TED Translators at TEDxUlaanbaatarLive

TEDxUBLive organizers

TEDxUlaanbaatar events have been taking place in Mongolia for several years now, contributing substantially to the Mongolian translation community’s steady growth. On April 27, Tuya Bat, a Mongolian TED Translator and TEDWomen 2016 attendee, along with a number of other TED Translators and TEDxUlaanbaatar volunteers, added to this growth with TEDxUlaanbaatarLive.

The gathering featured talks from TED2017, which Tuya and her colleagues translated into Mongolian and then screened at a new theater in Ulaanbaatar. Attendees were treated to some of the newest TED Talks in an atmosphere meant to approximate TED2017 as much as possible.

As Tuya said after TEDxUlaanbaatarLive, the event was a resounding success, particularly because it marked the first collaboration between Mongolian TED Translators and TEDx volunteers, and because it provided those in attendance with a unique opportunity to engage with recent TED Talks in their native language in almost real time.

Plans are already under way for more TEDxLive gatherings in Mongolia, so stay tuned here for updates on those.

TED Translators Translateathon in Syria


On April 17 and 18, the TEDxArabInternationalUniversity translateathon took place in Damascus, Syria. The event was a collaboration between Magma, a Syrian educational and social enterprise founded and headed by Arabic TED Translator Ghalia Turki, and TEDxArabInternationalUniversity organizers.

Day one saw the eight participants translate six recent TEDxArabInternationalUniversity talks from Arabic to English. On the second day, the translators reviewed the previous day’s translations. The talks will be available online soon.

To round out the translateathon, the attendees watched a video of Mario Gioto discussing his experience as a TED Translator and the benefits and possibilities afforded by translating TED and TEDx talks. The participants also received gift bags that included books published by TED, as well as bookmarks containing inspirational quotes from TED Translators around the world. As Ghalia remarked after the gathering, everyone involved walked away with not only sharpened translation chops, but palpable excitement to ramp up their translating efforts in the future, too.

TED Translators Director Kristin Windbigler Says Goodbye

Written by Kristin Windbigler

I like tidy endings, so it seems fitting to say goodbye just a few days before the TED Translators program celebrates its eighth anniversary. There are so many reasons for all of us to be proud of what we’ve achieved in that time, but what makes me beam unabashedly is that this program demonstrates every single day that people — often strangers, at least at first —  can collaborate remotely across borders, cultures and languages to do something as important as translate the ideas presented on the TED stage.

In the months leading up to May 13, 2009, I was already working with more than 200 of you to create a pool of translations that would seed our initiative. Finding that many people who were willing to volunteer dozens of hours of time subtitling videos seemed like quite an accomplishment in itself, although in all truth it really wasn’t that difficult. Ever since TED first unveiled the talks online in 2006, people had been writing for permission to translate and share them with others who didn’t speak English. So the idea for the TED Translators program wasn’t actually ours. It was yours.

Our job was to design a scalable system that would allow anyone—anywhere—to translate any talk into any language while still achieving the best quality possible. We had a hunch that if we were able to do that, it would foster a community of translators around the world, passionate about language, accuracy and quality—and, of course, TED. Now that our ranks have grown to more than 27,000 volunteers who have produced 111,000 sets of subtitles in 114 languages, it’s easy to forget that in the early days there were plenty of doubters who said, “You can’t just let anyone translate a TED Talk!”

In the spirit of radical openness, though, we pressed on — which isn’t to say we were certain what would happen when we flipped the switch on that day in 2009. We suspected there would still be more people eager to join, but we weren’t prepared for just how many. The response was so overwhelming that colleagues from other TED departments had to pitch in to help me process the applications for several weeks afterward. That’s how I first met Jenny Zurawell, now the TED Translators program deputy director. Later the team grew to include Dimitra Papageorgiou, Ivana Korom, Krystian Aparta, Helene Batt and Barb Allen. The confidence I have in this team is immeasurable. The program couldn’t be in more capable hands, and I look forward to seeing what you all achieve together next (spoiler alert: you guys are going to remain awesome!).

Beginning next month, I will embark on a new adventure as the executive director of the Western Folklife Center, which hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering every year in Elko, Nevada. I will be forever grateful for this opportunity to work with all of you. Not many people in the world are lucky enough to have friends in 155 countries, but I am among at least 27,000 or so who do. Thank you so much for your friendship and what you have shared with me about your corner of the globe. And keep contributing what you do to the world. It’s important.


TED Translators at TEDxExeter

TEDxExeter / Exeter School of Art

On April 21, the sixth TEDxExeter event took place at the English city’s Northcott Theatre. Over a dozen speakers and performers—ranging from renowned author and TED Speaker Andrew Solomon to the music and empowerment group Kagemusha Taiko—and more than 900 attendees gathered to explore the theme of Hope.

Among those in attendance at TEDxExeter were TED Translators community manager Dimitra Papageorgiou and nine TED Translators, representing eight different languages, who’d been invited as honored guests by the conference’s curator, Claire Kennedy:

Screened from the main stage was the short video Everybody can transcribe TEDx talks!, a primer on the importance, benefits and relative ease of getting involved with transcribing TEDx talks. After the screening, a number of TEDxExeter attendees availed themselves to start transcribing and translating the conference’s talks into their respective languages. In addition, the eight UK-based TED Translators present at the event created a Facebook group for future exchanges and collaborations.

TED Translators idiom stickers at TED2017


Before TED2017 got under way earlier this week, the 10 TED Translators invited to the conference submitted idioms in their native languages; these were then illustrated by UK artist Masahito Leo Takeuchi and turned into stickers.

As a fun way for the translators to connect with their fellow TED2017 attendees and share a part of their respective cultures, they’ve been giving out their stickers to folks and explaining the idioms pictured on them.

Check out the idiom stickers from TED2017 and TEDSummit 2016 (where idiom stickers were handed out for the first time) here.

TED Translators Workshop at TED2017

Yesterday, ahead of TED2017’s kickoff in Vancouver earlier today, TED Translators held a workshop for the 10 translators invited to the conference. (Ghalia Turki, an Arabic translator from Syria, was forced to attend via Skype after she was unable to obtain a visa.)

After an introduction and a fun tongue-twister activity (more on that later this week), TED Translators staff gave presentations on topics ranging from finding and posting TED Talks to aligning Amara development with TED Translators’ needs. Check out the YouTube playlist above to watch these presentations.

The workshop wound down with an open discussion session, during which the attendees shared ideas and approaches on mentorship in different language communities and handling long subtitle-review queues, among other issues. All in all, the workshop was a useful and productive warmup for the TED Translators as they headed into TED2017.

Photo: Marla Aufmuth / TED