TEDx dispatch: TEDxDrewUniversity

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Drew University’s concert hall awaits the day’s action. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

On Saturday, April 14, the inaugural TEDxDrewUniversity conference went down at Drew University in Madison, NJ, under the banner of Life as We Don’t Know It. Six diverse, insightful, animated speakers and roughly 100 attendees gathered in the university’s concert hall to explore a panoply of contemporary ideas and concepts that often seem black-and-white to us, but upon closer examination reveal themselves to be more so gray areas from which we can potentially extract groundbreaking, progressive concepts and ideas we’ve yet to imagine. TEDxDrewUniversity was organized by a remarkably affable and efficient team of Drew students led by TED Translator Gabriel Lima. Hosting duties were carried out by The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief, the incomparable Robert Franek, who both delivered a spirited welcome to the audience and provided the speakers with equally lively introductions.

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Robert Franek kicks off the conference with a welcome and introduction. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

The first session of the conference took place in the late morning and featured three speakers: Michael DePalma, an entrepreneur and a health technologist; Dr. Kate Ott, a writer and an associate professor of Christian Social Ethics at Drew University Theological School (also known as the Theo School); and Olivia Blondheim, a marine biologist and an ocean conservationist currently studying biology and Spanish at Drew.

Diving right into one of the most urgent problems almost all of us face today—data privacy—Michael’s talk proposed that we undertake grassroots measures to ensure that each of us exercises complete control over her digital data—control that’s founded on what Michael called “decentralization with order,” which would effectively replace the data-handling middlemen we currently rely on with “smart contracts” and crypto-currencies.

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Michael DePalma posits “The Future of Human Rights”. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

Dr. Ott followed Michael with a talk that addressed present women’s-rights movements (like metoo.), particularly in light of the recent, continuing revelations of sexual assault and harassment allegedly committed against women by a seemingly endless litany of famous, high-profile, influential men. Her call for new forms of women’s empowerment that are rooted in a rebalancing of gender power dynamics in all spheres of life could not come at a more necessary time.

Before the midday lunch break, Olivia Blondheim directed our attention to the health of our oceans’ ecosystems, warning that many of the world’s fisheries could collapse by the year 2050 if we don’t drastically change how we extract and consume our oceans’ resources. She also discussed how we can observe the behaviors of sea creatures like pyrosomes to determine the status of our oceans’ well-being.

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Olivia Blondheim assesses the current state of our oceans. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

After a leisurely catered lunch, everybody reassembled in the concert hall for the conference’s second session. Before the next speaker took the stage, the audience was treated to an excellent a capella choir set by a group of Drew students—a performance that segued nicely into the fourth talk.

“The New-Age African Artist”: That’s what Cynthia Amoah, a spoken-word poet-performer and writer, delineated through an impassioned mix of her own poems and stories that touched on her dual identities (Cynthia has spent much of her life in the U.S., but she’s originally from Ghana, West Africa), her journey to poetry, and the responsibility of artists like herself to engage with subjects such as identity, race, gender and social justice. In this day and age, as we continue to witness governments and elites wage assault after assault on our civil liberties and those of countless individuals worldwide, it’s more vital than ever that we listen to voices like Cynthia’s—voices demanding a holistic humanism to serve as an antidote to the dangerous policies that would rather have us fall in line behind racism, xenophobia, sexism, war-mongering, anti-intellectualism and a bevy of other destructive ideologies.

Educator, consultant and nonprofit leader Ulcca Joshi Hansen hit the stage next to highlight and advocate for “student-centered learning experiences that celebrate and maximize the unique potential of individual children regardless of their background, circumstances, physical or cognitive differences.” She homed in on the need for more schools that focus on imbuing students with a strong sense of belonging and purpose, as well as on the necessity of providing young people with viable ways to connect with their communities.

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Ulcca Joshi Hansen offers a new, more progressive approach to educating youth. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

Finally, to cap off the first annual TEDxDrewUniversity conference, Ross Michaels, a music producer, artist manager and an original founder and the co-president of Park Avenue Artists, gave an animated, witty, unflinching talk about trusting our gut instincts and following them fearlessly to our goals. “Feeling is the human business,” Ross emphasized, as he shared several candid anecdotes about the key experiences in his life that led him to this realization—and eventually to become a cultivator and curator of feeling through music. (One of these stories involved a rough breakup and the restorative power of the raw emotion expressed in Phil Collins’ iconic song “In the Air Tonight”.) “Feel every situation you find yourself in,” Ross said, “and don’t discard what you intuit as your true path, no matter who tries to dissuade you.” Excellent advice, especially now, when so many voices and distractions from every direction make it easier than ever for us to submit to the status quo.

Ross Michaels shares a story about discovering the enlightenment and empowerment that trusting and following your instincts can net you. (Photo credit: Lynne DeLade.)

And an excellent note on which to close a conference that was a resounding success. The novel ideas put forth by the speakers brought into clearer resolution many important gray areas in our lives, and the departing audience was undeniably invigorated to reexamine the human experience through more perceptive lenses. Here’s to building on this success at next year’s gathering!

TED Translators at TED2018


On April 10, TED2018 kicked off in beautiful Vancouver, BC, under the banner of The Age of Amazement. More than 2,000 attendees from 57 countries converged on the city for five days of, well, amazing talks from over 100 speakers and performers. Here are just a few of those who took to the stage: renowned psychologist Steven Pinker; Diane Wolk-Rogers, a veteran Florida public-school teacher and LGBTQAI activist who’s taught since 2001 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, where a horrific mass shooting occurred on February 14; and Yasin Kakande, an investigative journalist and writer who reports on human rights abuses against migrant workers in the Middle East, and who was forced to deliver a brief but impassioned message via video after the status of his asylum application in the U.S. prevented him from traveling to TED2018.

We here at TED Translators sent our own delegation of translators and staff to the conference in order to represent their respective language communities and highlight the vast diversity of our program, as well as to give TED Translators more visibility overall. Along with watching live talks and participating in the panoply of activities on offer at TED2018, the translators got to connect with each other at several TED Translators gatherings and outings. They also met with members of TED’s mobile and editorial teams to explore new ways to cultivate a larger international audience together. At the translators’ final meetup, they exchanged ideas on development and translator recruitment in their individual language communities.


And, lest we forget: True to its Age of Amazement theme, TED2018 introduced the world to TED’s bold new initiative for turning revolutionary ideas into reality, The Audacious Project. The project, as you may know, features various innovative and far-reaching ventures to mitigate or solve some of humanity’s most urgent problems: climate change, lack of access to adequate healthcare, species depletion and extinction, for example. The TED Translators team hosted a Facebook viewing of The Audacious Project’s unveiling so that our members abroad could watch a livestream of the Audacious Session from wherever they happened to be. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see the amazing advances The Audacious Project will yield around the globe. And we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next year, at TED2019.

TED Translators at TED2018: Hany Eldalees


In our final TED Translators at TED2018 spotlight, we talk to Arabic TED Translator Hany Eldalees. As some of you may remember from this post, Hany was unable to attend TED2018 because the Canadian government denied him a visa. However, that won’t stop us from bringing you a brief but illuminating conversation with Hany that conveys (as his responses prove) what a brilliant, dedicated translator and individual he is. See for yourself below.

How long have you been translating with TED Translators? What initially drew you to TED Translators, and what keeps you going?

I started my journey with TED Translators in early 2015. But I was familiar with TED Talks before then, and I well understood their power to educate viewers on an enormous array of subjects. Because I believe that even a small idea can change a person’s life positively, and because I want to contribute to the spread of ideas which empower people, it made perfect sense to me to begin translating into Arabic the talks I find most insightful, compelling, inspiring, etc., in order to make them accessible to a larger Arabic-speaking audience. And this continues to be my mission with TED Translators.

Out of all the TED Talks you’ve translated, which one stands as your favorite?

I can’t pin down just one talk. That said, three-dimensional printing fascinates me, so I’ve translated a number of TED Talks related to that. 3D printing enables the relatively quick production of a variety of extremely useful objects, like medical equipment and musical instruments; and, because it’s a somewhat new and rapidly evolving “industry,” those folks working in it are quite free to share and enhance their designs with each other around the world. Given this, 3D printing has the potential to be even more of a revolutionary development than it’s been to date.

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

My previous answer may make this one obvious, but I love building 3D models—ships, cars, buildings—especially because, as a model takes shape in my hand, I gain more appreciation for the mechanical or architectural brilliance it contains. I also love reading.

The theme of TED2018 is The Age of Amazement. Can you tell us about an amazing idea, event or person from your country that/whom you think more folks should know about?

I’d like more people to know about the Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII) in Qatar, the first institution of its kind in the Arabian Gulf region and where I earned my master’s degree in audiovisual translation (the first degree of its kind in the Arab world). Also offering a master’s in translation studies, TII was founded by Dr. Amal Al-Malki, who, after becoming Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation, transferred TII to the university and established it as the core of the CHSS. TII, I believe, is doing much to grow and strengthen the Arab world’s translation and interpreting communities, and I encourage everybody who reads this interview to learn more about the institute and the excellent work being done there (and even to visit, if you can!).

TED Translators represent at TED2018

(Photo credit: Lawrence Sumulong/TED.)

TED2018 got under way in Vancouver, BC, earlier this week, and speakers and attendees there have been immersing themselves in amazing ideas for a few days now. TED Translators sent a contingent of remarkable folks (pictured above) from around the world to represent the TED translation community at the conference. Over the next week, we’ll bring you more in-depth coverage of TED2018 and TED Translators’ activities there, so stay tuned!

TED Translators at TED2018: Analia Padin


This week’s TED Translators at TED2018 feature turns the spotlight on Argentinian TED Translator Analia Padin. Read on to learn more about why she can’t stop translating, how to deliver an artful TED Talk, a few of Argentina’s natural wonders and more.

How long have you been translating with TED Translators? What initially drew you to TED Translators, and what keeps you going?

I started translating with TED in the summer of 2017. I was drawn to TED Translators for a combination of reasons: I love learning and exploring new ideas, I love languages and translating, and I wanted to volunteer for a good cause; TED allows me to do all of these, so it’s perfect for me.

What keeps me going? I can’t really stop! Translating TED Talks has become a sort of “happy place” for me, and I can’t imagine not doing it. I take great satisfaction in researching a topic, finding the best word, polishing a translation until it’s just right and helping out with the extraordinary amount of work we have to do. I’m extremely proud to be part of the TED Translators team.

Out of all the TED Talks you’ve translated, which one stands as your favorite?

One of my favorites so far is “His name was Nikola Tesla”, by physicist and storyteller Hadar Lazar. It’s quite a poetic talk, and Hadar is very expressive onstage—a great example of how you can artfully talk about science.

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

When I’m not translating (or working, or spending time with my family), I like to hone my language skills with books and films in different languages. Also, I started playing piano 18 months ago and I try to practice as much as I can.  

The theme of TED2018 is The Age of Amazement. Can you tell us about an amazing idea, event or person from your country that/whom you think more folks should know about?

Argentina is an amazing country with a variety of landscapes: subtropical forests; arid mountains; fertile, grassy plains; and nearly 5,000 kilometers of Atlantic coastline.

One of the most stunning places to visit is Los Glaciares National Park in the Patagonia region, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding natural beauty. Nestled in the Andes mountain range, the park’s name stems from the fact that roughly half its surface is covered by glaciers and multiple glacial lakes, including Argentino Lake, which, with a surface area of 1,415 square kilometers, is the largest freshwater lake in Argentina. Some of the glaciers are prone to calving into the icy, milky waters of the lake, creating spectacular splashes and floating icebergs.

Perhaps the most striking site in the park is the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. At 60 meters tall and with an approximate area of 200 square meters, it is almost as big as Buenos Aires. What makes this glacier so special, though, is not so much its size (it’s not even the largest in the park) as the fact that it’s still growing and expanding, while most glaciers in the world are shrinking due to global warming. Glaciologists continue to debate the reason for this. What’s more, Perito Moreno possesses one of the most awesome natural phenomena on Earth. As it advances, it forms a dam that blocks a narrow channel in Argentino Lake called Brazo Rico, cutting off this passage from the rest of the lake. This obstruction causes Brazo Rico to fill with water produced by other glacial melting and from various rivers, to the point where the channel rises nearly 30 meters above the lake’s water level. The buildup of water in Brazo Rico creates enormous pressure that pushes against Perito Moreno, and gradually melts and carves a passage through the glacier to Argentino Lake. This process not only balances the water levels on both sides of the glacier, but it also forms Perito Moreno’s famous ice bridge and can cause this structure to rupture roughly every four to five years (though sometimes more often), when the bridge becomes too thin to support its own weight. The most recent rupture occurred on March 12 of this year, but it couldn’t be witnessed because it came crashing down at night. Prior to that, Perito Moreno last ruptured in March 2016, and the event was broadcast on live TV. Quite an amazing sight, especially if you’re lucky enough to catch it in person.

TED Translators in São Paulo for TEDxCampinas and more

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A few of the fine folks who attended TEDxCampinas. (Photo by Sarah Esteves Tambur.)

On March 17, TEDxCampinas went down near the city of São Paulo, Brazil, at the Municipal Theater José Castro Mendes. The sold-out event was organized by veteran TED Translator and TED2017 Translator delegate Mario Gioto, and had as its theme O Presente do Amanhã (The Gift of Tomorrow). Over 700 attendees (including a number of TED Translators) converged on the theater to hear talks by a dozen speakers from all over the country. One of these speakers, Daniel Dias, a Brazilian world-record-holding paralympian, moved the audience to a standing ovation with his talk. Jenny Zurawell and Helene Batt, TED Translators’ director and deputy director, respectively, also took to the stage to represent the TED Translators program and highlight some of its recent achievements. TED Translators received a hearty round of applause when Jenny and Helene announced that Brazilian TED Translators have collectively translated over 6,000 talks to date.

Jenny Zurawell and Helene Batt represent TED Translators at TEDxCampinas. TED Translator Gustavo Rocha live interprets. (Photo by Leandro Tortella Storytellers / TEDxCampinas.)

The day after TEDxCampinas, 25 TED Translators gathered for a workshop at the iconic KAÁ Restaurant in central São Paulo. The participants, who ranged from new to veteran translators to Language Coordinators, broke into small groups to discuss a range of issues related to TED, TED Translators and ideas worth spreading throughout Brazil. A few of the key topics: various ways to motivate fellow volunteers; how to encourage more review-task completions; and how to elevate translation quality overall. Following the workshop the translators headed to Ibirapuera Park, where some continued their discussions and others relaxed or played games. The day came to a close as the sun set over São Paulo and a palpable energy filled the air—an energy which made clear that the weekend’s events were just the start of bigger future developments in the Brazilian Portuguese translation community.

TED Translators in Ibirapuera Park. (Photo by Aviva Nassimi.)


TED Translators at TED2018: Tomoyuki Suzuki


Our third installment of TED Translators at TED2018 features Japanese TED Translator Tomoyuki Suzuki. Among other things, he discusses with us the satisfaction that translation brings him, a Japanese professor who’s navigating new frontiers in mathematics and the frightening possibility of “the singularity.”

How long have you been translating with TED Translators? What initially drew you to TED Translators, and what keeps you going?

It’s been over four years since the thrill of discovering TED Talks inspired me to join TED Translators so I could help other folks access the novel ideas I encountered (and continue to encounter) in the talks.

One of my biggest motivations for my work with TED Translators is the “eureka” moment that occurs when I find the optimal word, phrase, sentence, etc. for a translation: Not only am I doing justice to the talk, but I’m also improving my translating skills. In addition, meeting and staying in touch with other TED Translators always energizes me.

Out of all the TED Talks you’ve translated, which one stands as your favorite?

Renowned physicist Martin Rees’s talk “Is this our final century?” In it, Rees explains the fabric of the universe, from its most granular subatomic components to its larger structures, before he examines our ever-accelerating technological development and how it could possibly doom the human (and other) species in the future.

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

I love books; I read one or two a week. I also enjoy wandering around and exploring new places.

The theme of TED2018 is The Age of Amazement. Can you tell us about an amazing idea, event or person from your country that/whom you think more folks should know about?

I would like more people in the world to know about Professor Shinichi Mochizuki, a mathematician who teaches at the University of Kyoto. In 2014, he introduced and developed the p-adic Teichmüller theory, which, as you can see, is extremely complicated—so much so that it takes several years’ work to validate the theory. (Professor Mochizuki, as a result, runs workshops to help those mathematicians who are interested in doing so to better understand the theory.)

I bring all this up not just because I want to share with you Professor Mochizuki’s brilliance, but also because I believe Professor Mochizuki and his theory demonstrate the limitless potential of the human mind—a potential that I think we must continually remind ourselves of and maximize as artificial intelligence (AI) gains in its capabilities. While AI promises us plenty of beneficial innovation, it behooves us to be vigilant and wary of AI’s hyperspeed progress. Left unimpeded, advances in AI will eventually lead us to a point in our history often called “the singularity,” when AI will exceed human intelligence and continue doing so exponentially as artificial general intelligence (AGI), thereby surpassing (to say the least) even our most ingenious capabilities. It’s no exaggeration, then, to say that the singularity is AI’s existential threat to humankind. But it’s a threat whose realization we can avoid—if we use our own intelligence and reason to responsibly develop AI. And so we should regard brilliant minds like Professor Mochizuki—and all of those who show us the boundless power of our brains—as testaments to the fact that we humans possess the means to both push forward and control AI.