An interview with TED Translators mentor-mentee duo Penny Martínez and Almu Torrecilla

If you’ve been following our recent updates, you probably know that TED Translators launched its Mentoring program late last year. The Spanish-language community was one of the first to try out the new initiative, so we recently spoke with Spanish mentor-mentee pair Penny Martínez and Almu Torrecilla to learn more about their experiences. Check out our conversation below.


How did you meet each other and eventually start working together as mentor and mentee?

Penny: Almu initially contacted me through the Mentoring program platform. We discovered that we share several of the same interests, so we started messaging in order to get to know each other better. We quickly agreed that the two of us would make a productive mentor-mentee duo, and thus began our collaboration.

Almu: Shortly after I joined TED Translators last November and completed several translations, I chanced upon the Mentoring program and immediately thought it would be an excellent means for me both to connect with fellow TED Translators and to accelerate my learning curve. Penny’s profile suggested that she and I would work well together as mentor and mentee, so I reached out to her, proposed the idea and she agreed—and here we are today.

What compelled you to join the TED Translators Mentoring program?

Penny: I’d been a TED Translator for around five years when I decided to join the Mentoring program. It’s an initiative I knew right away would provide a terrific venue for me to share my translation experience with new TED Translators.

Almu: For me, the Mentoring program offers the rare opportunity to enhance my translation skills with a veteran TED Translator. I had volunteered as a translator elsewhere before I joined TED Translators, but I’d yet to transcribe or subtitle; as a new TED Translator I needed to learn the ropes, so to speak. The Mentoring program has presented me with an avenue to do just that—and much more—with my translation work.

What were your expectations going into the program?

Penny: As I mentioned above, I expected to share my translation knowledge with new TED Translators and to connect with and learn from other translators around the world.

Almu: My expectations were to both improve my translation skills and to build relationships with other TED Translators.

Has your mentor-mentee relationship borne out those expectations?

Penny: Yes—all of them and more! Not only is the mentor-mentee collaboration between Almu and me solid and seamless, but we’ve also become good friends in the process of working together.

Almu: Definitely! Having Penny as my mentor has very much motivated me as a TED Translator. An added benefit: Our mentor-mentee relationship has given me the knowledge and confidence to review other TED volunteers’ transcriptions.

What do you think the Mentoring program could improve so as to maximize the fulfillment of its goals?

Penny: Perhaps some sort of notification that enables mentors to keep track of mentees who, for whatever reasons, stop communicating. As a mentor, it can be frustrating to repeatedly reach out to a mentee to no avail.

Also, it’s not always easy to select a mentor or mentee. How about including an icon in everybody’s profile that indicates their respective experience: the number of talks they’ve translated, the mentors or mentees they’ve collaborated with, etc.? I think an indicator like this would increase participants’ commitment to the program and streamline the mentor-mentee selection process. 

What are you looking forward to accomplishing as a TED Translator in the future?

Penny: So many things! I’d like to eventually become a Language Coordinator (LC) and TEDx organizer. I would love to attend a TED conference as well, and meet the amazing TED folks I’ve worked with online for so many years.

Almu: The more I engage with the TED universe, the more in awe I am at the array of opportunities and experiences it has to offer. There’s a seemingly endless amount of resources and possibilities to expand one’s knowledge and skills. That said, my next goal is to publish 100 translated talks—and then 500—perhaps on my way to becoming an LC. In any case, I intend to think big, start small and enjoy every step I take as a TED Translator.


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