Meet the speaker who collected every idiom sticker at TEDSummit

Kristin and Bahia 2
TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler with Bahia Shehab at TEDSummit 2016. Photo: Kier Atherton

TED speaker and Fellow Bahia Shehab has been crowned champion of the international idiom sticker project at TEDSummit 2016. (Watch her talk on using street art to reject violence and disempowerment in 2011 Cairo.) As Head of Design at the American University in Cairo, she fell in love with the idiom-inspired illustrations created by London artist Masahito Leo Takeuchi. Shehab called the idiom booklet given to every attendee her “hunting map,” and she used it to seek out all 43 stickers. “We hoped people would want to collect the stickers, but there are so many, we weren’t sure it would be possible to gather all of them in just a few days,” said TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler. Shehab laughs, “That’s what I do. I make the impossible possible.”

When she arrived at TEDSummit, Shehab collected her first sticker from Hungarian TED Translator Csaba Lóki. Malayalam TED Translator Netha Hussain held the final sticker Shehab was missing. Shehab was so excited when she found Hussain, she hugged her. Shehab reflected, “I think I know all the translators now. It’s a community I love — they’re doing a great job for TED.” As a summer project, Shehab plans to study the meanings of these illustrated idioms with her daughters in Egypt. So just how did she manage to gather every sticker from 43 translators in less than four days? “I will reveal a secret,” says Shehab. “I bribed them with sweets.”

TED Translator Workshop at TEDSummit 2016

TED Translators at TEDSummit 2016. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

This past Sunday, TEDSummit 2016 got under way in Banff, Canada. Among the day’s first activities was the TED Translator Workshop, which brought together 47 translators from around the world. TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler hosted the workshop.

Emily McManus, TED’s Managing Editor, kicked off the workshop’s morning session with “What Makes a TED Talk,” a look at the vital components of a great TED Talk. She emphasized insight, clarity, originality and ultimately a relatable conclusion. She also stressed the importance of these qualities to TEDx talks (in any language), which are periodically featured on

TED Producer and Editor, Marla Mitchnick, followed up with a fun exercise to illustrate how choice of camera angle is essential to building connection between TED speakers and their audiences. Changing gears a bit, Thaniya Keereepart, TED’s Head of Mobile & Platforms, discussed TED’s new Android app (now available in 24 languages), upcoming translations of the iOS version of the TED app, as well as the various capabilities of the app’s push notifications (like alerting you when there are newly translated talks in your language).

Among TED Translators staff, Helene Batt spoke about spreading ideas in non-English talks, while Dimitra Papageorgiou and Krystian Aparta shared tips on giving constructive feedback. TED Translators Deputy Director Jenny Zurawell shared a preview of upcoming tech changes on both TED and Amara.

To close out the workshop, Ivana Korom, TED Translators – TEDx Manager, facilitated as translators broke into groups and explored a number of self-proposed topics, including: creating TED Translators clubs, consolidating TED’s translation resources, devising translator workshops for TEDx events and using TED Talks as a teaching tool in classrooms.

Connecting over idioms from around the world

Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

Across languages, idioms express ideas that can be difficult to pin down if you only consider literal meaning. Cultural context is key. TED Translators overcome this same challenge when they subtitle TED Talks. Translators build a cultural frame for speakers’ ideas with the words they choose to preserve meaning for viewers in their language.

This week at TEDSummit, 47 TED Translators are using idioms from their native languages to connect with Summit attendees. The idioms were illustrated by London-based artist Masahito Leo Takeuchi. His illustrations have been turned into stickers that attendees can collect from the translators they meet. Translators explain to attendees what the idiom means, oftentimes in exchange for a little song and dance, or an idiom in the attendee’s own language.

Check out the full set of idiom stickers, and watch this short video about how they’re connecting TEDSummit attendees.

TED Open Translation Project is now TED Translators


TED Translators at TEDSummit2016, Banff, Canada. Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED

We’re excited to introduce TED Translators, the revamped name for TED’s translation program, which will replace “TED Open Translation Project.” Why this change? Not only is the new identity more concise, but it also more personally represents our translator community. On top of that, TED Translators fits nicely into our family of other contributor communities (TED Fellows and TED Speakers, for example).

So, what does this change mean for current and future TED Translators? In the coming weeks, you may notice some online rebranding efforts (like this blog) as we transition the Open Translation Project to TED Translators. But rest assured: the name change is simply the beginning of bigger and better developments to come for TED’s translator community. Going forward, we encourage you to start using “TED Translators” in your respective communities. We hope you’ll find that this new identity strengthens and broadens the reach of your work.

Say hello to the new TED Translators blog!

We’re launching this blog as a space to encourage and enhance communication among TED’s translator community. Here you’ll find not only a streamlined source of information concerning TED Translators, but also a place to share your translation ideas and stories.

In addition, the new TED Translators blog will regularly highlight translators and their work around the world. And it gets better: all of this will be accessible to anyone in the TED community — no account required. Welcome to TED Translators.