Meet Israeli TEDx organizer Liran Michaeli & Hebrew TED Translator Tal Hemo

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For our first interview of the new year, we spoke with Hebrew-language TED Translators Liran Michaeli and Tal Hemo, both of whom hail from Israel and have been spearheading the growth of the burgeoning Hebrew translation community there. Read on to learn more about these dynamic translators and their current and upcoming projects.


Let’s start with the gathering that recently took place in Israel, which you both attended. How did the idea for it originally come about? What were the event’s goals?

Liran: Tal and I first met at TEDSummit 2019, and our introduction was one of the initial sparks for the event in Israel. Amid the amazing opportunity to meet many TED Translators from various other countries at the summit, I learned that Tal is a fellow Hebrew translator who, at the time, was translating TED Talks simply because of her passion for translation and sharing novel ideas; she wasn’t aware of the numerous TED gatherings frequently happening in Israel. As a TEDx organizer, I immediately realized that Tal would be a tremendous asset for both the Hebrew translation community and local TEDx events.

Our meeting also made me wonder how many other TED Translators like her there are in Israel—translators who contribute to and deeply value TED’s mission, but who aren’t aware that they can get involved with TED in tons of ways beyond translating. Thus our recent event, the goal of which was to reach out to active and potential members of Israel’s TED community and present them with various ways to further TED’s mission: translation, organizing TEDx events, introducing TED-Ed to schools.

Tal: As Liran said, he and I met at TEDSummit 2019, and that’s when I discovered how many other opportunities there are to contribute to TED in addition to translating. I also learned how huge and yet close-knit the global TED community is, so I made it my goal to essentially put faces to the names I interact with online every day; that’s a main reason why I participated in the gathering Liran recently helped organize.

What a wonderful connection to make! How many people were in attendance at the gathering? Has either of you planned any future meetups with new contacts yet?

Liran: More than 20 people attended. However, we expect the number of participants to grow as we put on more TEDx events and work to cultivate a larger community. I’ve personally made a lot of TED contacts thanks to gatherings like the one that just happened. Also, our language community now has a Facebook group that people are continually joining; there are almost 50 members so far. I’m confident that, with time, our community will not only grow, but we’ll better develop, clarify and accomplish our goals, too.

Tal: Several TEDx organizers approached me at the event in Israel, and we had a very fruitful discussion about TED Translators—how the program can bolster their gatherings and vice versa.

How can those TED Translators who’d like to join the Facebook group do so?

Liran: Just search for “TED in Israel Community” on Facebook and you’ll find us right away. Anybody can join, and I’ll approve your request to do so myself!

Can you tell us a bit about the Hebrew translation community? Is it largely centered in Israel? Are there active hubs, if you will, in other regions of the world?

Liran: Hebrew is mostly spoken in Israel and not very much outside of the country, so our translation community is, you could say, centered here. As of now, there are roughly two dozen active TED Translators in Israel; but as I said earlier, I expect that number to increase as we stage more events and continue to put TED and TED Translators on more peoples’ radars.

Tal: Israel has the largest population of Hebrew speakers in the world, so the Hebrew translation community is indeed centered here. The language was revived in the 19th century, and today there are only 5 million native speakers—which makes our task of preserving Hebrew all the more vital.

What upcoming events does the Hebrew translation community have planned?

Liran: I’m happy to report that I’m currently organizing multiple TED-related gatherings in Israel. These events are meant to be as inclusive as possible, so if anybody reading this interview would like to participate in one or all, please feel free to do so! There’s amazing potential for innovation at these gatherings.

And finally: Do you have any advice for new TED Translators?

Liran: Connect with TEDx organizers in your area. Since most usually aren’t aware of your translation work, I strongly recommend reaching out to them and offering to translate talks from their events. This can go a long way toward forging an ongoing working relationship between TED Translators and TEDx organizers, a collaboration that will undoubtedly yield benefits for everybody involved.

Tal: Reach out to other TED Translators. It’s easy to get stuck behind the computer and forget that translating TED Talks is a team effort. Try to find a fellow translator or translators with whom you can tackle translation difficulties together.


Introducing the TED Translators Mentor program!

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We’re extremely excited to announce that we here at TED Translators recently launched the TED Translators Mentor program, a dynamic initiative that pairs new volunteers with experienced Language Coordinators and reviewers in order to optimize new translators’ work. The program is hosted on a platform where mentees can connect with mentors to collaborate and refine their skills. Along the way, participants receive useful reminders and resources to help make their connections successful. 

As of now, we’re piloting the program in two of our largest and most active language communities: Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. The mentors provide mentees with personalized feedback, answer their translation-related questions and help accelerate the publication of mentees’ subtitles. Over 200 TED Translators are currently participating in the pilot program. Early next year will find us expanding the enterprise to TED Translators’ Arabic, French and Korean language communities, followed by more communities throughout the year.

Introducing TED Translators’ new onboarding process!

Recently, we’ve been exploring how we can improve the onboarding process for new volunteers joining us here at TED Translators. Today, we’re excited to announce a new TED Translators application process. The new application includes an animated video, which explains the most fundamental TED Translators guidelines and subtitling best practices (check it out below!).

After the video, new applicants will get challenged with a short quiz to test their knowledge. While it’s not intended to be exhaustive, the quiz checks that new volunteers understand the most essential information about the program from the start, before they begin subtitling.

The new application is just one feature of our revamped onboarding process that’s designed to deliver enhanced training to new volunteers, so stay tuned for further updates!

Apply for your TED2020 Translator Pass now!

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Hello, Translators! We’ve been away for a bit, but we’re back and extremely excited to announce that the application period for TED Translators Passes to TED2020 is now open. The flagship conference will run from April 20-24, 2020, in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. The TED Translators Pass covers the conference fee, and travel and accommodation expenses. Please note that in order to be eligible for a pass, you must be a TED Translator with at least one set of published subtitles. The application deadline is Dec. 9, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. EST, and you can apply here.

The theme of TED2020 is “Uncharted”. Under this banner, we’ll journey into unmapped territory as we explore our uncertain future: We’ll survey the potential windfalls and dangers of cutting-edge technologies; recent significant scientific developments; our perpetually in-flux political dynamics and contingencies; and the oceanic possibilities that arise when we individually and collectively ask ourselves which ideas are truly worth fighting and living for. We look forward to you joining us!

TED Translators in Madrid

IMG_2603Following the successful TED Translators gathering in Lisbon in late September, TED Translators’ director, Jenny Zurawell, and deputy director, Helena Batt, headed to Spain to attend TEDxMadrid (which turned 10 this year!) and meet with the TED Translators participating in the annual conference. This year’s TEDxMadrid was held at the city’s famed Teatro Circo Price and themed “Retrofuturo”. It was an enriching and stimulating all-day exploration of how we—both individually and collectively—might navigate our unknown future using only the best of our accumulated knowledge and tools.

In between taking in the day’s talks, the TED Translators at the conference had the opportunity to meet each other (most of them were meeting in person for the first time) and exchange their stories and experiences within and outside of the TED Translators community. The translators also got to watch Javi Garriz, TEDxMadrid organizer and TED Translator-LC, give the TED Translators program a shout-out from stage. In addition, he detailed the initiative’s continual growth, and then played TED Translators’ promo video and encouraged audience members to volunteer.

Several hours after the conference wrapped up, the TED Translators regrouped for dinner and a discussion at Madrid’s popular Nubel restaurant. They were joined by a handful of guests, including Javi and a few of his TEDxMadrid colleagues, Madrid-based TED Translator Nerea García, and Brazilian artist and TED Speaker Angélica Dass (a big champion of TED Translators who gave her very first talk at TEDxMadrid in 2013). The conversation went on well into the evening and covered a range of topics: new-translator recruitment (particularly at universities) and mentoring, future TED Translators-TEDx collaborations, and various ways to improve translation skills, to name just some.

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TEDxMadrid organizer and TED Translator Javi Garriz intros the TED Translators program from stage. Photo by Jordan Bastoni.

 

TED Translators in Portugal

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For the past week TED Translators’ director, Jenny Zurawell, and deputy director, Helena Batt, have been traveling to several countries in Western Europe and meeting with local TED Translators to further build and bolster our superb international community of volunteers. The first stop on Jenny and Helena’s tour was Lisbon, Portugal.

The gathering in the country’s capital took place on the panoramic terrace at the city’s renowned Lost In. For most of the attendees, this was their first time meeting their colleagues in person. The group quickly jumped into a wide-ranging discussion that covered topics from recruiting new TED Translators to how to improve translation skills to collaborating with the TEDx initiative.

In addition to their extensive, productive dialogue, the attending TED Translators met and spoke with Margarida Ferreira, one of the Portuguese language community’s most prolific Language Coordinators and translators. The keen insights she shared were complemented by an invitation from Norbert Amaral, who organizes the annual TEDxPorto conference, to the translators to attend the event in 2020. To wrap up the Lisbon gathering, Portuguese TED Translator Rhubia Albuquerque de Moura recounted her recent presentation of the TED Translators program to her fellow university students.

Jenny and Helena headed to Madrid next, so check back in with us shortly for a recap of that meetup!


 

TEDSummit 2019 interview series: TED Translator Ahmed Yousify

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Last week, we brought you an interview with TED Translator Allam Zedan, who was denied a visa to travel to the U.K. to attend TEDSummit 2019. This week, we speak with another TED Translator who faced the same refusal: Kurdish translator Ahmed Yousify. We talked with Ahmed about his personal experience as a TED Translator, how visa denials like his impact language communities, his advice for new TED Translators and lots more. Check out our conversation below.


Let’s start with the TEDxNishtiman 2019 conference that was recently held in Erbil, Kurdistan. You officially represented TED Translators at the gathering and helped spread awareness of our mission and excellent global volunteer community. Can you tell us about how you came to be TED Translators’ ambassador to TEDxNishtiman 2019, and also about the conference itself?

About a week before TEDxNishtiman 2019, the organizer of the event—whom I know from the same conference in 2017—reached out to me on Facebook and asked if I, as a Kurdish LC and TED Translator, would represent and promote TED Translators at the gathering. I accepted the offer. At the conference, we played TED Translators’ short introductory video about the initiative, and I manned a booth where I provided attendees more information about TED Translators and how to volunteer with us. I also collected emails from those folks who visited the booth so that I could later send them further related material (which I did). In addition, I assisted a small team that live translated the 12 talks delivered at TEDxNishtiman into English, Arabic and Kurdish.

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

I’ve been a TED Translator since April 2014, when TED Translators was still known as the Open Translation Project (OTP). In January 2015, I became the project’s first Kurdish LC. I was initially drawn to TED thanks to a TV channel which aired a variety of TED and TEDx Talks; this gave me a unique opportunity to learn about a wide array of subjects in one place. Because my English is good and I wanted to use and improve it in a meaningful way, I joined the OTP. I was inspired very early on by how both TED Talks and events continue to resonate in and positively influence communities around the world, and that fueled me to contribute to the enterprise as much as possible. Now that I’m an LC, I find a lot of satisfaction in mentoring new TED Translators. Keeping up to speed with the continually evolving universe of ideas created by TEDx gatherings inspires me, too.

Of all the talks you’ve translated, which one sticks out as your favorite so far?

Well, there are two talks, actually, and they’re quite related; I translated one and reviewed the other. My translation of Alison Whitmire’s excellent talk at TEDxPugetSound, “The art of living—integrating life’s passions”, led me to watch and review a talk by Simon Sinek from the same conference called “Start with why—how great leaders inspire action”. Simon’s talk, which focuses on cultivating what you believe in and motivating both yourself and others to see your vision, quickly became my favorite and has impacted me personally on many levels.

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Ahmed (left) recruiting translators at TEDxNishtiman

You were invited to attend TEDSummit 2019, but were unable to travel to the conference because the U.K. denied you a visa. Can you share your thoughts on this experience with us? How do you think such denials have affected the Kurdish translation community?

I was thrilled to be invited to represent the Kurdish language community at TEDSummit 2019, and I really looked forward to exchanging ideas, perspectives and experiences with the global TED Translators community in attendance there. Alas, although the theme of this year’s Summit was “A community beyond borders”, borders were a primary reason why an astonishing number of talented and passionate TED Translators were unable to participate in the conference. If government leaders, policy makers, etc.—those who often create and control borders—can freely attend (and sometimes speak at) international TED events, why can’t TED Translators invited by TED do the same?

Had I made it to TEDSummit 2019, I would have been able to detail and discuss the Kurdish translation community with my fellow translators; I could have gained new insights from them, learned the best practices of their respective language communities, and then brought that knowledge back to mine. So, I think you’ll agree with me that my visa denial robbed the Kurdish translation community in a sense—as I’m sure other denials did to other language communities.

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

Outside of translating, I spend my time watching movies and football matches, playing video games, following technology-related news, and going out with friends. 

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

First: Welcome to the TED Translators family! As a member of this amazing initiative, you are helping to spread groundbreaking ideas not only in your respective language communities, but also around the world. You have the power to share talks on vital subjects and issues on both a local and international level—that’s a wonderful privilege. Lastly, remember to enjoy and take pride in your translations.