Mentoring program expands to Portuguese and Turkish

We’re back with exciting news on the TED Translators Mentoring program! This month, we’re introducing the initiative to two more of our most active language communities: Portuguese and Turkish. The mentors and mentees in these communities will join the nine other language communities already participating. We can’t wait to see the collaborations that our Portuguese and Turkish communities will undoubtedly bring to the Mentoring program!

And, as we’ve announced before, we plan to continue rolling out the initiative to new language communities each month. And we’ll continue to adapt the TED Translators Mentoring program based on each community’s feedback. Stay tuned here for updates!

Introducing Mentoring program certificates and badges

We’re happy to announce that we’re now sending certificates to mentees who complete their three-month mentorship connections! We’re also giving special badges to mentors who connect with one mentee or more.

Each mentee certificate displays a mentee’s name, subtitling specialization and a brief description of the mentorship program. (If you’re a qualified mentee who hasn’t yet received a certificate, don’t worry—it’s on its way.) Mentor badges display a mentors’ role and mentoring language.

If you’re the recipient of a certificate or badge, we encourage you to share it on social media and to tag @TEDTranslators. Interested in joining as a mentor or mentee? Get started here!

TED Translators at TEDxBangkok2020


Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infect people worldwide, many TED Translators language communities have been carefully organizing online and in-person workshops, translate-athons and other collaborative events throughout the year that have enabled the TED Translators project to flourish despite the virus.

One of the most recent in-person gatherings was TEDxBangkok 2020, which took place on August 17 in Thailand’s capital. (Social distancing measures were meticulously adhered to throughout the event.)

Thai TED Translators Sakunphat “Keng” Jirawuthitanant and Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut were invited by several organizers (who are also TED Translators) to deliver a two-hour presentation on the TED Translators program and why it’s crucial to TED’s mission. The duo also detailed their own experiences with TED Translators, as well as the application process (which will soon be posted on TEDxBangkok’s Facebook group page).

During their presentation, Keng and Kelwalin emphasized that the goal of the TED Translators’ project as they see it is “to bring knowledge from TED Talks to Thai society, and vice versa.” And they discussed how translating both enhances foreign-language proficiency and opens doors to an array of career opportunities.

All in all, TED Translators made a positive impact at TEDxBangkok 2020, so look out for more Thai translations of TED Talks in the near future.


Mentoring program launches in Simplified and Traditional Chinese

TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 21-25, 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo: Diane Lofton / TED.)

In mid-July, when we introduced our application process for the TED Translators Mentoring program, we also announced that we’d be adding more languages to the initiative on an ongoing basis. The newest language communities to join the program? Traditional and Simplified Chinese. These latest additions expand the program to nine language communities overall.

What’s more, mentoring pairs can now customize their collaborations to set specific goals according to individual subtitling skills and content interests. We’re also putting out an open call for new mentees in our nine supported languages — if you’d like to apply, please read our Mentee qualifications before submitting your application here.

TED Translators Mentors and Mentees, as always, receive exclusive perks for their contributions to the program:

  • Invitations to virtual TED events
  • Subscriptions to useful digital tools
  • A certificate of completion for Mentees
  • Badges that Mentors can add to their social media profiles, CVs, etc.

We’re thrilled about these recent developments, and we hope you are too. We look forward to you joining us!


TED Translators at TED2020: a recap

TED2020 Language Exchange hosted by TED Translators

This year, TED’s annual flagship conference took place online for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TED2020, appropriately themed “Uncharted”, was converted into an eight-week virtual event that spanned June and July.

A selected contingent of 12 TED Translators participated in the gathering, which featured a talk by Bill Gates on how COVID-19 will shape our future, as well as a talk by Malala Yousafzai that addressed why advocating for girls’ education will be essential to rebuilding our societies in the wake of the pandemic. TED Translators also attended a timely panel discussion about how we can potentially end systemic racism in the U.S. What’s more, they enjoyed TED2020’s main stage sessions each Thursday and engaged in a wide array of Discovery Sessions with TED Speakers and other TED-sters. Head here to read weekly highlights from the conference.

In addition to all of the above action, a group of six TED Translators hosted a social-hour gathering for TED2020 attendees and speakers called “Language Exchange”. This meetup enabled those who participated in it to explore various alphabets, dialects and indigenous languages from around the world; at the same time, the session provided a concentrated look into what it’s like to be a TED Translator and the incredible work these translators do on a daily basis.

TED2020 wrapped up on July 10, but there was an extra deep-dive treat for the TED Translators who attended the conference. On July 15, they met online with three-time TED Speaker Sally Kohn, author of the book “The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity”, which was the basis of her TEDWomen 2017 talk “What we can do about the culture of hate”. All of the translators had read Sally’s book prior to this first-ever virtual TED Translators book club gathering, so everybody was primed for an in-depth conversation with her during which they asked the author questions, shared their reflections on her thesis and discussed personal experiences with hate. Moved by the stories she heard, Sally explained that one of the best antidotes to hate is information—which, of course, TED Translators are dedicated to spreading as freely and widely as possible every day.

TED2020 Translators discuss combatting hate with TED Speaker Sally Kohn

Spanish-speaking Translators and TEDx-ers connect at GranTOTE 2020 workshop

Over four days in late May, one of the Spanish language community’s largest workshops for TEDx organizers and TED Translators, GranTOTE 2020 (or Gran Taller de Organizadores TEDx y Traductores en Español 2020), took place virtually. The theme of this year’s event was “Earth”, and the online gathering’s attendees included organizers and translators from Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Spain, the UK and the US.

Two of the participants were GranTOTE 2020’s TED Translators workshop host, Sebastian Betti, and its cohost, Gisela Giardino. The session was called “TED Translators: Translations to go further”, which, as Sebastian told us, focused on exploring the following questions and propositions:

“While organizing an event, we frequently ask ourselves if what we are doing contributes to the spreading of ideas. But in [the] context of lockdown, in which we lose physical contact with the audience, can we reinvent ourselves so as not to lose relevance? Can translations help us in that endeavor? Let’s think together about ways to use…translation to bring…ideas to more people.”

The workshop’s participants were encouraged to think up novel, even eccentric, approaches to expanding the reach of TED Translators’ work. The discussion homed in on increasing the engagement of both new and frequent viewers of TED and TEDx talks. In the end, Sebastian and Gisela’s session yielded over 100 ways to potentially accomplish these goals; here are 20 that Sebastian translated into English.

“We consider these ideas ‘throwable concepts’,” Sebastian said, “which is a category we adopted from previous workshops, like TOTE2020 in Notion and TOTE2020 in Padlet.” Among the out-of-the-box ideas explored in the workshop was a sing-along to Nina Vais’ performance, providing a much-needed mental break and altering the experience from passive to active.

“At the end of the workshop,” Sebastian added, “Gisela and I showed the TED Translators promo video and invited the attendees to join the TED Translators program.”

For our part, we look forward to welcoming these new volunteers to the TED Translators global family!


Introducing applications for the TED Translators Mentoring program

We’re happy to report that we’ve implemented an application process for the TED Translators Mentoring program! We’ve developed a mentor application and a separate mentee application.

Each application includes a quiz designed to vet prospective mentors’ and mentees’ knowledge of TED Translators’ guidelines and subtitling best practices, while reinforcing specific quality standards across the Mentoring program.

We encourage TED Translators from the Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish language communities to apply. However, we add languages to the program monthly, so do check back in with us if yours isn’t currently on the roster.

To ensure successful mentor-mentee connections, we ask that both commit at least one hour per week during the three-month program to collaborating on subtitling talks. For their participation, TED Translators mentors and mentees receive exclusive perks: invitations to virtual TED events, premium subscriptions to digital tools, soon-to-launch Mentor badges and Mentee certificates of completion, and much more.

We look forward to you joining us in this fast-developing project!


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.


TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 4


On a Saturday near the end of May, members of TED Translators’ international Catalan-language community participated in a virtual translate- and revise-athon. The event was organized by Catalan Language Coordinator (LC) Anna Comas-Quinn. Aside from tackling Catalan-language TED Talk translations and reviews, the online gathering offered a chance for already-active translators to get to know each other better and for the community to welcome new volunteers.

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. CEST and ran for just over two hours. Eight TED Translators—from Barcelona and surrounding areas, as well as the Balearic Islands, Scotland, England, Germany and Norway—linked up on Zoom, introduced themselves to one another, then got to work on translating and reviewing. While the new translators focused on translating talks, the more experienced volunteers busied themselves with reviewing.

Anna, for her part, spent the bulk of the gathering reviewing and approving translated talks. Four talks were reviewed, three were approved and published, and several other translations were completed soon after the event and posted for review on the Catalan-language community’s TED Translators Facebook page.

At the close of the session, all the participants reconnected on Zoom to discuss their respective translations and reviews, share the challenges they’d encountered and to exchange useful translation resources. “Everybody who took part,” Anna told us, “was so motivated by the gathering that we decided it should be a fixture of TED Translators’ Catalan-language community. Our next meetup is scheduled for June 27!”


P.S. If you’d like to host a TED Translators virtual workshop, discussion session, translate-athon, transcribe-athon, or if you’re part of a TEDx team looking to recruit TED Translators for your online event, feel free to reach out to us at translate@ted.com. We’re here to support you!

Meet the TED Translators participating in TED2020

TED2020: Uncharted. (Photo: Gilberto Tadday/TED.)

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered much of the architecture of our lives over the past several months, and TED2020 is no exception. The annual flagship conference, originally set to take place in Vancouver, BC, in April, is now underway as an 8-week virtual gathering. The 10 TED Translators profiled below are currently participating in TED2020 and, as you’ll see, they’re quite a dynamic and prolific collective. Read on to learn more about them.


Hamzeh Koumakli (Syria)
Medical student, freelance translator

Hamzeh resides in Homs, Syria. At present, he’s an undergraduate medical student and a freelance translator for Infermedica. He discovered TED Talks in 2015, and he credits them for helping him endure some extremely rough times during the ongoing, 9-year-old war in Syria. In 2016, Hamzeh joined TED Translators and helped organize one of the first TEDx events in his country, TEDxMimasStreet, for which he’s now the lead organizer. Recently, Hamzeh became a TED Translators Mentor for the Arabic-language community.

Daniela Pardo (Mexico)
Audiovisual translator

Daniela, who’s based in Mexico, recently received her university degree in audiovisual translation. She’s also studied translation abroad, in Spain and Germany, and she plans to pursue a master’s degree in her field. Daniela originally joined TED Translators in order to hone her translation skills for her profession, but, as she says, “I’ve gained much more than that. It’s fantastic how TED Translators unites people around the world who all strive for the same goal: to share novel ideas as far and wide as possible.”

Yingjie Zhang (China)
Medical engineering student

Yingjie currently studies medical engineering at China’s Tianjin University. As a TED Translator, her biggest satisfaction is spreading diverse ideas over language barriers. When she’s not translating TED Talks, Yingjie also translates rock-music lyrics and enjoys listening to rock music and watching movies.

Shimaa Nabil (Egypt)
Veterinarian

Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, Shimaa holds both a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine and a microbiology diploma from Cairo University. She joined TED Translators primarily to increase and enrich online Arabic content, and to “break boundaries between different cultures.”

Nicoletta Pedrana (Italy)
Client-service professional

Nicoletta hails from Milan, Italy, and holds a bachelor’s degree in tourism and foreign languages (English, French and German). She credits her time studying in Germany, where she lived in a multicultural community, for opening her eyes to how huge and fascinating our world is. As a TED Translator, Nicoletta’s aim is to “spread as many seeds of positivity as possible,” particularly new advances in science and technology. When she’s not busy translating or working at a manufacturing company, you can find her hiking or skiing in the Italian Alps.

Yekaterina Jussupova (Kazakhstan)
Directing manager in the restaurant industry

Originally from Almaty, Kazakhstan, Yekaterina currently resides in Karaganda, where she’s worked as a software engineer, a journalist and an editor. She’s now both a directing manager of a restaurant and a self-taught graphic designer. Yekaterina joined TED Translators’ Russian-language community in 2013, initially just seeking to improve her English skills. “However,” she says, “translating quickly became an integral part of my life, and I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to translate TED Talks and TED-Ed lessons and share their powerful ideas with new viewers.”

Yunjung Nam (South Korea and the U.S.)
Teacher, doctoral student

Yunjung was born in Busan, South Korea, and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she’s studying applied linguistics and teaching English and Korean at Georgia State University. Her TED Translators journey began when she first joined TEDxBusan’s organizing team and then TED Translators shortly thereafter. Yunjung’s main goal as a TED Translator has been to use her deep knowledge of language and linguistics to make TED content more accessible to viewers around the world.

Claudia Sander (Brazil)
Systems analyst

Claudia resides in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with her husband and daughter, where she works as a systems analyst at a public IT firm. She chanced upon TED Translators on Facebook in 2015, a discovery that she says “opened up for me a new world of seemingly infinite possibilities and perspectives.” Joining TED Translators has given Claudia the opportunity to become a Brazilian Portuguese Language Coordinator (LC), a TEDxLaçador co-organizer and to attend both TEDWomen 2016 and TED2020. “I love being part of and contributing to the Brazilian Portuguese TED Translators community,” she says. “And I’m always trying to help improve the onboarding experience for new volunteers.”

Yolanda Zhang (China and the U.S.)
Freelance translator

Born and raised in China, Yolanda currently works as a freelance translator in California. She joined TED Translators in 2014, while pursuing a graduate degree in the U.S. As a TED Translator, Yolanda seeks to increase interdisciplinary and intercultural communication by sharing and promoting some of the world’s most inspiring ideas. When she isn’t translating, Yolanda spends her time reading, listening to music, and wine tasting.

Ade Indarta (Indonesia)
Freelance translator

Ade was born and raised in a small town in Central Java, Indonesia, called Pekalongan. He holds both a bachelor’s degree in English literature and an MBA. Ade joined TED Translators in 2011, but he’s worked as a professional translator since 2002. Now living in Batam, Indonesia, with his family, he heads the Professional Development Committee of The Association of Indonesian Translators (HPI). In his free time, Ade enjoys hanging out with his two daughters, as well as reading and writing poetry.

Nihal Aksakal (Turkey)
Student, freelance translator

A native of Antalya, Turkey, Nihal lives and works as a freelance translator in the Mediterranean city. She holds a degree in translation and interpretation from Kirikkale University, and she’s taught English to students preparing for their ESL exams. In her free time, Nihal participates in various social responsibility projects and she enjoys photography, listening to and playing music, and reading.

Keyur Thakkar (India)
IT student

Keyur is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer application and IT at Gujarat University. He was introduced to TED Translators by one of his university’s faculty members, and has since then translated over three dozen TED Talks into multiple regional Indian languages. For Keyur, TED Translators is a global family of fellow volunteers who are all working toward a common goal: to spread groundbreaking ideas as far and wide as possible.