to travel to the conference. Urdu TED Translator Raana Irfan, who lives in Pakistan, has also met with a similar bureaucratic obstruction. We, of course, are extremely disappointed by these developments, not least of all because these three translators would have enriched the already dynamic panel and presence of TED Translators at TEDWomen 2017.)
When I consider TEDWomen 2017’s theme, Bridges, I immediately find myself contemplating a frighteningly pervasive global problem: Human beings’ lack of empathy and respect for each other. Despite ever-increasing globalization that’s seen our world’s myriad cultures and nations set aside their differences in favor of more engagement (or bridges, if you will) between themselves, examples of our enmity and violence toward one another abound. It seems humans have become adept at, perhaps even resigned to, burning the bridges they’ve worked so long and hard to build.
However, I believe we haven’t yet passed the point of no return: The ability to both rebuild the bridges we’ve burned and construct new ones remains well within us. The key is that we must embrace and nurture human diversity rather than fear it. Fear is ultimately destructive, and especially so when it manifests irrationally as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, misogyny… I’ll be the first to admit that we still have a long way to go before humanity transcends such fears; but with each successive generation, it’s quite clear that most folks prefer to live in a world where equality flourishes, where the bridges between us are preserved and fortified, where new bridges are built all the time. If we do as much as we can to keep this momentum going, I think we’ll face far better prospects for a more peaceful and sustainable world in the future.
Earlier this month, we profiled the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017, which runs November 1-3 in New Orleans. To get to know these fine folks a bit better and tap into what this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges, means to them, we posed the following questions to the translators:
What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?
In her response below, Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendesaddresses the epidemic of violence against women in Brazil, as well as the bridges required to stop the brutality and reach equality.
When you consider the social status of women in Brazil, what comes to mind? More often than not, it seems, we assume they’re free to travel, work, study, dress, express themselves as they wish—especially since Brazil is one of the world’s largest democracies. But the facts on the ground here blatantly contradict this assumption. In terms of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world for women, Brazil ranks fifth; in fact, according to the UN, a woman here is killed by violence every two hours. All of which is to say that there’s a literal life-and-death necessity in Brazil to build bridges that will quickly lead to a sea change in Brazilian society’s (particularly its men’s) treatment of women.
Sadly, violence toward women here has been pervasive for decades, despite efforts by government and law enforcement to counter and curb the crisis. What’s worse, the victimization appears to be growing more widespread. A big part of Brazil’s failure to adequately address its gender-violence epidemic stems from insufficient legislation and poor police enforcement of these laws. As Human Rights Watch reported:
Passage of the Maria da Penha law in 2006 was a milestone, establishing an array of measures to guarantee women’s rights, prevent violence, and ensure justice in the event of violence. One of the law’s main accomplishments was the creation of protective orders to provide a buffer by requiring a woman’s alleged abuser to stay away from her, though getting such an order and making sure it’s enforced remains more difficult than it should be.
Despite this progress, more than 4,700 women were killed in Brazil in 2013—the last year for which there is data—half of them by a relative, partner, or former partner. Many more suffered homicide attempts, rape, or beatings.
But the moral imperative to more aggressively combat violence against women in Brazil must also be adopted and enacted by the country’s educational systems and families—the social actors largely responsible for teaching children and young adults acceptable ways to interact with and treat other people. Even a brief look at Brazil’s history of violence toward women reveals that the problem has been passed from generation to generation like a lethal disease, with boys and young men observing, emulating and internalizing their fathers’, brothers’, friends’ behaviors. It’s beyond urgent, therefore, that teachers and parents in Brazil do much more to impart to and instill in younger generations the fundamental truth that women and men are equals, and that women ought to be regarded and treated as such. Now more than ever, we Brazilians must build unassailable bridges between our women and men that lead to lasting equality for both.
Abhinav Garule is a Hindi and Marathi TED Translator, TEDx organizer and design student based in India. Below, he discusses how his translation and design work are related, what all good translations require, The Wisdom Well and more.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m currently a design student. I strongly believe that meaningful and novel enough ideas can change the world. One idea I’m very passionate about is open-knowledge resources, like TED. I’m also interested in exploring my strengths and weaknesses through travel, and I enjoy deep conversation and playing sports.
When and how did you first get involved with TED Translators?
My journey with TED Translators began in November 2013, when I attended and worked as part of the organizing team at TEDxPune. In a post-event translators workshop, I learned about the Amara subtitling platform and how to use it. Pranav Mistry’s TED Talk on SixthSense technology intrigued me at that time, so I decided to translate it into Hindi, my first language. Afterward, translating other TED Talks I found compelling seemed like a logical progression, so I went for it.
What were some other talks you felt drawn to translate initially?
I wanted to translate design-related talks, because back then I was preparing for the entrance exam for admission into the National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, which is one of India’s top design schools. At the same time, I discovered that translating, reviewing and approving these TED Talks in my mother tongue enhanced my understanding, in terms of design, of thought processes that lie behind the generation of products and systems. And so I credit translating TED Talks as crucial to my success at the institute’s entrance interview, and to my admission into the school.
What do you enjoy most about being a TED Translator?
I think one of the key components of a solid translation is the translator’s acute knowledge of both the language and material that she’s translating, as well as the language she’s translating into; she’s got to bridge the gap between them, so to speak. Successfully bridging that gap excites me. On top of this, seeing my translations contribute to TED’s ever-expanding dialogue of ideas and knowledge—a dialogue that transcends borders, languages, cultures—is equally exciting and a point of pride for me.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new TED Translator? And to a veteran TED Translator?
To a newbie, I’d advise focusing on clearly translating a talk’s message over precise word-to-word translation.
To a veteran TED Translator, I’d emphasize the importance of more-seasoned translators exposing marginalized communities to TED Talks in these communities’ native languages; I believe doing so can go a long way toward social reform, improving quality of life and solving day-to-day problems in such parts of the world.
To change gears, is there a work of art (a book, film, painting, sculpture—anything) that’s resonated with you recently?
About a month ago, I visited a museum in Khetri, a remote village near Jaipur, India. While there, I checked out an installation called The Wisdom Well, which depicts the Indian Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda’s life lessons. Each time a visitor to The Wisdom Well draws its bucket, meant to symbolize knowledge, a screen in the well displays a different story by Swami Vivekananda. My interpretation of this installation is that we simply must be thirsty for knowledge to acquire it—which I think nicely parallels my experience with TED: The more I dig, the more I find ideas worth spreading.
Finally, if you could give any TED Talk, what would it be?
It would be “Enhancing literacy through translation”.
On September 17th and 18th, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon, a collaboration between the Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities, took place in Damascus, Syria, at SEBC. The gathering was organized and led by Arabic TED Translator Ghalia Turki, with the aim of introducing TED and the TED Translators project to new volunteer translators; it was sponsored by the UNFPA.
Ghalia kicked things off with an overview of TED and TED Translators, and then guided the 15 attendees through an Amara tutorial, translation tips and common mistakes to avoid. Afterward, the participants chose several random TEDx Talks and broke into pairs to translate the talks from English to Arabic. The translateathon ran for 12 hours.
Once the groups finished their translations, Ghalia reviewed their work, tallying errors and making helpful notes for the translators. She then selected the two pairs who submitted the best translations, taking into account accuracy and speed. The four winners, so to speak, were each awarded coupons of 10.000 Syrian Pounds (SYP) courtesy of an English library in Damascus, while all the other participants received coupons worth 5000 SYP.
On the whole, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon was yet another productive step forward for the Syrian translation community, as well as for more frequent collaborative efforts between TED Translators and TEDx.
TEDWomen 2017, set to take place November 1-3 in New Orleans, LA, is fast approaching, so it’s high time for us to introduce you to the TED Translators selected to attend the gathering! In countries around the globe, these extraordinary folks are gearing up to convene at NOLA’s historic Orpheum Theater to engage with this year’s theme: Bridges. Read on below to get to know a bit more about these bridge builders.
Anny Chung (Taiwan) Postdoctoral researcher in ecology Anny was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and split her childhood years between her hometown and Christchurch, New Zealand. She currently resides in Logan, Utah, where she’s a postdoctoral researcher in ecology at Utah State University. Her studies there focus on the importance of interactions between plants and microbes with regard to maintaining coexistence and diversity in nature. Anny is also an avid musician and often plays violin in local orchestras. Her passion for translating ideas runs through her science and musical endeavors, as well as her translation work in Chinese and English.
Cihan Ekmekçi (Turkey) Linguist + interpreter Hailing from Turkey, Cihan’s immersion in the translation world began with his English-language studies in business administration and international relations, and continued with his specialization in applied languages (English and Spanish) at Spain’s Technical University of Valencia. Cihan then obtained a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification, and has since taught Turkish to U.S. citizens, and English and Spanish to Turkish citizens. In addition, he’s worked as an interpreter and HR professional at several international organizations. Cihan’s guiding motto in life and work is: It’s never too late to be what you might have been.
Selda Yener (Turkey) Certified translator + student Selda was born and raised in Turkey, studied English and English literature at university, and she now works as a freelance certified translator. She’s also pursuing a degree in German translation and interpreting, and brushing up on her Arabic. As a Turkish TED Translator, Selda considers herself a bridge between different languages and cultures who enables ideas and knowledge to more freely cross back and forth around the world. Aside from her translation work, she enjoys reading, cycling, meditating and being out and about in nature.
Stefania Betti (Italy) Business developer Stefania is an Italian native who holds degrees in foreign languages and literatures, international communication for business, and global marketing and communication. After working for six years at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, she returned to Italy to apply her expertise there: Her current efforts involve developing ways to leverage workplace diversity as an asset rather than an issue to be managed, particularly when it comes to gender and age gaps. Stefania is a firm believer in education as vital to individuals’ freedom, intellectually and otherwise, and she regards an open mind as our most valuable tool; these convictions have been her primary motivators as a TED Translator.
Monika Saraf (India + U.S.) Tutor Originally from Chamba, a small town in northern India that’s nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Monika has lived in the U.S. with her husband and two children for seven years. She holds a master’s degree in economics from Himachal Pradesh University, and worked as a lecturer in her home country. Since moving to the U.S., Monika has volunteered as a tutor at multiple schools. She also volunteered as a translator with the Khan Academy before joining TED Translators as a Hindi translator last year, when she realized that her students back in India could benefit greatly from engaging with TED Talks. Outside of translating, Monika enjoys cooking, gardening and all the wonders nature has to offer.
Masako Kigami (Japan) Translator + administrator at the Eiken Foundation of Japan + national tour guide Masako lives in Hiroshima, Japan, where she works in several language- and culture-related roles: professional translator; administrator at the Eiken Foundation of Japan (a public organization that promotes and tests English proficiency); and official guide at Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome and Itsukushima Shrine. After she discovered TED Talks and the empowerment and inspiration they provide her, Masako joined TED Translators so she could share with others the ideas that move her.
Raissa Mendes (Brazil) Civil servant + teacher (retired) Raissa is a longtime Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator and Language Coordinator. She holds a master’s degree in linguistics, and spent much of her career as a civil servant in Brazil, editing and proofreading official government documents. Raissa’s civil service work also included compiling, as part of a team, the English-Portuguese Glossary of Parliamentary Terms and the Manual of Parliamentary Writing for the Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais, a state in southeastern Brazil. In addition to all this, she taught courses on communicating in Portuguese in both public and professional settings, and on drafting official documents. Now retired, Raissa devotes most of her time to translating in the education arena, with TED Talks accounting for a large portion of her efforts. Her fervent belief in the notion that expanding access to education and inspiring by example are crucial to building a future with less social inequality and exclusion—in Brazil and around the world—is what daily drives her contributions to TED Translators.
Ivan Stamenković (Croatia) Program coordinator Ivan is a veteran TED Translator who’s worked with the project since 2011, when it was still called the Open Translation Project. A Croation Language Coordinator, he’s organized multiple TEDxOsijek events. He’s a staunch believer in the power of new and evolving ideas to change the world, on both macro- and microlevels—a power he discusses in his TEDx Talk. Outside of TED Translators, Ivan is a program coordinator at SVIT, where, in his words, he “helps people get to know the Silicon Valley mentality and provides them with the tools to make their ideas reality.”
Raana Irfan (Pakistan) Educator A native of Pakistan’s second-most populous city, Lahore, Raana has worked in various teaching capacities for the past two decades. She’s currently a senior training manager in The City School of Lahore’s professional development department. Raana’s commitment to preserving and promoting human rights, particularly those of women and children, has led her to perform at the AJOKA Theater for Social Change, where she’s aimed to use theater to raise awareness of Pakistan’s human rights problems. When she’s not training or performing, Raana spends her time reading, writing poetry and cooking for her family. She credits her grandson, Ayaan, for teaching her the meaning of her life.
We’ve been on a brief hiatus since our last post, but we’re excited to return on the cusp of fall with an interview with Hindi TED Translator Adisha Aggarwal. Read on to learn about Adisha’s translation work, how she’s developed a better understanding of the complexities and nuances of language, one of her favorite books and more.
To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Personally, I’m a happy soul. Professionally, I’m a program manager at Akamai Technologies in Bangalore, India.
When and how did you start translating with TED Translators?
I attended TEDxCambridge in September 2016, during a visit to the U.S. I had watched numerous TED Talks on YouTube prior to this, but I hadn’t been to a live TED event yet. It was an overwhelming experience—in a great way: I was spellbound by the speakers’ passion and animation, and extremely impressed by how well the gathering was executed.
On the same visit, a colleague told me she’d translated a number of TED Talks into Hindi via TED Translators, and I was immediately intrigued by this opportunity to make ideas and information accessible to non-English speakers. I then applied to become a Hindi TED Translator as soon as I could.
Were there specific talks or subjects you gravitated toward when you started translating?
When I began searching for talks that were available for Hindi translation, I decided my work should help viewers gain new knowledge on a subject and/or enable them to understand the challenges other societies face.
I initially translated several talks on the importance of learning different languages, the power of mathematics and the impact of online abuse. After these, I was drawn to translating Ted-Ed lessons because they allow viewers to understand a new topic in a short span of time.
What is the Hindi translation community like? How large is it? Is it growing?
Interesting question. Currently, there are about 50 Hindi TED Translators, some of whom are extremely active and a few of whom have translated over 100 talks. All of them, however, are dedicated to spreading ideas and knowledge in the Hindi language.
I’d like to add here that India is a multilingual country with around 122 major languages and 1599 other languages, so the Indian translation community isn’t limited to Hindi. In fact, TED’s website indicates there are close to 200 TED Translators in India, and not all of them work in Hindi.
What do you enjoy most about being a TED Translator?
It provides a unique avenue to explore the depth and complexity of Hindi, my first language. I studied Hindi in school for 13 years and use it daily. But what you might call everyday Hindi is quite different from the language’s written version, which is more formal, and translating has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of both. In addition, working as a TED Translator has improved my English and made me more attentive to grammatical variations between different languages.
I also like the fact that translating requires I think more deeply about the subject and content of talks than I might if I were just watching them; I become more invested in and excited about the ideas presented.
Last but not least, I thoroughly enjoy the chance TED Translators gives me to help important knowledge and ideas transcend language, cultural and many other barriers.
What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new TED Translator? And to a veteran TED Translator?
I’d say to a new TED Translator: Research—a lot. More specifically, research to figure out the best yet simplest words you can use in your translations before you finalize your subtitles. It’s not uncommon for some words to exist in only one language, and these can be challenging to translate, but it’s almost always possible to find their optimal counterparts.
As to the second part of this question, I believe I need to do lots more translating before I feel qualified to give advice to a veteran TED Translator.
What are your interests outside of translating?
I love to watch TED Talks, of course—which is how I developed an interest in translation—as well as documentaries, movies and TV series. Reading is big for me, too. And running, especially in nice weather.
Is there a work of art (a book, film, painting, sculpture—anything) that’s resonated with you recently?
Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens. It blew my mind; it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a sweeping study of humankind—evolution, agriculture, societies, religions, human behavior and so much more—that’s carried out so interestingly and in such clear prose, I could hardly put the book down.
If you could give any TED Talk, what would it be?
“What women need to do differently to conquer the world”.
Yesterday at TEDGlobal 2017, TED Translators met with speaker Yvonne Chioma Mbanefo, creator of the first illustrated Igbo-language dictionary for children. Mbanefo talked in depth with the translators about a range of subjects: her ongoing effort to encourage African-language learning among younger generations; the effects that politics, both local and global, have on language; and how to develop new terms that don’t yet exist in a language. The meetup provided the TED Translators with a primer not only on Igbo and its nuances, but also on the ever-shifting nature of language as a whole.
This past Saturday, nine TED Translators, along with a number of speakers and globally minded attendees, kicked off TEDGlobal 2017 with the “global souls” welcome dinner. The gathering took place at the Rivertrees Country Inn in Arusha, Tanzania, and saw guests connect with each other over local cuisine and conversation about a variety of global topics. All in all, the dinner was a great opportunity for the TED Translators and their fellow TEDGlobal 2017 attendees to mingle in a fun, intimate way before the start of the conference.
This third edition of our In their own voices series finds Arabic TED Translator and TEDGlobal 2017 attendee Fatima Zahra answering the question we recently posed to the 10 TED Translators heading to Tanzania later this month: What is one significant aspect of, or recent development in, your country that you think people (and not only TED Translators) should be aware of? Below, Fatima details a historical archaeological discovery that occurred in her home country of Morocco this past spring.
In late spring of this year, a team of archaeologists working in a region of western Morocco called Jebel Irhoud uncovered the oldest known Homo sapien remains to date. Before the discovery of the 300,000-year-old fossils, which include skull bones and flint blades, the oldest known Homo sapien remains were a pair of 195,000-year-old partial skulls unearthed in Ethiopia in 2003.
The new fossils indicate that the early humans who inhabited Jebel Irhoud physically resembled both each other and contemporary people. One distinct difference between Jebel Irhoud’s dwellers and us, however, is brain structure: Their brains were the same size as ours, but they were long and low rather than round. That said, the flint blades, which were found in the same sedimentary layer as the skulls and exhibit burn signs, suggest that their makers created relatively complex weapons like wood-shafted spears and that they knew how to work with fire.
But perhaps what’s most remarkable about the Jebel Irhoud remains is that they were found in North Africa, which, because of their age, prompted Philipp Gunz, a paleoanthropologist involved with the fossils’ discovery and study, to observe that humans “did not evolve from a single ‘cradle of mankind’ somewhere in East Africa. We evolved on the African continent.” The flint blades back up this claim: They originated at a site roughly 20 miles south of Jebel Irhoud, and blades of a similar fashion and age have been uncovered at other sites throughout Africa.
Of course, researchers still have a lot of work ahead of them analyzing the Jebel Irhoud remains, but their findings so far are undeniably significant for a plethora of reasons—not least of which is that the discovery is big step forward for humanity’s understanding of its origins and history.
For this week’s installment of our In their own words series, Arabic TED Translator and TEDGlobal 2017 invitee Hussain Al-Abdali responds to our question What is one significant aspect of, or recent development in, your country that you think people (and not only TED Translators) should be aware of? Read on to find out why there may be more to Saudi Arabia and its people than you know.
It’s undeniable (perhaps to the point that it goes without saying) that media of all types shape many of our perceptions about the world. At times, this influence can be problematic: media are very often riddled with stereotypes, despite their attempts to remain “objective”. Occasionally, a degree of truth underlies some stereotypes, but that truth is usually so distorted and obfuscated by mis- and disinformation that we can barely, if at all, discern it. A case in point: my home country of Saudi Arabia and Saudi people in general.
In my experience, if you ask somebody who hasn’t been to Saudi Arabia what they know about the country, they’ll likely answer you with the following (or some iteration thereof): Saudi Arabia is populated mostly by obscenely wealthy, extremely religious and repressive men who live in a desert rife with oil wells and (yes, folks sometimes say this) camels. Of course, as I said, there’s a level of truth to this stereotype; but more than anything, this widespread perception of Saudi Arabia and its people glosses over the actual rich complexity and diversity of the country; it’s a simplistic misperception.
Saudi culture—be it religion, politics, education or what have you—is comprised of a vast array of perspectives and positions. On top of this, there’s an increasing gravitation toward coexistence, mutual understanding and what could be called “moderate globalization”—especially among younger Saudis like myself. We want to take part in resolving the numerous problems plaguing the Middle East, as well as try to apply what solutions we devise to troubles throughout the rest of the world. And when I say “we”, I mean both men and women; Saudi women’s inclusion and participation in our endeavor is crucial. A promising roadmap for achieving our goals has been laid out by Saudi Vision 2030, which was introduced by the Deputy Crown Prince of the Kingdom. This follows earlier similar initiatives, such as the late King Abdullah’s founding of the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna, Austria.
On a smaller scale, there are lots of young Saudis (myself included) who translate TED and TEDx Talks, and who are involved in other progressive activities. Translating for TED, in particular, has enabled us to rethink many of our own ideas, perceptions, values, etc., and, just as important, to find commonalities in other folks, whatever their backgrounds.
That said, the transformation of Saudi Arabia I’m delineating still has a long way to go and countless obstacles to tackle. But its momentum is building, and a vital part of maintaining this trend is to encourage people outside the country to think and act beyond whatever stereotypes of Saudi Arabia they may have. I hope my answer here will provide such encouragement.
Last month, we introduced you to the 10 TED Translators selected to attend TEDGlobal 2017 in Tanzania this August. As the conference approaches, we’ll get to know these translators more in depth through a series of posts in which each of them answers the question What is one significant aspect of, or recent development in, your country that you think people (and not only TED Translators) should be aware of?
Nelson Simfukwe, a native Tanzanian and technology entrepreneur, provides in his response below an incisive and revealing look at how new technology is changing his country.
In recent years, Tanzania has experienced a rapid influx of technology previously absent or critically lacking in the nation—from smartphones to enhanced healthcare systems. Smartphones especially have digitized much of our communications, particularly since folks here can now easily access the internet in the palms of their hands. However, many Tanzanian users of smartphones and other technology remain unaware of how our country’s burgeoning digital revolution can benefit them, both individually and collectively, in deeper and broader ways than just everyday connectivity.
We see a clear example of this in our agricultural sector, where communications and other technological advances haven’t penetrated nearly as far as they have in, say, the public sector, leaving farmers to continue relying on obsolete methods for large-scale production. (I should add that similar disparities are evident in lots of other Tanzanian sectors, too—not only in agriculture.) It’s my belief, then, that those of us here with the knowledge and ability to do so must begin spreading awareness of this problem, in all of its manifestations, across all sectors of Tanzanian life. But again, it’s not just about increasing access and connectivity; our society needs as many of us as possible to figure out how to leverage new technology so that we can take larger leaps forward, namely into industrialization.
Realizing this transition is, of course, a complex, detailed endeavor that involves capital, investments, enhanced infrastructure and so on—but most importantly, I’d argue, technology. And those of us in Tanzania with technological expertise, inventiveness, etc. must—beyond spreading awareness—collaborate, share and merge our ideas and insights. Then, and only then, do I believe that we Tanzanians can take full advantage of the new technology at our disposal to create a better country, a better society, better lives for ourselves.
Educational institutions around the world have been using TEDx Talks as teaching and learning tools for several years now. At the end of last spring, at the University of Athens, the Department of French Language and Literature’s Translation Tools course devoted part of their studies to subtitling, which led them to translating nine TEDx Talks from their original French to Greek.
Spearheaded by the course’s instructor, Eleni Tziafa, the project started with the students’ collective translation of a talk by Gilda Gonfier at TEDxPointeàPitre 2016. This initial effort unexpectedly forced the class to confront the common subtitling issue of how to proceed when the gender of a subject or an object differs between the two languages involved: Gilda’s talk includes a story in which a man marries Death, who’s typically female in Latin languages like French; in Greek, however, Death is male. One student eventually realized that in the Greek song form called rebetiko, Death is a woman named Charondissa, and so the class adopted her for their translation.
After subtitling Gilda’s talk, the class broke into groups of four to five students in order to translate eight more TEDx Talks from events such as TEDxCannes, TEDxChampsElyseesSalon and TEDxParis, to list a few. Everyone obtained an Amara account for the work, and eight students were designated as coordinators for their respective teams. One student, Christina Aggelopoulou, who was already familiar with translating for TED prior to the course’s project, helped supervise all eight groups.
The effort was a resounding success—so much so that the class arranged a screening of their translated talks for friends, family and university staff on June 8. Among the attendees were the Department of French Language and Literature’s president, as well as TED Translators Maria Perikleous and Chryssa Rapessi, both of whom reviewed the class’s translated talks post-subtitling. During and after the screening, the crowd’s excited interest was palpable, and it’s safe to say that everyone left the gathering inspired to learn more about, and potentially join, TED Translators.
Even if you don’t know what a clàrsach is, chances are you’ve heard one before. A Gaelic triangular, wire-strung harp, the clàrsach has been played in Scotland and Ireland since around the 10th century (and more recently, in many other parts of the world). It produces a plucked yet shimmering music full of melody, emotion and history.
TED Translator and Language Coordinator, Ellen Maloney, who hails from Edinburgh, Scotland, began playing the clàrsach when she was six (though her interest in harps started three years earlier, after she saw one for the first time on TV). A natural for the instrument, it wasn’t long before Ellen was performing regularly at a variety of venues: wedding receptions, local church halls, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and even a zoo once.
Most of the clàrsach music Ellen plays is Celtic, derived from her Scottish and Irish backgrounds. However, there’s a fair amount of Jewish music in her repertoire, too; in fact, she cites her theater performance of The Diary of Anne Frank as her favorite to date.
Curious to hear Ellen on the clàrsach? Check out the clip below, which is part of the soundtrack to a short film made by an Edinburgh arts project.
We’re delighted to announce the 10 TED Translators who’ve been invited to attend TEDGlobal 2017! The conference, which will delve into the theme of Builders. Truth-tellers. Catalysts., is set to take place in Arusha, Tanzania, from August 27 to 30. Read on to learn more about these remarkable folks.
Hussain Al-Abdali (Saudi Arabia) Teacher Hussain currently teaches English at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education. He attended university in both Saudi Arabia and the UK (where he studied at the University of Nottingham on scholarship), and obtained his B.A. in English. Music, poetry, philosophy and, of course, reading and writing are Hussain’s passions. A dreamer since his youth as a shepherd boy, Hussain is an avid believer in the words of Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Riyad Almubarak (Sudan) Engineer + freelance translator Driven by his deep-seated passion for translation, Riyad has worked as a freelance translator since he graduated university with a degree in leather technology. He sees infinite potential in Sudanese youth to enhance their communities, themselves and even the world, and so he’s been an active participant in an array of youth initiatives in Sudan that aim to realize younger generations’ power to enact enlightened change. In addition, Riyad was an organizer and speaker at TEDxOmdurman, and he’s a cofounder of kushsudan.sd, a new organization whose goal is to increase and enrich positive Sudanese online content.
Lalla Khadija (Morocco) Business developer + marketer A lifelong Moroccan, Lalla lives in Casablanca at present. She works in business development and marketing, and has been a prolific TED Translator for several years. Recently, she joined the TEDx organizers community as the licensee for TEDxCasablanca. Lalla is a frequent traveler, a voracious reader (in Arabic, English and French) and a new yoga convert.
Ingrid Lezar (South Africa + Germany) Communications professional Ingrid is a longtime TED Translator and Language Coordinator whose professional work focuses primarily on effective writing and presenting, visual communication and multilingualism. In recent years, she’s added German-to-English translation to her CV. Ingrid hails from South Africa, but she’s lived in Japan and Estonia, and she currently resides in Berlin. Though a cosmopolitan, she keeps her native Afrikaans polished mainly through TED Talk translations.
Joachim Mangilima (Tanzania) Data scientist + entrepreneur Since graduating from the University of Dar es Salaam with degrees in computer science and statistics, Joachim has channeled his expertise into using technology and its attendant data to address a range of common problems faced by underserved Tanzanian communities. Translating TED Talks into Swahili, Tanzania’s native language, is just one of many ways Joachim works to empower people in his home country.
Ahmed Omer (Ethiopia) Communications professional Ahmed’s work focuses on popularizing ideas, particularly in so-called Third World countries, that empower people in those regions to sustainably improve their living standards—whether that’s through adopting new agricultural methods or fighting poverty and injustice, to name but a few ways. For Ahmed, ideas equal information, and information is one of humanity’s most vital assets.
Nada Qanbar (Yemen + Qatar) Government translator Born and raised in Yemen, where she taught linguistics and phonetics at Taiz University for seven years, Nada holds several graduate and postgraduate degrees, including an M.A. in audiovisual translation. Obtaining this master’s degree enabled her to hone her subtitling, dubbing and voiceover skills, including for blind, hard-of-hearing and deaf audiences—skills which then helped Nada earn her current position as an expert translator for the Qatari government. In addition to these bona fides, she maintains a deep interest in gender dynamics, particularly as they pertain to women in the Arab world. An ardent believer in the power of dialogue to build solidarity among people the world over, Nada is committed to doing her part to build a viable, sustainable global community.
Nelson Simfukwe (Tanzania) Technology entrepreneur Based in Morogoro, Tanzania, Nelson holds a university degree in electrical and electronics engineering. He’s a cofounder of Zeal Luminance, a Kickstarter-launched business that crafts indoor lampshades with African fabrics (such as ankara, dashiki and kitenge) and recycled materials (plastic, for example), and also produces ebony wood sculptures.
Ghalia Turki (Syria) Entrepreneur + community leader Ghalia is the founder of Magma, a Syrian social organization that develops projects to enable Syrians in their college educations and careers. She’s also president of World Merit Syria, an outfit whose mission is to increase awareness of sustainability and foster achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (or SDG4, which strives to ensure inclusive and quality education for all people and promote lifelong learning) in Syria. A freelance translator and blogger as well, Ghalia hopes to eventually channel her work into the reconstruction of her war-ravaged country.
Fatima Zahra (Morocco) Citizen journalist Fatima currently studies at the YaLa Academy’s Aileen Getty School of Citizen Journalism, a non-traditional educational enterprise that trains youth from across the Middle East and Africa in various modes of citizen reportage, always with an eye toward dialogue, storytelling and peace-building. Intensely interested in web development, too, Fatima volunteers as a content writer and manager at an Indian news startup.
On May 15, TEDxZagreb was held in the Croatian capital’s Lisinski Concert Hall. Nearly a thousand attendees convened at one of the region’s largest annual TEDx events to explore how they can BUILD.FUTURE.NOW. 20 speakers presented on the theme, offering an array of insights and lessons—from fighting prejudice with humor to making large scientific advances through the study of bacteria.
Around a dozen Croatian TED Translators attended TEDxZagreb, including Ivan Stamenković, who joined the speaker lineup with his talk “I’m a translator, what’s your superpower?” Through the story of his personal experience with TED Translators, Ivan detailed the project as well as the transformative power of volunteering. Check out his full talk here.
Ivan and TED Translators clearly made an impact on TEDxZagreb’s audience and organizers, as Karlo Matic, the event’s license holder, is now reportedly discussing a possible large transcribeathon for all Croatian TEDx talks.