TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 3

For the third edition of our “TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine” series, we took a quick look at what the Indonesian language community has been up to during the global pandemic.

In late March, Indonesian Language Coordinator (LC) Ade Indarta and TED Translator/TEDx organizer Deera Army Pramana hosted an educational webinar that was attended by 35 translators in the Indonesian language community.

The event began with a tutorial on Amara that was led by Deera. Ade followed up Deera’s “Amara 101” session with a presentation that focused on mistakes TED Translators—especially new volunteers—often make in their work.

A Q&A period wrapped up the webinar, during which participants posed any translation-related questions they had to Ade and Deera.

This virtual gathering was further proof that TED Translators communities, whether in Indonesia or elsewhere in the world, continue to thrive despite the drastic burdens COVID-19 has imposed on all of our lives.

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!

TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 2

We recently published the first installment of our multi-part series focusing on several of the inventive ways that TED Translators have managed to continue subtitling and organizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re pleased to share with you part two, for which we spoke with French TED Translator and Language Coordinator (LC) Morgane Quilfen.

Morgane and a group of her colleagues in the French language community conducted a 24-hour online transcribe-athon in early April that yielded a remarkable 19 published transcripts, as well as nearly two dozen more in progress.

“Before the event kicked off,” Morgane told us, “the organizers created a website where new volunteers who had signed up to participate in the transcibe-athon could familiarize themselves with TED Translators’ guidelines and best practices. The site also listed about 120 talks that needed transcribing.”

The event started at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, and wrapped up the following afternoon. At least one of three LCs was online at any given time to assist the 20 volunteers while they worked. “In addition,” Morgane explained, “everybody involved used the transcribe-athon’s Facebook page to exchange helpful links and other important information regarding their transcripts.”

A Zoom video chat ran throughout the entire event in order for the LCs to conduct brief teaching sessions and so participants could ask questions of or just say hello to their colleagues in real time. The livestream, Morgane reported, also facilitated hourly interviews with veteran TED Translators and TEDx organizers based in France and Japan.

Morgane further told us that about 70% of the transcribe-athon’s participants were new transcribers, most of whom had learned about the event via Facebook—either on the French TED Translators group page or the French TEDx organizers’ page.

“Overall,” Morgane said, “everyone who took part in this project was quite happy with its results—especially because it gave new TED Translators the unique opportunity to jump right into working on TED Talks while simultaneously receiving guidance and feedback from LCs. This transcribe-athon undoubtedly helped expand and strengthen the French community.”

P.S. If you’d like to host a TED Translators virtual workshop, discussion session, or 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!

TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 1

Kurdish LC Daban Jaff (center) with Koya University students and TED Translators

Greetings, everybody! It’s been a while since our last post, so we’re excited to share this new story with you. But first and most importantly, we here at TED Translators hope you’ve all been safe and sound during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

As it’s spread around the world, forcing us to isolate and social distance indefinitely in order to slow and stop it, the latest novel coronavirus has altered our lives in countless profound and drastic ways. It hasn’t, however, diminished our individual and collective creative capacities. Case in point: TED Translators in many countries have come up with various inventive means to continue translating and collaborating in their respective language communities.

In this time of worldwide fear and uncertainty, then, we’re happy to highlight the ingenuity of several of these translators in a multi-part series. For this first installment we spoke with Kurdish TED Translator and Language Coordinator (LC) Daban Jaff, an instructor at Koya University in Iraq, who recently organized and has overseen a virtual translate-athon with his students.

“Once the university shut down,” Daban told us, “my students (many of whom are experienced TED Translators) and I began to brainstorm how we could keep busy during quarantine. We eventually devised a project wherein each student would translate at least four TED Talks into Kurdish in 10 days. So far,” Daban reported, “nearly 40 of my students have translated well over 100 talks, and 60 more translations are in the works.” For his part, Daban has been reviewing all of his students’ translations and providing them with both individualized and group feedback.

Koya University students and TED Translators in Iraq

Daban also told us that this virtual translate-athon has been a tremendous psychological boost for him and his students during these days of self-isolation. For student and TED Translator Aga Ismael, “Nothing but volunteering has been able to cheer me up. The opportunities for collaboration and mutual support—for human connection—that it offers are boundless and have been heartening for me. I hope this TED Translators project continues for as long as possible.”

What’s more, in an effort to expand the Kurdish translation community, Daban arranged for a few local newspapers to publish his students’ translations along with links to the translated talks. You can find articles here and here.

Daban and his students’ virtual translate-athon, by any measure, has been a remarkable success and an exemplary blueprint for how TED Translators, wherever they’re based, can keep their language communities motivated and active while waiting out COVID-19’s demise.

In the next two weeks, we’ll bring you more stories of such resilience from other translation communities, so do check back in with us for those.

And stay safe out there!

A new TED Translators reviewer tutorial

Last December, we published an updated TED Translators tutorial as part of our revamped onboarding process for new volunteers. That animated video highlights both fundamental TED Translators guidelines and best practices for subtitling.

Now, we’re pleased to share with you the second installment in this tutorial series: “A Guide to Reviewing with TED Translators”. For this video, we collaborated with Language Coordinators (LCs) in order to home in on and present our top tips for TED Translators reviewers:

  • Be qualified (have at least 5 published translations or transcriptions)
  • Watch the talk first (before you make edits)
  • Give useful, actionable feedback
  • Send it back (when there are repeat errors)
  • Work as a team

Watch the video for a full explanation of each tip.

Reviewers are vital members of the TED Translators family. They ensure that subtitles are accurate and in line with TED’s quality standards, and, in doing so, contribute significantly to the growth of the global TED Translators community.

Interested in becoming a reviewer? Check out the video above for all the info you need to know to join us!

The TED Translators Mentor program expands to the Arabic, French & Korean language communities

Toward the close of 2019, we announced the launch of the TED Translators Mentor program, a dynamic initiative that pairs new volunteers with experienced Language Coordinators (LCs) and reviewers in order to optimize new translators’ work. We were piloting the program at that point only in two of our largest and most active language communities: Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese (a three-month pilot that recently wrapped up); but we promised to expand the enterprise to TED Translators’ Arabic, French and Korean language communities in early 2020.

Well, we’re happy to report that we commenced this expansion of the TED Translators Mentor program in late January, and it’s been nothing short of a resounding success.

With the addition of TED Translators’ Arabic, French and Korean language communities, over 350 new participants have joined the mentoring initiative. As in the Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese iteration of the program, in this latest rollout mentors are providing mentees with personalized feedback, answering their translation-related questions and helping accelerate the publication of mentees’ subtitles. The mentors, furthermore, can access premium subscriptions to online language tools and tune into exclusive livestreams of TED World Theater events.

We plan to introduce the TED Translators Mentor program to even more language communities in the near future, as well as implement a new mentoring quiz, so do check back in here if you’re interested in becoming a mentor or mentee. And if you’d like to participate as a mentee in the Korean, Arabic, French, Spanish or Brazilian Portuguese programs, you can sign up here.

TED Translators in Thailand


This past weekend, after meeting with and connecting TED Translators and TEDx organizers in Vietnam earlier in the week, Jenny Zurawell and Helena Batt traveled to Thailand to gather with Thai translators and TEDx organizers.

The meetup went down on a Saturday night at Bangkok’s Indulge Fusion Food & Cocktail Bar. In attendance were 10 TED Translators (including one LC) and five TEDxChiangMai organizers and volunteers; many of them were students, IT/tech specialists, or professional translators/interpreters.

As in Vietnam, this event was the first of its kind in Thailand. It was no surprise, then, when several TED Translators met and quickly realized, much to their excitement, that they had gone to school together and hadn’t seen one another for 10 years. The TEDx organizers who attended the inaugural gathering traveled a significant distance—from the northern city of Chiang Mai—in order to plan future collaborations with translators and to invite them as attendees to their next event.

Thanks in large part to the dedication of these TED Translators and TEDx organizers, more and more people throughout Thailand are freely accessing groundbreaking ideas via TED.

TED Translators in Vietnam

In mid-February, Jenny Zurawell and Helena Batt, TED Translators’ director and deputy director, respectively, traveled to Vietnam to connect with local TED Translators and TEDx organizers in Ho Chi Minh City. Jenny, Helena, 10 translators (including three LCs), and three TEDx organizers gathered at Hum Vegetarian restaurant and lounge on a Saturday evening.

This inaugural gathering of TED Translators, TEDxPhuMy and TEDxĐaKao organizers in Southeast Asia was the first time most of the translators, LCs and TEDx organizers in attendance had the opportunity to meet one another. While connecting, several attendees discovered that they’re also students at the same university in Vietnam, as well as the fact that each of them joined the TED Translators program in order to both refine their language skills and delve into groundbreaking ideas.

The translators and TEDx-ers went on to plan future collaborations, and TEDxPhuMy organizer Thành Công invited the TED Translators to his event in April. To cap off the gathering, Jenny and Helena broke the news that Vietnamese is now the fourth most-viewed  subtitled language on TED.com.

Big things are in store for the Vietnamese translation community, so stay tuned here for more news.