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.


TEDSummit 2019 interview series: TED Translator Allam Zedan

TEDSummit 2019 has come and gone, but we’d still like to share with you the voices of several more TED Translators who were invited to attend the conference. In this third part of our TEDSummit 2019 interview series, we speak with Allam Zedan, who hails from Gaza, Palestine—one of the most besieged and impoverished regions in the world. Unfortunately, the U.K. denied Allam a visa to travel to Edinburgh (a trip which would have been the first time in his life he was able to leave Gaza), so Allam could not participate in the Summit. Read on below to get to know this extraordinary member of the TED Translators community.


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 for more than five years now, and it’s been a beautiful journey every step of the way. Before I joined TED Translators, I was searching for volunteer work that would enable me to use my translation skills to make a substantive impact on our world. I was already watching TED Talks regularly when I happened upon the application page for TED’s Open Translation Project (which eventually evolved into TED Translators). I couldn’t believe that such an opportunity existed, and I immediately joined our global team of volunteers on their mission to spread fresh and innovative ideas around the world.

As for what inspires me about TED Translators—and has since the beginning of my journey—it’s simple: the tireless dedication and passion of my fellow volunteers and the powerful insights they continually share with the world.

What was the first TED Talk you translated? Why this particular talk?

It was Wendy Chung’s “Autism—what we know (and what we don’t know yet)”. Like anywhere else in the world, there are autistic children in Gaza. Before I watched Wendy’s talk I was very curious about the condition, but it seemed taboo to me to ask parents to try to explain autism to me. What’s more—and again, like anywhere else in the world—there’s a stigma here that surrounds the condition and those with it, and there’s a severe lack of adequate treatment, support and education. So I watched Wendy’s talk to see if she could answer some burning questions about autism I’d had on my mind awhile (She did!). And then I decided to translate it so that others who share my curiosity about autism might have some of their questions answered, too.

Of all the talks you’ve translated, which has been your favorite so far? Why?

“You are made for more”, which Liz Flores delivered at TEDxNormal. The title piqued my interest right away, but what Liz says has deeply resonated with me to this day. I love how she describes each of us as possessing our own unique “compass,” as well as her counsel that we should never allow anybody or anything to skew us away from our respective compass’ “north.” All of us are pioneers of our own lives. We can do anything and cultivate ourselves however we like: A successful businessman can also be a compassionate friend; a university student who studies political science can create amazing art, too; you can have a groundbreaking idea or goal that everybody tells you is “crazy,” but that’s usually because other people can’t see your ambitions as clearly as you do. In other words, listen to and consider others’ perspectives, but don’t let them deter or disillusion you if you disagree. Better yet: Don’t be typical; don’t die with your gifts in your hands.

Unfortunately, the U.K. denied you a visa to leave Gaza and travel to Edinburgh, so you were not able to attend TEDSummit 2019. Were the circumstances opposite, participating in the conference would have been the first time in your life you were allowed to leave your home country. Can you tell us a bit about living in occupied Gaza, as well as what it’s like working as a translator there?

Living in Gaza is akin to living as a bird in a cage in which flying is forbidden. You can sing sometimes, but nobody hears you besides the cage-master, who holds the key to your freedom. Although there are tens of thousands of university graduates and highly skilled professionals in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israel’s 13-year-old blockade on all movement of people and goods into and out of the occupied Palestinian territory has stripped so many talented, aspiring Gazans of any opportunity to work, travel and provide for their families. I am but one among so many living in Gaza who must confront and try to survive this reality on a daily basis.

After I earned a bachelor’s degree in Arabic and a graduate diploma for Arabic-English translation, I realized that I had to resist complacency—waiting for a miracle to change my life—and instead proactively find my own way out of the devastating oppression into which I was born. Work-wise, it was difficult to get my foot in the door, but I gradually built up a solid base of clients around the world through freelance projects. There was a lengthy period, however, when the international financial restrictions imposed on Gaza for well over a decade at this point prevented me from accessing the money I earned (payment methods like PayPal, for example, are not available in Palestine). I eventually acquired a prepaid VISA card online that enabled me to withdraw my paychecks.

Casting a terrible shadow over these hardships is the dire lack of electricity in Gaza. On average, the power here is on for only two to four hours a day. This means that my laptop battery lasts for a mere few hours, and then I have to wait about eight hours afterward until the electricity returns. So, as a professional translator I’ve had no choice but to work around the clock to meet deadlines and secure my clients’ trust. But it’s not only translators in Gaza who struggle as I do; a lot of creative designers and programmers often deal with the same impediments. The final calculus is this: Freelancing is fine, but how reliable is it when the internet connection is extremely fickle all the time? And how can one support a family in such constantly dicey circumstances?

Nonetheless, I’ve been an Arabic-language coordinator with TED Translators since 2017. I’m part of a fantastic team of LCs (Khadija, Ghalia, Fatima and Riyad) that supervises a large community of Arabic-English translators and conducts regular meetups and planning sessions with members. TEDSummit 2019 would have been a wonderful chance for our LC team to gather in one place, but both Ghalia and I were denied visas by the U.K. This denial was my first—and Ghalia’s third. Although the denials are vague in their reasoning, I have no doubt they were issued solely because I’m a Palestinian Arab and Ghalia is a Syrian Arab. Words can’t fully express how depressing this is for us—to anticipate traveling to TEDSummit and meeting scores of incredible colleagues, only to be notified that you aren’t going anywhere because of where you live. We are human beings with hopes and dreams just like anybody else; we are not monsters. When will the world wake up to this fact? Perhaps in the future, TED can hold a conference in an Arab country—or at least a country that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

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

I read a lot, particularly poetry, and I often share my favorite lines on social media. I also love to watch Japanese anime; let me recommend “Attack on Titan” to anybody who wants to experience anime at its finest. Sometimes, though, I’m in tech mode, taking online courses in web design, e-commerce, etc. I’ve found that having knowledge and skills outside of translating has helped me to advance my career as a translator quite a bit.

As I discussed above, Gaza is virtually sealed off from the world, so travel is a passion I can only wish I could pursue. Consequently, I spend much of my time at home. But I get to see my mother, my family every day—that’s a blessing.

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

Welcome to TED Translators! We are a global community of volunteers who share a common goal. Don’t be afraid to ask a question or pitch an idea you may have. Focus on quality over quantity when translating. Always try to learn from the feedback your LC or reviewer gives you, and then apply that knowledge to your future translations. And don’t forget that as a TED Translator you’re a vital member of the TED family; your work is appreciated and valued by millions of people around the world.


TED Translators at TEDSummit 2019: a full recap

Last week, we posted a quick update on TED Translators’ activities at TEDSummit 2019, and we promised to follow that up with more comprehensive coverage. So without further ado, here’s our full recap of TED Translators at TEDSummit 2019!


The translators kicked off the conference week on Friday—a few days before the official start of TEDSummit 2019—with a casual gathering among themselves, during which they got to meet and know each other over drinks and appetizers. After a warm welcome by TED Translators director Jenny Zurawell and deputy director Helena Batt, the translators shared their individual stories of traveling to and arriving in Edinburgh, and readied themselves for the next day’s full schedule of events.

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Saturday saw the TED Translators exploring Scotland’s capital city together. After walking through the picturesque Princes Street Gardens to the world-famous Edinburgh Castle and learning a bit of Scottish royal history along the way, the group wound down with an afternoon tea reception. Later in the evening, the translators reconvened for an intimate dinner at Cannonball Restaurant & Bar in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It just so happened that the veteran Scottish band The Proclaimers was playing a concert nearby, so a quick listen to their distinct, catchy rock music was in order before heading into the restaurant. The translators then sat down to a formal dinner and bonded further over question cards set on the tables; the questions varied from “What is one tip we should know when visiting your home city?” to “Can you do an impression of your favorite accent?”

Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

On Sunday, the TED Translators got down to brass tacks with an intensive workshop. The gathering began with presentations by both Jenny and Helena that respectively homed in on the growth of TED Translators since its inception 10 years ago, as well as exciting new partnerships and initiatives to support the community. Afterward, several translators offered their own individual presentations. To cite just a few of them: Maricene Crus discussed welcoming and mentoring new TED Translators; Cissy Yun focused on creating local-language style guides; and Khrystyna Romashko and Dina Bezsmertna looked at different ways to grow smaller language communities.

Photo: Ryan Lash / TED

TEDSummit 2019 got underway on Sunday night, and for the rest of the week the TED Translators immersed themselves in the conference’s panoply of talks, workshops and breakout sessions. What’s more, TED Translators received multiple thank-yous and shoutouts from the stage for their continual, vital work to make TED Talks accessible to language communities around the world. And, they received tons of love from the TED Speaker community — Amanda Palmer is a huge fan! All in all, then, TED Translators’ participation in TEDSummit 2019 was a resounding success, and we’re already looking forward to TED2020. Keep an eye out in the near future for applications to that and other TED gatherings!

Photo: Dian Lofton / TED

TED Translators at TEDSummit 2019

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Photograph by Bret Hartman/TED.


We here at TED Translators have officially kicked off our TEDSummit 2019 adventure in beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland, with a stellar group of 50 translators from more than 30 countries. These amazing volunteers have been busy with a schedule chock-full of workshops and activities, and will spend the rest of the week engaging with the wider “Community Beyond Borders” at the conference: The TED Translators will participate in an array of discussions, and attend a panoply of performances and main-stage talks alongside hundreds of TEDx organizers, TED Fellows, educators and TED Speakers. We’ll have more in-depth coverage of TED Translators at TEDSummit 2019 to share with you very soon, so stay tuned!

TEDSummit 2019 interview series: TED Translators Lidia Cámara de la Fuente & Marlén Scholand

In our second installment of interviews with TED Translators who will attend TEDSummit 2019 this week, we chat with Lidia Cámara de la Fuente and her daughter Marlén Scholand, who both live in Germany. Read on below to learn more about this dynamic duo of TED Translators who not only share a love for translating, but a priceless familial bond as well.


How long have you both been TED Translators? What initially drew each of you to the enterprise?

Lidia: I chanced upon TED 10 years ago, while searching for appealing multimedia material to use in the scientific-translation classes I teach. I was looking for something that would both motivate my students to immerse themselves in translating and encourage them to pursue knowledge at the forefront of the science and technology fields. The first TED Talk I discovered and watched was Jill Bolte Taylor’s “My stroke of insight”; I was inspired and overwhelmed by her passion for her work and how powerfully she connects science with emotion. Afterward, I stayed up watching TED Talks all night. I felt as if I’d found a new, panoramic lens on the world, one that I could take advantage of without leaving the comfort of my home.

Marlén: My journey with TED Translators began when my mother started watching and translating TED Talks and recommending them to everyone she could. I was quite young then, though, so I didn’t understand how to use the translation platform yet. But as I got older, my interest in TED Talks grew; in addition, I found TED-Ed videos extremely helpful for my school projects. I finally asked my mom about her TED Talk translations, she taught me to use the translation platform, and here I am—a TED Translator. It was a natural progression for me, given that translating words and sentences into different languages was instilled in me as a child: My mom is a linguist, my father is a professional translator and I was raised speaking three languages—Spanish, Catalan and German.

What was the first TED Talk each of you translated? Why this particular talk?

L: The first TED Talk I translated was Kevin Kelly’s “How technology evolves”—my first among 2,550 so far. At that time, I wanted to translate any and every talk that dealt in science and technology. I was—and remain—thrilled to have had the opportunity to translate TED Talks and simultaneously encourage my students to improve their own language and translation skills.

M: Well, the first talk I translated without my mom’s help was Analia Wu’s “Redefining the F-word”. The title initially drew me to it, but the content of her talk was not at all what I’d expected it to be, which was a pleasant surprise. Analia also surprised me: She confidently examines the definitions of failure and success in her non-native English, and reveals how attempting something unsuccessfully does not necessarily translate to failure. To this day, I admire both Analia’s poise and message, and I try to practice her approach to success and failure on a daily basis.

Of all the talks you’ve translated, which has been your favorite so far? Why?

L: I’m fascinated with neuroscience, so I was especially pleased to translate these talks:

Over the years, however, my interest in neuroscience has become more spiritually oriented rather than physically. I’ve increasingly been trying to understand human consciousness not only as our immediate knowledge of ourselves and our actions and reflections, but also as our unique ability to search for and create meaning in our individual and collective existences. One talk I’m particularly thrilled to have translated during my ongoing exploration of human consciousness is Emily Esfahani Smith’s “There’s more to life than being happy”. She helped me realize that the awakening of our spiritual consciousnesses occurs when, through introspection and self-knowledge, we each find our true self and purpose in life, which in turn generates our joy of living consciously.

M: A favorite of mine is one of the first TED Talks I ever watched: “The transformative power of classical music”, by conductor Benjamin Zander. I chose to translate this talk both because I’m a pianist and because Benjamin’s interaction with the audience is superb. Through a mix of playing the piano onstage and smart humor, he manages to explain classical music and its beauty in an engaging and inviting way.

Can you tell us a bit about what it’s like translating together?

L: When Marlén began translating TED Talks, I was always by her side so I could assist her if need be. These sessions were very long, often because we would stop our translating to discuss the content of the talk at hand. The two talks below are just some of those that found Marlén and I extending our interactions with them beyond translation, allowing the talks to foster conversations between us about topics and issues that affect us both. 

M: I’m extremely thankful to my mom for taking the time and having the patience to teach me how to translate TED Talks; her early guidance is largely responsible for honing me into the TED Translator I am today. I’m also very grateful that my mom and I share a strong bond with each other and that we can converse on an array of subjects, TED-related or otherwise, for hours on end. And I love that she frequently introduces me to TED Talks that may pique my interest.

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

L: I really enjoy traveling and exploring new places with my children and husband. I also relish walks through forests full of leafy trees; I feel peacefully connected with them, and this connection is reflected in another passion of mine: acrylic paintings lush with trees.

M: I love summer. I live in Germany, where warm weather doesn’t exactly abound, so I’m happy whenever the sun is out and I can go swimming—ideally in a river or the sea.

Making music is my other passion. After years of piano lessons, I started writing my own songs and I’m currently collaborating on a project with my friend. He’s well-versed in production and is teaching me about that side of crafting music. I’m partial to writing melodies and lyrics, though. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to create music together, and I’m looking forward to finishing our first song.

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

L: Here’s my quick tip guide for new TED Translators:

  • Take your time to translate.
  • Focus only on translating.
  • Enjoy translating without thinking about the final product. 
  • If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Don’t emotionalize the reviewers’ corrections.
  • Remember that your work benefits both you and others.
  • Remember that you’re part of a great project.

M: Translating can be quite confusing at first, so my main advice is to exercise patience and to ask for help if you need it. Some TED Talks are long and require a substantial amount of time to translate; don’t stress if you can’t finish a translation in a day; you can always return to it at a later point. Focus instead on enjoying and learning from the translation process. And remember: Your translations enable people around the world to access amazing and vital ideas.