An interview with TED Translator Abhinav Garule

Abhinav TED Blog Photograph
Photo by Nithya Subramanian

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”.

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