TEDSummit 2019 interview series: TED Translator Kazunori Akashi

TEDSummit 2019 is just a month away, so what better time than now to get to know several of the TED Translators who will attend the annual gathering? We kick off the series with Kazunori Akashi, who hails from Asahikawa, Japan. He was generous enough to answer our questions and provide us with an insightful look at his experience as a TED Translator in the Japanese translation community. Read on below!

How long have you been a TED Translator? What initially drew you to TED Translators, and what about the enterprise inspires you nowadays?

I joined the TED Translators community in 2012, when it was still called the Open Translation Project. I teach English in a public school, and at that time I was looking for a way to put my English skills to good use outside of the classroom; when I discovered TED Translators, I knew I’d found an excellent venue for doing so. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of sharing so many amazing ideas with Japanese audiences who don’t speak or aren’t fluent in English. This, along with being part of a thriving global community of fellow translators, is what continually inspires me in my work as a TED Translator.

What was the first TED Talk you translated? Why this particular talk?

Taryn Simon’s “The stories behind the bloodlines” was the first TED Talk I ever translated. I’m extremely interested in modern art and photography, so Taryn’s talk instantly resonated with me. I believe that much of the beauty of modern art stems from its power to reveal things we can’t or don’t see in our everyday lives, and to me, Taryn’s talk is a prime example of such beauty.

Of all the talks you’ve translated, which has been your favorite so far? Why?

A talk titled “You have no idea where camels really come from”, by Latif Nasser. When I was a kid, the world always evoked a strong sense of wonder in me. I loved to read books about ghosts, physics, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs. As I got older, however, this curiosity seemed to steadily evaporate and I grew into a skeptic. But Latif’s talk reminded me how much about our world we still don’t know yet, and that the world is essentially filled with infinite wonders; it was the reminder I needed to reinvigorate my long-dormant curiosity.

Let’s get a bit more granular. The Japanese Language Coordinator community is a very organized and diplomatic system of collaboration. Can you tell us a little about that and how it works?

We LCs usually keep in contact with each other through our Facebook group. When one of us has an idea, we post it, discuss its pros and cons, refine the idea and then execute it. We also make it a point to organize LC meetups whenever our language community hosts workshops and TEDx events; face-to-face communication is integral to our productivity and success. What’s more, every Japanese LC is highly talented and motivated, so it’s always an inspiring community to be a part of for everybody involved.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not busy translating?

I’m constantly reading books. My wife seems to have something to say about this obsession, but I can’t help it.

Lastly, any advice you’d like to give to new TED Translators?

Yes. It’s what I call my mantra:

Be patient and think it over.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Welcome constructive criticism.

4 thoughts on “TEDSummit 2019 interview series: TED Translator Kazunori Akashi

  1. I really appreciate to have known your motives to be part of TED translation projects as a translator from Japan and Wishing you to keep more and more momentum in worth spreading ideas .

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