Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities hold Open Translation Week in Homs

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The Homs Open Translation Week translators.

A few weeks ago, we highlighted the mid-September collaboration between the Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities for the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon in Damascus, Syria. On September 26, the two groups teamed up again at the Syrian Computer Society in Homs, Syria, for an Open Translation Week that ran through September 30. The third of its kind since it was initiated earlier this year, the event was organized by TED Translator Ghalia Turki and the TEDxMimasStreet team, and it was sponsored by the UNFPA.

At the Open Translation Week’s start, the 40 participants were divided into five groups of eight, in which they remained for the duration of the gathering. First on the agenda were several workshops and activities that introduced the attendees to each other and familiarized them with language and translation fundamentals. A two-day translateathon of 35 TEDx talks followed. During the translation portion, designated trainers supervised and helped each group work effectively, and then reviewed the groups’ translations for accuracy. Throughout the Open Translation Week, the groups acquired points for their “performances”; gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded to the top-three scorers on the final day of the event.

The participants, inspired by their Open Translation Week experience, have begun building a larger translation community in Homs. According to Ghalia, they’re planning a special translation-related gathering for the near future, so check back in soon for details on that.

TED Translators at TEDWomen 2017

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TEDWomen 2017 went down in New Orleans last week, and 10 TED Translators were in attendance to represent the global TED Translators community:

Raissa Rosanna Mendes (Brazil)
Yan Yi (Anny) Chung (US)
Masako Kigami (Japan)
Monika Saraf (US)
Stefania Betti (Italy)
Danielle Bilot (US)
Ivan Stamenkovic (Croatia)
Maryam Manzoori (US)
Mariya Udud (US)
Meriç Aydonat (US)

The translators kicked off the conference before the first speaker session with a private brunch to meet and get to know each other a bit better. Representatives from TED’s mobile team joined the TED Translators there to discuss the importance of subtitles with regard to cultivating a larger international audience on TED’s mobile apps.

Over TEDWomen 2017’s three days, the translators participated in interviews with the mobile team in order to provide feedback on the mobile-app experience in different languages. They also held a second TED Translators meet-up to delve into community-development ideas, new ways to increase awareness of the TED Translators program and acknowledge translators’ contributions, as well as to plan future group meetings over Skype.

All in all, TEDWomen 2017 offered TED Translators yet another excellent venue for some of its members to come together, exchange new insights and broaden the program’s global reach.

Building bridges between our minds and our hearts with TED Translator Anny Chung

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Photo courtesy of Anny Chung.

Our closer look at the TED Translators who attended TEDWomen 2017 last week continues with Chinese translator Anny Chung. Her response to our questionsWhat’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?—illuminates an essential bridge to be built if we’re to have any success in tackling our world’s biggest problems.


I believe one of the most important bridges we must build is that between our minds and our hearts. As a scientist, I deal in evidence, facts and logic. To me, many of our world’s most urgent problems persist because of the frequent disconnect between what our minds understand to be true and what our hearts obstinately wish were true.

For example, a wealth of evidence points to global warming and climate change as crises that will exact huge human and economic costs in the coming century; yet we do nothing to counter them because we’re comfortable in our current lives. Gun-control policies around the world have firmly established that gun-safety laws decrease civilian death tolls; yet scores of people still feel maligned and threatened by the prospect of increased firearms regulation. Research reveals again and again that institutional racism exists and that equality does not necessarily amount to justice; yet many American families and schools avoid much-needed conversations because even broaching the subject feels uncomfortable. Globally, women’s health and economic statuses improve when they can access birth control and exercise autonomy over their own bodies; yet groups and individuals continue to willfully deny women these rights.

The fact that one doesn’t personally perceive climate change, experience gun violence or struggle under systemic biases doesn’t mean that these (and other) pressing issues in our world don’t exist. If we could open our hearts to the collective wisdom of minds everywhere, our world would be a saner place. What’s more, it would be a place that celebrates solutions rather than turning a blind eye to its problems.

Building bridges to peace with TED Translator Cihan Ekmekçi

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Photo courtesy of Cihan Ekmekçi.

Late last week, in the first installment of our series intended to better get to know the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017 and what this year’s conference theme, Bridges, means to them, we featured Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes’s response to the following questions:

What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?

The next answer comes to us from Turkish TED Translator Cihan Ekmekçi*, whose response homes in on one of bridge-building’s fundamental elements: unity—between all people, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even as humanity seems to fracture more and more every day, Cihan, as you’ll discover below, is steadfast in his belief that the bridges of diversity, empathy and unity won’t weaken; if anything, they’ll grow stronger.

*(Unfortunately, due to the current visa crisis between the U.S. and Turkey, Cihan and his fellow Turkish TEDWomen invitee, Selda Yener, have been unable to obtain their visas to travel to the conference. Urdu TED Translator Raana Irfan, who lives in Pakistan, has also met with a similar bureaucratic obstruction. We, of course, are extremely disappointed by these developments, not least of all because these three translators would have enriched the already dynamic panel and presence of TED Translators at TEDWomen 2017.)


When I consider TEDWomen 2017’s theme, Bridges, I immediately find myself contemplating a frighteningly pervasive global problem: Human beings’ lack of empathy and respect for each other. Despite ever-increasing globalization that’s seen our world’s myriad cultures and nations set aside their differences in favor of more engagement (or bridges, if you will) between themselves, examples of our enmity and violence toward one another abound. It seems humans have become adept at, perhaps even resigned to, burning the bridges they’ve worked so long and hard to build.

However, I believe we haven’t yet passed the point of no return: The ability to both rebuild the bridges we’ve burned and construct new ones remains well within us. The key is that we must embrace and nurture human diversity rather than fear it. Fear is ultimately destructive, and especially so when it manifests irrationally as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, misogyny… I’ll be the first to admit that we still have a long way to go before humanity transcends such fears; but with each successive generation, it’s quite clear that most folks prefer to live in a world where equality flourishes, where the bridges between us are preserved and fortified, where new bridges are built all the time. If we do as much as we can to keep this momentum going, I think we’ll face far better prospects for a more peaceful and sustainable world in the future.

Building bridges to gender equality with TED Translator Raissa Mendes

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Photo courtesy of Raissa Mendes.

Earlier this month, we profiled the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017, which runs November 1-3 in New Orleans. To get to know these fine folks a bit better and tap into what this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges, means to them, we posed the following questions to the translators:

What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?

In her response below, Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes addresses the epidemic of violence against women in Brazil, as well as the bridges required to stop the brutality and reach equality.


When you consider the social status of women in Brazil, what comes to mind? More often than not, it seems, we assume they’re free to travel, work, study, dress, express themselves as they wish—especially since Brazil is one of the world’s largest democracies. But the facts on the ground here blatantly contradict this assumption. In terms of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world for women, Brazil ranks fifth; in fact, according to the UN, a woman here is killed by violence every two hours. All of which is to say that there’s a literal life-and-death necessity in Brazil to build bridges that will quickly lead to a sea change in Brazilian society’s (particularly its men’s) treatment of women.

Sadly, violence toward women here has been pervasive for decades, despite efforts by government and law enforcement to counter and curb the crisis. What’s worse, the victimization appears to be growing more widespread. A big part of Brazil’s failure to adequately address its gender-violence epidemic stems from insufficient legislation and poor police enforcement of these laws. As Human Rights Watch reported:

Passage of the Maria da Penha law in 2006 was a milestone, establishing an array of measures to guarantee women’s rights, prevent violence, and ensure justice in the event of violence. One of the law’s main accomplishments was the creation of protective orders to provide a buffer by requiring a woman’s alleged abuser to stay away from her, though getting such an order and making sure it’s enforced remains more difficult than it should be.

Despite this progress, more than 4,700 women were killed in Brazil in 2013—the last year for which there is data—half of them by a relative, partner, or former partner. Many more suffered homicide attempts, rape, or beatings.

But the moral imperative to more aggressively combat violence against women in Brazil must also be adopted and enacted by the country’s educational systems and families—the social actors largely responsible for teaching children and young adults acceptable ways to interact with and treat other people. Even a brief look at Brazil’s history of violence toward women reveals that the problem has been passed from generation to generation like a lethal disease, with boys and young men observing, emulating and internalizing their fathers’, brothers’, friends’ behaviors. It’s beyond urgent, therefore, that teachers and parents in Brazil do much more to impart to and instill in younger generations the fundamental truth that women and men are equals, and that women ought to be regarded and treated as such. Now more than ever, we Brazilians must build unassailable bridges between our women and men that lead to lasting equality for both.

An interview with TED Translator Abhinav Garule

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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”.

TED Translators and TEDx team up for Damascus translateathon

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On September 17th and 18th, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon, a collaboration between the Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities, took place in Damascus, Syria, at SEBC. The gathering was organized and led by Arabic TED Translator Ghalia Turki, with the aim of introducing TED and the TED Translators project to new volunteer translators; it was sponsored by the UNFPA.

Ghalia kicked things off with an overview of TED and TED Translators, and then guided the 15 attendees through an Amara tutorial, translation tips and common mistakes to avoid. Afterward, the participants chose several random TEDx Talks and broke into pairs to translate the talks from English to Arabic. The translateathon ran for 12 hours.

Once the groups finished their translations, Ghalia reviewed their work, tallying errors and making helpful notes for the translators. She then selected the two pairs who submitted the best translations, taking into account accuracy and speed. The four winners, so to speak, were each awarded coupons of 10.000 Syrian Pounds (SYP) courtesy of an English library in Damascus, while all the other participants received coupons worth 5000 SYP.

On the whole, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon was yet another productive step forward for the Syrian translation community, as well as for more frequent collaborative efforts between TED Translators and TEDx.