TED Translators at TED2018: Leila Ataie


In this week’s edition of TED Translators at TED2018, we chat with Iranian TED Translator Leila Ataie about the “therapeutic” value of translation, her favorite TED Talks, the Jalali calendar and several other topics. Check out the interview below!

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

I joined TED Translators in 2013, with the desire to share TED’s inspiring talks and their ideas with my fellow Iranians. Education, I believe, is power. I must admit, though, that working with TED Translators has become “therapeutic” for me, too: It’s done a lot to further my personal exploration and growth.

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

It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite; I have many. In general, I gravitate toward talks in the fields of photojournalism, AI and GMO sciences, and humanitarianism.

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

I love to travel to and explore new parts of the world. At home, I usually spend time with my family and friends, work out and read. Reading, especially, has been vital to me since I was a child; it’s one of the first ways I learned I could discover new ideas, people and 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?

Many people around the world aren’t aware that Iran follows its own calendar, one that’s more exact than the widely used Gregorian version. The Iranian calendar, known as the Jalali calendar, has its roots in the 11th century, when Seljuk Sultan Jalal al-Din Malik Shah I, the calendar’s namesake, convened a committee of astronomers to devise a more accurate way to track the years. Omar Khayyam, the Iranian poet perhaps best known for his work The Rubaiyat, was among the scientists on the committee. Though the Jalali calendar followed in Iran today has been refined over the centuries, it still hews quite close to its original model.

TED Translators at TED2018: Maricene Crus


Last week, we introduced you to the TED Translators slated to attend TED2018 in April. As we’ve done in the past, we’re following up with several of these folks to get to know them a bit better. Our first mini-interview is with Maricene Crus, a Brazilian film translator and English teacher, who was gracious enough to tell us about what fuels her as a TED Translator, her activities outside of translation, an amazing Brazilian doctor and more.

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

I’ve worked with TED Translators since November 2014. After using TED Talks as engaging and effective teaching tools in my English classes, and after a move out of São Paulo took me away from my longtime volunteering with GRAACC, I decided to join TED Translators to both contribute to TED and give myself a new way to volunteer.

As for what keeps me going with TED Translators, a big factor is the recognition I receive for mentoring the incredible translators in our community on a daily basis.

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

Ah, there are so many, but I love this talk by Linda Cliatt-Wayman with all my heart.

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

I love hanging out and playing with my nieces and nephew whenever I can. I also enjoy watching movies, walks in the park, reading and craftwork (especially fuxico).

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 think the world should know more about Dr. Sérgio Petrilli, a brilliant 71-year-old pediatric oncologist and an incredible human being. In 1991, he helped mobilize doctors, volunteers and partners to found GRAACC. Since then, thanks to donations and a great business-management model, the hospital has grown from an old two-story house into an eight-story state-of-the-art complex that each year treats, free of charge, over 15,000 cancer-afflicted children and adolescents from all over Brazil—with a 70-percent success rate in most cases. Dr. Petrilli’s leadership has also overseen numerous important scientific studies at GRAACC, including stem-cell research in pursuit of cures for various forms of cancer. What’s more, the hospital provides gratis lodging and emotional support for the families of patients that come from outside São Paulo and cannot afford these services on their own.

I am proud to have worked with this vital and respected institution, and I’m thrilled to have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Petrilli, a man of impeccable character and dignity who embodies professionalism and humanitarianism.

Meet the TED Translators attending TED2018

Yes, it’s still March, but April will be here before we know it, right? And that means TED2018 is fast approaching! The Age of Amazement is this year’s theme, and we’ve invited some amazing TED Translators from around the world to represent us at the five-day event in Vancouver, BC. Read on below to learn more about these remarkable folks.

TomoyukiTomoyuki Suzuki (Japan)
Geophysicist + engineer

Tomoyuki was born in Nagoya, Japan, but currently resides in Yokohama. He holds a master’s degree in mining engineering, and he’s worked as both a petroleum engineer and geophysicist for a Japanese oil- and gas-exploration company. Tomoyuki’s career has afforded him the opportunity to travel the world extensively and live for a combined 10 years in Malaysia, Australia and the U.K. His free time finds him reading books on the natural sciences, particularly cosmology, particle physics, mathematics and genetics. Tomoyuki says his passion for these sciences is why he especially enjoys translating and reviewing TED-Ed lessons (which abound with natural-sciences content), and why he launched a website to introduce these talks to Japanese viewers.

YanyanYanyan Hong (China)
Digital-media student

Originally from China, Yanyan now studies digital media at theUniversity of Queensland, Australia. In addition to translating TED Talks, she also translates films and is a Bollywood aficionado. In fact, one of Yanyan’s guiding mottos comes from the words of Bollywood icon (and TED speaker) Shah Rukh Khan: “To have faith is to have wings.” To this she adds: “Keep smiling!”

AlenaAlena Chernykh (Russia)
Teacher + attorney

Alena hails from Belgorod, Russia, a city located just north of Ukraine. She holds multiple degrees—in English, German and law—and works as both a legal adviser and an English tutor. Because she constantly seeks out new learning experiences, Alena is studying and adding Spanish and Italian to her language wheelhouse. The inspiration and empowerment she derives from TED Talks, as well as the desire to share with others the ideas that move her, are what have motivated Alena’s translation efforts since she discovered TED Talks. Which makes perfect sense given that her guiding maxim, in life and work, is: Education doesn’t change the world; education changes the people who will change the world. When not busy putting this motto into practice, Alena is usually reading, traveling, dancing or drawing.

SarahSarah Tambur (Brazil)
Translator + English teacher

With a degree in translation studies from São Paulo State University (UNESP), and as an accredited specialist in advanced English-language studies from the same school, Sarah has worked as both a professional translator and English teacher for over 10 years now. It was only natural, then, that after she discovered TED Translators in 2016, she joined the community in order to combine her deep affinities for translation and TED Talks. In Sarah’s own words: “(As a TED Translator,) I love how much I can improve professionally and learn about so many different things at the same time.” Outside of translating and teaching, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband, hanging out with their dog, reading, cooking, watching TV series, and the company of her friends and family.

NataliaNatalia Ost (Russia)

Currently a lecturer at MGIMO University, Natalia, who’s based in Moscow, has previously worked as an editor and a freelance translator. Besides lecturing, she devotes her time to reading, learning new languages and researching memory and personal identity through a philosophical lense. Ask Natalia what she believes we should all seek most in life, and she’ll tell you: Understanding.

AdrienneAdrienne Lin (Taiwan)
Freelance translator

Adrienne holds a master’s degree in interpreting and translating, and an undergraduate degree in English. After having her fill of cubicle jobs, she made the leap to full-time freelance translating. Adrienne’s translation work includes big-screen films, TV shows on video-streaming platforms and Charles Dickens’s unabridged David Copperfield. In her own words, “Apart from being a happy workaholic,” she’s “passionate about traveling, learning new languages and practicing yoga—both on and off the mat.”

KelwalinKelwalin Dhanasarnsombut (Thailand)
Patent specialist + scientist

Kelwalin was born in Bangkok to a multicultural family, and grew up in Thailand’s capital city. She spent seven years in Scotland, where she researched malaria vaccines and earned her Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Edinburgh. Now back in Thailand, Kelwalin works as a patent specialist for an intellectual-properties law firm, and also teaches science to schoolchildren part-time. Her professional and volunteer efforts, she says, are motivated by her belief that science and cultural diversity ignite people’s curiosity, which is a catalyst for innovative ideas that change the world. When Kelwalin isn’t immersed in patents and education, she’s usually learning a new language or honing her calligraphy skills.

Jae YoonJae Yoon Kang (South Korea)
Civil engineer

A Seoul native, Jae Yoon holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering, and he’s currently a research fellow at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT). After he discovered TED Talks and the huge number of translators dedicated to spreading innovative ideas around the world, Jae Yoon joined TED Translators so he, too, could help such knowledge reach new audiences regardless of language, cultural, geographical and other barriers. He’s a strong believer in TED’s power to steer our world in positive directions—and in the existence of other lifeforms (read: aliens) in the universe.

MaricenneMaricene Crus (Brazil)
Film translator + English teacher

Maricene began cultivating a passion for languages at an early age, and since then, English especially has been a significant part of her life. In addition, she’s fluent in Italian and currently studying French. Maricene holds a journalism degree, but she’s devoted much of her last 18-plus years to translating for various Brazilian film festivals, including the International Film Festival of São Paulo and the Jewish Film Festival, among others. On top of all this, she’s worked as a private English teacher for two decades. Maricene joined TED Translators after a move took her away from her longtime volunteer efforts with São Paulo-based organization GRAACC, which provides support for a cancer-care hospital for children and teens. She says translating TED Talks gave her an ideal alternative to the volunteering she had to leave behind: Now she can both volunteer and continue to refine her translation chops. Singing, photography, watching movies, reading and enjoying nature are what occupy Maricene’s free time.

MisatoMisato Noto (Japan)
Freelance translator

Born and raised in Japan, Misato holds a bachelor’s in English from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and she now lives and works as a freelance translator in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Immersing herself in the country’s rich and rhythmic Trinbagonian English and taking care of her lovely cat, Tama, are what Misato enjoys most outside of translating. She regards TED Talks as powerful tools that enable people the world over to encounter a seemingly infinite amount of diverse and inspiring perspectives.

AnaliaAnalia Padin (Argentina)
Business analyst + civil engineer

Hailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Analia studied civil engineering at university. Alongside her love of mathematics, science and all things technical, she’s maintained a lifelong fascination with languages and a special interest in translation. Analia moved to London in 2004 to pursue a management consultancy career, which allowed her to visit many European countries. She currently works as a business analyst in digital transformation projects, where she uses her engineering mindset to find creative solutions to business problems; in particular, Analia enjoys analyzing data and bridging the gaps between tech teams and end users (“which,” she points out, “is also an act of translation!”). An avid learner with a wide range of interests, she feels at home with TED Translators—for which she translates from English, French, Italian and Portuguese into Spanishand only wishes she’d joined the team years ago. In her spare time, Analia plays the piano, reads (and writes a little) poetry and takes in as much as she can of London’s art and culture.

CesarCésar Incio (Peru)
Freelance translator

César calls Chiclayo, Peru—a city located in the country’s northwest, quite close to the Pacific coast—his home, and it’s there he works as a freelance translator and interpreter for several international organizations, including the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which, in its own words, “Give(s) the gift of hearing to those in need, empowering them to achieve their potential.” In addition, César is an English- and Spanish-language monitoring and evaluation specialist for an online South Korean translation platform. On his work with TED Translators, he says: “TED Talks have many times shown me just how powerful ideas can become, especially as they spread; so I joined TED Translators in order to help expose the global Spanish-speaking community to these potent ideas.” Besides languages, César’s other interests include (as his portfolio of subtitled talks indicates) cognitive sciences, technology and art. His personal motto? Follow thy inner passion; she knows the right way.

LeilaLeila Ataei (Iran)
Economic + commercial policy officer, Embassy of Netherlands, Tehran

Leila comes to TED Translators from Tehran, Iran’s capital and most populous city—and what she calls the country’s “dynamic beating heart, the place where one can get a handle on modern Iran and its likely future”. Though Leila studied English translation at university, she spent a fair share of her career in business, and she now works as an economic and commercial policy officer for the Embassy of Netherlands in Tehran. She says that TED Talks have fascinated her from the first time she watched one, especially because they brilliantly spotlight and impart on a global scale so many indispensable stories in the realms of science and education. A fervent believer in empowerment through education, particularly for youth and women, Leila joined TED Translators to spread TED Talks’ world-changing ideas to Farsi-speaking communities everywhere. She also loves meeting new people, reading and exploring new locales.

SritalaSritala Dhanasarnsombut (Thailand)
Digital marketer

Describing herself as a “Bangkokian with a bit of an American accent when I speak English”, Sritala credits her work with TED Translators for leading her to a career in digital marketing. She also teaches Thai and English part-time. When she’s not busy with either of these endeavors, Sritala enjoys learning new languages, reading, and visiting museums.

ZeinebZeineb Trabelsi (Tunisia + Switzerland)
Certified translator

Zeineb was born in Bizerta, Tunisia, the African continent’s northernmost city. She grew up in a multicultural family that has members in both her country of birth and Switzerland. Both sides of her family, she says, inform her identity. Zeineb’s intense interest in languages and different cultures began at an early age, so it’s no surprise that she holds a master’s degree in translation from the University of Geneva. She’s worked for various international organizations, including the United Nations and Médecins Sans Frontières, and she’s volunteered in some capacity for most of her life. One of Zeineb’s primary aims as a translator is to help break boundaries between different cultures. She spends her time away from languages and words hanging out and traveling with her two children.

Editor’s note: The two TED Translators below were invited to TED2018, but—we’re sorry to have to report—they will not be able to attend because their travel visas were denied by the Canadian government.

AhmadAhmad Altamimi (Jordan)
English teacher

Ahmad was born and at present resides with his wife and daughter in Jordan. With a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature already under his belt, Ahmad teaches English and is pursuing his master’s in diplomatic studies and international relations—his biggest passions, he says—at the University of Jordan in Amman. He plans to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in the same field. It makes sense, then, that Ahmad’s personal motto is: If you don’t do politics, politics will do you. As for his work with TED Translators, Ahmad considers it an obligation of his bilingualism to translate the new and important ideas highlighted in TED Talks so that folks of any language, cultural, educational and/or geographical background can access them freely in this age of ever-increasing globalization.

HaniHani Eldalees (Qatar + Palestine)
Software engineer + translator

Hani was born in Doha, Qatar. He earned his bachelor’s degree in software engineering from Canada’s Thompson Rivers University, and he received his master’s in audiovisual translation from Qatar’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, where he studied and worked in the school’s Translation and Interpreting Institute. With TED Translators, Hani’s goal has been to enrich online Arabic content, and he’s certainly been doing just that: In fact, Hani is one of TED’s most prolific Arabic translators.

TED Translators culture series returns with a look at the music of John K. Samson

Some time back, you may recall, we started a culture series for the site to highlight TED Translators’ cultural interests outside of translation. We’re happy to report that we’re resuming the series and that we plan to publish contributions on a regular basis. To kick off this return, yours truly is throwing his hat in the ring with the music recommendation below. But before that, one more thing: If you, dear readers, would like to make your own recommendations (in this case, music), feel free to do so in the comments section; we’d love to know what’s inspiring you and feature it in a future post.

Singer-songwriter John K. Samson. (Photo credit: Leif Norman.)

Winnipeg, Manitoba-based folk-rock singer and songwriter John K. Samson has been crafting distinctly profound and poetic music for over two decades now. In 1993, while a bassist and sometimes-vocalist/lyricist for punk band Propagandhi (who also hail from Winnipeg), Samson began a long stretch of recording and releasing his own material—a stretch that continues to this day. During this time, he’s arguably become known most for fronting yet another Winnipeg act, The Weakerthans, but it’s safe to say that Samson’s solo work stands on its own, traversing and exploring a vast landscape of emotion and experience as sincerely and empathetically as any of his other music. Also a published poet, Samson writes songs that abound with the qualities of excellent verse, as put by British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “…the best words in their best order.” Samson’s lyrics possess no fluff, no decoration, but they’re far from spare; they often encapsulate whole lives or histories with what seems like effortlessness—but an ease which belies the meticulous writing and editing actually behind them. This extends as well to the melodies, harmonies and tempos of Samson’s work. As for his vocals—well, they’re hard—perhaps impossible—to describe without resorting to facile comparisons. I’ve yet to try, and I won’t here. I only humbly suggest you listen to them yourself, and then decide if you agree with me that their valence with regard to Samson’s music is near-perfect. In short, one listens to a John K. Samson track and thinks (among other things): I can’t imagine this song, its words, its music any other way.

While Samson’s first “official” solo record, 2012’s Provincial, largely reckons with isolation, with lonely people in remote places who seem trapped in their circumstances (for example, a tuberculosis patient warehoused and forgotten in a sanatorium, or an overweight schoolteacher jilted by her ex-lover/principal and mocked by her students for her figure), Winter Wheat, his 2016 follow-up, surveys what such isolation can do to us and what it can make us do. Depression, addiction, self-delusion, retreating farther into loneliness—the 15 songs on Winter Wheat, colored in large part by Neil Young’s 1974 album On the Beach, grapple with all of these and more. But running underneath these struggles is a current of redemption, or at least an attempt at it, that slowly but surely reveals itself with each listen.

Here, where one might expect a track-by-track or selected-track analysis of Samson’s two LPs, I’ll spare you that predictable tedious exercise that never comes close to hearing a record for yourself, and I’ll steer you over here and here instead, where you can listen to Provincial and Winter Wheat, respectively, in their entireties—and watch videos for three songs. Enjoy, fellow travelers!

Happy New Year—with a few shout-outs to TED Translators


Happy 2018, everyone!

Here at TED Translators, we’re well-aware of the tremendous amount of work our volunteers put into each and every TED Talk translation in order to spread novel ideas and indispensable knowledge around the world. Even so, we always appreciate when folks outside the translation community express their gratitude for TED Translators’ continuous efforts; such shout-outs go a long way toward reaffirming the mission of our volunteers, as well as inspiring them to keep plugging away.

Recently, TED Speakers Roger Antonsen and Carol Fishman Cohen reached out to us with generous thanks for helping their respective talks, “Math is the hidden secret to understanding the world” and “How to get back to work after a career break”, each hit about two million views to date. Here’s what Roger told us:

To have your words—indeed your spoken words—translated into so many languages, most of which you don’t speak yourself, is thrilling and fascinating, and I’m so grateful for all the time the translators and reviewers have put into my talk. It’s exciting to know that your words can reach more people, in particular those with hearing impairment, simply because they are transcribed and translated. Thank you, translators and reviewers!

And here’s Carol’s thank-you on the TED Translators Facebook group page.

As we head into another year chock-full of TED and TEDx gatherings, accolades like Roger’s and Carol’s will certainly add fuel to TED Translators’ fire to continue their vital work.

TED Translators at TED@Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

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On November 28, the inaugural TED@Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany gathering went down at London’s Here East. The event, produced by TED and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany through the TED Institute program, convened 16 innovators in healthcare, art, technology, psychology and other fields to speak under the banner of “Breakthroughs”. Among the attendees was a contingent of veteran and new TED Translators from London and neighboring areas who came together not only to engage with the speakers’ novel ideas, but also to connect with each other in person and share their translation knowledge and experiences.

Of the wide variety of talks delivered at TED@Merck  KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, one which resonated most with the TED Translators was Tiffany Watt Smith’s The history of human emotions. A research fellow at the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, Smith probed how the words we choose to describe our emotions can in turn affect how we feel; furthermore, our emotional lexicons often change in response to shifts in cultural expectations and perceptions. “[Emotions] are shaped not just by our bodies,” she explained, “but by our thoughts, our concepts, our language…[A]s language changes, our emotions do, too.” This observation drove home a crucial point for the TED Translators, especially since one of the translator’s key, frequently painstaking jobs is to distill ideas into their appropriate words: If language can influence emotions, then the translator’s quest to find the right words for her translations must extend into the realm of emotional accuracy as well.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the initial TED@Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany gathering was itself a breakthrough, giving everyone who attended and spoke plenty of new food for thought. For their part, the TED Translators group wrapped up their time at the event feeling inspired, better-connected with each other and more committed than ever to the art of translation.

Apply for your TED2018 Translator Pass now!

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Greetings, Translators! We’re thrilled to announce that the application period for TED Translator Passes to TED2018 is now open. The gathering will run from April 10 to 14, 2018, in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. The TED Translator Pass covers the conference fee, and travel and accommodation expenses. Please note that you must be a TED Translator with at least one set of published subtitles in order to be eligible for a pass. The application deadline is December 22, 2017, and you can apply here.

TED2018’s theme? The Age of Amazement—which we think more than accurately describes our present era. As politics, globalization, technology, the future of work and even what it means to be human are all continually reinvented before our eyes, it’s time for us to take a collective breath and assess and prepare for the momentous shifts ahead. To that end, TED2018 will go all-out to bring you visibility into the key developments driving our future—from jaw-dropping AI to glorious new forms of creativity to courageous advocates of radical social change. We’ll include critics and skeptics, as well as the quiet heroes advancing novel ideas we can rally around. And through it all, we’ll seek exciting and insightful ways forward. We hope you’ll join us!