Building bridges between our minds and our hearts with TED Translator Anny Chung

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Photo courtesy of Anny Chung.

Our closer look at the TED Translators who attended TEDWomen 2017 last week continues with Chinese translator Anny Chung. Her response to our questionsWhat’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?—illuminates an essential bridge to be built if we’re to have any success in tackling our world’s biggest problems.


I believe one of the most important bridges we must build is that between our minds and our hearts. As a scientist, I deal in evidence, facts and logic. To me, many of our world’s most urgent problems persist because of the frequent disconnect between what our minds understand to be true and what our hearts obstinately wish were true.

For example, a wealth of evidence points to global warming and climate change as crises that will exact huge human and economic costs in the coming century; yet we do nothing to counter them because we’re comfortable in our current lives. Gun-control policies around the world have firmly established that gun-safety laws decrease civilian death tolls; yet scores of people still feel maligned and threatened by the prospect of increased firearms regulation. Research reveals again and again that institutional racism exists and that equality does not necessarily amount to justice; yet many American families and schools avoid much-needed conversations because even broaching the subject feels uncomfortable. Globally, women’s health and economic statuses improve when they can access birth control and exercise autonomy over their own bodies; yet groups and individuals continue to willfully deny women these rights.

The fact that one doesn’t personally perceive climate change, experience gun violence or struggle under systemic biases doesn’t mean that these (and other) pressing issues in our world don’t exist. If we could open our hearts to the collective wisdom of minds everywhere, our world would be a saner place. What’s more, it would be a place that celebrates solutions rather than turning a blind eye to its problems.

Building bridges to peace with TED Translator Cihan Ekmekçi

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Photo courtesy of Cihan Ekmekçi.

Late last week, in the first installment of our series intended to better get to know the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017 and what this year’s conference theme, Bridges, means to them, we featured Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes’s response to the following questions:

What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?

The next answer comes to us from Turkish TED Translator Cihan Ekmekçi*, whose response homes in on one of bridge-building’s fundamental elements: unity—between all people, regardless of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Even as humanity seems to fracture more and more every day, Cihan, as you’ll discover below, is steadfast in his belief that the bridges of diversity, empathy and unity won’t weaken; if anything, they’ll grow stronger.

*(Unfortunately, due to the current visa crisis between the U.S. and Turkey, Cihan and his fellow Turkish TEDWomen invitee, Selda Yener, have been unable to obtain their visas to travel to the conference. Urdu TED Translator Raana Irfan, who lives in Pakistan, has also met with a similar bureaucratic obstruction. We, of course, are extremely disappointed by these developments, not least of all because these three translators would have enriched the already dynamic panel and presence of TED Translators at TEDWomen 2017.)


When I consider TEDWomen 2017’s theme, Bridges, I immediately find myself contemplating a frighteningly pervasive global problem: Human beings’ lack of empathy and respect for each other. Despite ever-increasing globalization that’s seen our world’s myriad cultures and nations set aside their differences in favor of more engagement (or bridges, if you will) between themselves, examples of our enmity and violence toward one another abound. It seems humans have become adept at, perhaps even resigned to, burning the bridges they’ve worked so long and hard to build.

However, I believe we haven’t yet passed the point of no return: The ability to both rebuild the bridges we’ve burned and construct new ones remains well within us. The key is that we must embrace and nurture human diversity rather than fear it. Fear is ultimately destructive, and especially so when it manifests irrationally as racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, misogyny… I’ll be the first to admit that we still have a long way to go before humanity transcends such fears; but with each successive generation, it’s quite clear that most folks prefer to live in a world where equality flourishes, where the bridges between us are preserved and fortified, where new bridges are built all the time. If we do as much as we can to keep this momentum going, I think we’ll face far better prospects for a more peaceful and sustainable world in the future.

Building bridges to gender equality with TED Translator Raissa Mendes

Raissa Mendes TED
Photo courtesy of Raissa Mendes.

Earlier this month, we profiled the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017, which runs November 1-3 in New Orleans. To get to know these fine folks a bit better and tap into what this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges, means to them, we posed the following questions to the translators:

What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?

In her response below, Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes addresses the epidemic of violence against women in Brazil, as well as the bridges required to stop the brutality and reach equality.


When you consider the social status of women in Brazil, what comes to mind? More often than not, it seems, we assume they’re free to travel, work, study, dress, express themselves as they wish—especially since Brazil is one of the world’s largest democracies. But the facts on the ground here blatantly contradict this assumption. In terms of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world for women, Brazil ranks fifth; in fact, according to the UN, a woman here is killed by violence every two hours. All of which is to say that there’s a literal life-and-death necessity in Brazil to build bridges that will quickly lead to a sea change in Brazilian society’s (particularly its men’s) treatment of women.

Sadly, violence toward women here has been pervasive for decades, despite efforts by government and law enforcement to counter and curb the crisis. What’s worse, the victimization appears to be growing more widespread. A big part of Brazil’s failure to adequately address its gender-violence epidemic stems from insufficient legislation and poor police enforcement of these laws. As Human Rights Watch reported:

Passage of the Maria da Penha law in 2006 was a milestone, establishing an array of measures to guarantee women’s rights, prevent violence, and ensure justice in the event of violence. One of the law’s main accomplishments was the creation of protective orders to provide a buffer by requiring a woman’s alleged abuser to stay away from her, though getting such an order and making sure it’s enforced remains more difficult than it should be.

Despite this progress, more than 4,700 women were killed in Brazil in 2013—the last year for which there is data—half of them by a relative, partner, or former partner. Many more suffered homicide attempts, rape, or beatings.

But the moral imperative to more aggressively combat violence against women in Brazil must also be adopted and enacted by the country’s educational systems and families—the social actors largely responsible for teaching children and young adults acceptable ways to interact with and treat other people. Even a brief look at Brazil’s history of violence toward women reveals that the problem has been passed from generation to generation like a lethal disease, with boys and young men observing, emulating and internalizing their fathers’, brothers’, friends’ behaviors. It’s beyond urgent, therefore, that teachers and parents in Brazil do much more to impart to and instill in younger generations the fundamental truth that women and men are equals, and that women ought to be regarded and treated as such. Now more than ever, we Brazilians must build unassailable bridges between our women and men that lead to lasting equality for both.

An interview with TED Translator Abhinav Garule

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Photo by Nithya Subramanian

Abhinav Garule is a Hindi and Marathi TED Translator, TEDx organizer and design student based in India. Below, he discusses how his translation and design work are related, what all good translations require, The Wisdom Well and more.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m currently a design student. I strongly believe that meaningful and novel enough ideas can change the world. One idea I’m very passionate about is open-knowledge resources, like TED. I’m also interested in exploring my strengths and weaknesses through travel, and I enjoy deep conversation and playing sports.

When and how did you first get involved with TED Translators?

My journey with TED Translators began in November 2013, when I attended and worked as part of the organizing team at TEDxPune. In a post-event translators workshop, I learned about the Amara subtitling platform and how to use it. Pranav Mistry’s TED Talk on SixthSense technology intrigued me at that time, so I decided to translate it into Hindi, my first language. Afterward, translating other TED Talks I found compelling seemed like a logical progression, so I went for it.

What were some other talks you felt drawn to translate initially?

I wanted to translate design-related talks, because back then I was preparing for the entrance exam for admission into the National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, which is one of India’s top design schools. At the same time, I discovered that translating, reviewing and approving these TED Talks in my mother tongue enhanced my understanding, in terms of design, of thought processes that lie behind the generation of products and systems. And so I credit translating TED Talks as crucial to my success at the institute’s entrance interview, and to my admission into the school.

What do you enjoy most about being a TED Translator?

I think one of the key components of a solid translation is the translator’s acute knowledge of both the language and material that she’s translating, as well as the language she’s translating into; she’s got to bridge the gap between them, so to speak. Successfully bridging that gap excites me. On top of this, seeing my translations contribute to TED’s ever-expanding dialogue of ideas and knowledge—a dialogue that transcends borders, languages, cultures—is equally exciting and a point of pride for me.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new TED Translator? And to a veteran TED Translator?

To a newbie, I’d advise focusing on clearly translating a talk’s message over precise word-to-word translation.

To a veteran TED Translator, I’d emphasize the importance of more-seasoned translators exposing marginalized communities to TED Talks in these communities’ native languages; I believe doing so can go a long way toward social reform, improving quality of life and solving day-to-day problems in such parts of the world.

To change gears, is there a work of art (a book, film, painting, sculpture—anything) that’s resonated with you recently?

About a month ago, I visited a museum in Khetri, a remote village near Jaipur, India. While there, I checked out an installation called The Wisdom Well, which depicts the Indian Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda’s life lessons. Each time a visitor to The Wisdom Well draws its bucket, meant to symbolize knowledge, a screen in the well displays a different story by Swami Vivekananda. My interpretation of this installation is that we simply must be thirsty for knowledge to acquire it—which I think nicely parallels my experience with TED: The more I dig, the more I find ideas worth spreading.

Finally, if you could give any TED Talk, what would it be?

It would be “Enhancing literacy through translation”.

TED Translators and TEDx team up for Damascus translateathon

Damascus

On September 17th and 18th, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon, a collaboration between the Syrian TED Translators and TEDx communities, took place in Damascus, Syria, at SEBC. The gathering was organized and led by Arabic TED Translator Ghalia Turki, with the aim of introducing TED and the TED Translators project to new volunteer translators; it was sponsored by the UNFPA.

Ghalia kicked things off with an overview of TED and TED Translators, and then guided the 15 attendees through an Amara tutorial, translation tips and common mistakes to avoid. Afterward, the participants chose several random TEDx Talks and broke into pairs to translate the talks from English to Arabic. The translateathon ran for 12 hours.

Once the groups finished their translations, Ghalia reviewed their work, tallying errors and making helpful notes for the translators. She then selected the two pairs who submitted the best translations, taking into account accuracy and speed. The four winners, so to speak, were each awarded coupons of 10.000 Syrian Pounds (SYP) courtesy of an English library in Damascus, while all the other participants received coupons worth 5000 SYP.

On the whole, the TEDxYouth@JahezTranslateathon was yet another productive step forward for the Syrian translation community, as well as for more frequent collaborative efforts between TED Translators and TEDx.

A look at the TED Translators selected to attend TEDWomen 2017

TEDWomen 2017, set to take place November 1-3 in New Orleans, LA, is fast approaching, so it’s high time for us to introduce you to the TED Translators selected to attend the gathering! In countries around the globe, these extraordinary folks are gearing up to convene at NOLA’s historic Orpheum Theater to engage with this year’s theme: Bridges. Read on below to get to know a bit more about these bridge builders.

AnnyAnny Chung (Taiwan)
Postdoctoral researcher in ecology
Anny was born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and split her childhood years between her hometown and Christchurch, New Zealand. She currently resides in Logan, Utah, where she’s a postdoctoral researcher in ecology at Utah State University. Her studies there focus on the importance of interactions between plants and microbes with regard to maintaining coexistence and diversity in nature. Anny is also an avid musician and often plays violin in local orchestras. Her passion for translating ideas runs through her science and musical endeavors, as well as her translation work in Chinese and English.

CihanCihan Ekmekçi (Turkey)
Linguist + interpreter
Hailing from Turkey, Cihan’s immersion in the translation world began with his English-language studies in business administration and international relations, and continued with his specialization in applied languages (English and Spanish) at Spain’s Technical University of Valencia. Cihan then obtained a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification, and has since taught Turkish to U.S. citizens, and English and Spanish to Turkish citizens. In addition, he’s worked as an interpreter and HR professional at several international organizations. Cihan’s guiding motto in life and work is: It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

SeldaSelda Yener (Turkey)
Certified translator + student
Selda was born and raised in Turkey, studied English and English literature at university, and she now works as a freelance certified translator. She’s also pursuing a degree in German translation and interpreting, and brushing up on her Arabic. As a Turkish TED Translator, Selda considers herself a bridge between different languages and cultures who enables ideas and knowledge to more freely cross back and forth around the world. Aside from her translation work, she enjoys reading, cycling, meditating and being out and about in nature.

StefaniaStefania Betti (Italy)
Business developer
Stefania is an Italian native who holds degrees in foreign languages and literatures, international communication for business, and global marketing and communication. After working for six years at the Belgian-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Brussels, she returned to Italy to apply her expertise there: Her current efforts involve developing ways to leverage workplace diversity as an asset rather than an issue to be managed, particularly when it comes to gender and age gaps. Stefania is a firm believer in education as vital to individuals’ freedom, intellectually and otherwise, and she regards an open mind as our most valuable tool; these convictions have been her primary motivators as a TED Translator.

MonikaMonika Saraf (India + U.S.)
Tutor
Originally from Chamba, a small town in northern India that’s nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Monika has lived in the U.S. with her husband and two children for seven years. She holds a master’s degree in economics from Himachal Pradesh University, and worked as a lecturer in her home country. Since moving to the U.S., Monika has volunteered as a tutor at multiple schools. She also volunteered as a translator with the Khan Academy before joining TED Translators as a Hindi translator last year, when she realized that her students back in India could benefit greatly from engaging with TED Talks. Outside of translating, Monika enjoys cooking, gardening and all the wonders nature has to offer.

MasakoMasako Kigami (Japan)
Translator + administrator at the Eiken Foundation of Japan + national tour guide
Masako lives in Hiroshima, Japan, where she works in several language- and culture-related roles: professional translator; administrator at the Eiken Foundation of Japan (a public organization that promotes and tests English proficiency); and official guide at Hiroshima’s Atomic Bomb Dome and Itsukushima Shrine. After she discovered TED Talks and the empowerment and inspiration they provide her, Masako joined TED Translators so she could share with others the ideas that move her.

RaissaRaissa Mendes (Brazil)
Civil servant + teacher (retired)
Raissa is a longtime Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator and Language Coordinator. She holds a master’s degree in linguistics, and spent much of her career as a civil servant in Brazil, editing and proofreading official government documents. Raissa’s civil service work also included compiling, as part of a team, the English-Portuguese Glossary of Parliamentary Terms and the Manual of Parliamentary Writing for the Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais, a state in southeastern Brazil. In addition to all this, she taught courses on communicating in Portuguese in both public and professional settings, and on drafting official documents. Now retired, Raissa devotes most of her time to translating in the education arena, with TED Talks accounting for a large portion of her efforts. Her fervent belief in the notion that expanding access to education and inspiring by example are crucial to building a future with less social inequality and exclusion—in Brazil and around the world—is what daily drives her contributions to TED Translators.

IvanIvan Stamenković (Croatia)
Program coordinator
Ivan is a veteran TED Translator who’s worked with the project since 2011, when it was still called the Open Translation Project. A Croation Language Coordinator, he’s organized multiple TEDxOsijek events. He’s a staunch believer in the power of new and evolving ideas to change the world, on both macro- and microlevels—a power he discusses in his TEDx Talk. Outside of TED Translators, Ivan is a program coordinator at SVIT, where, in his words, he “helps people get to know the Silicon Valley mentality and provides them with the tools to make their ideas reality.”

RaanaRaana Irfan (Pakistan)
Educator
A native of Pakistan’s second-most populous city, Lahore, Raana has worked in various teaching capacities for the past two decades. She’s currently a senior training manager in The City School of Lahore’s professional development department. Raana’s commitment to preserving and promoting human rights, particularly those of women and children, has led her to perform at the AJOKA Theater for Social Change, where she’s aimed to use theater to raise awareness of Pakistan’s human rights problems. When she’s not training or performing, Raana spends her time reading, writing poetry and cooking for her family. She credits her grandson, Ayaan, for teaching her the meaning of her life.

An interview with Hindi TED Translator Adisha Aggarwal

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Photo courtesy of Adisha Aggarwal.

We’ve been on a brief hiatus since our last post, but we’re excited to return on the cusp of fall with an interview with Hindi TED Translator Adisha Aggarwal. Read on to learn about Adisha’s translation work, how she’s developed a better understanding of the complexities and nuances of language, one of her favorite books and more.


To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Personally, I’m a happy soul. Professionally, I’m a program manager at Akamai Technologies in Bangalore, India.

When and how did you start translating with TED Translators?

I attended TEDxCambridge in September 2016, during a visit to the U.S. I had watched numerous TED Talks on YouTube prior to this, but I hadn’t been to a live TED event yet. It was an overwhelming experience—in a great way: I was spellbound by the speakers’ passion and animation, and extremely impressed by how well the gathering was executed.

On the same visit, a colleague told me she’d translated a number of TED Talks into Hindi via TED Translators, and I was immediately intrigued by this opportunity to make ideas and information accessible to non-English speakers. I then applied to become a Hindi TED Translator as soon as I could.

Were there specific talks or subjects you gravitated toward when you started translating?

When I began searching for talks that were available for Hindi translation, I decided my work should help viewers gain new knowledge on a subject and/or enable them to understand the challenges other societies face.

I initially translated several talks on the importance of learning different languages, the power of mathematics and the impact of online abuse. After these, I was drawn to translating Ted-Ed lessons because they allow viewers to understand a new topic in a short span of time.

What is the Hindi translation community like? How large is it? Is it growing?

Interesting question. Currently, there are about 50 Hindi TED Translators, some of whom are extremely active and a few of whom have translated over 100 talks. All of them, however, are dedicated to spreading ideas and knowledge in the Hindi language.

I’d like to add here that India is a multilingual country with around 122 major languages and 1599 other languages, so the Indian translation community isn’t limited to Hindi. In fact, TED’s website indicates there are close to 200 TED Translators in India, and not all of them work in Hindi.

What do you enjoy most about being a TED Translator?

It provides a unique avenue to explore the depth and complexity of Hindi, my first language. I studied Hindi in school for 13 years and use it daily. But what you might call everyday Hindi is quite different from the language’s written version, which is more formal, and translating has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of both. In addition, working as a TED Translator has improved my English and made me more attentive to grammatical variations between different languages.

I also like the fact that translating requires I think more deeply about the subject and content of talks than I might if I were just watching them; I become more invested in and excited about the ideas presented.

Last but not least, I thoroughly enjoy the chance TED Translators gives me to help important knowledge and ideas transcend language, cultural and many other barriers.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to a new TED Translator? And to a veteran TED Translator?

I’d say to a new TED Translator: Research—a lot. More specifically, research to figure out the best yet simplest words you can use in your translations before you finalize your subtitles. It’s not uncommon for some words to exist in only one language, and these can be challenging to translate, but it’s almost always possible to find their optimal counterparts.

As to the second part of this question, I believe I need to do lots more translating before I feel qualified to give advice to a veteran TED Translator.

What are your interests outside of translating?

I love to watch TED Talks, of course—which is how I developed an interest in translation—as well as documentaries, movies and TV series. Reading is big for me, too. And running, especially in nice weather.

Is there a work of art (a book, film, painting, sculpture—anything) that’s resonated with you recently?

Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens. It blew my mind; it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a sweeping study of humankind—evolution, agriculture, societies, religions, human behavior and so much more—that’s carried out so interestingly and in such clear prose, I could hardly put the book down.

If you could give any TED Talk, what would it be?

“What women need to do differently to conquer the world”.