TED Translators at TED2020: a recap

TED2020 Language Exchange hosted by TED Translators

This year, TED’s annual flagship conference took place online for the first time ever due to the COVID-19 pandemic. TED2020, appropriately themed “Uncharted”, was converted into an eight-week virtual event that spanned June and July.

A selected contingent of 12 TED Translators participated in the gathering, which featured a talk by Bill Gates on how COVID-19 will shape our future, as well as a talk by Malala Yousafzai that addressed why advocating for girls’ education will be essential to rebuilding our societies in the wake of the pandemic. TED Translators also attended a timely panel discussion about how we can potentially end systemic racism in the U.S. What’s more, they enjoyed TED2020’s main stage sessions each Thursday and engaged in a wide array of Discovery Sessions with TED Speakers and other TED-sters. Head here to read weekly highlights from the conference.

In addition to all of the above action, a group of six TED Translators hosted a social-hour gathering for TED2020 attendees and speakers called “Language Exchange”. This meetup enabled those who participated in it to explore various alphabets, dialects and indigenous languages from around the world; at the same time, the session provided a concentrated look into what it’s like to be a TED Translator and the incredible work these translators do on a daily basis.

TED2020 wrapped up on July 10, but there was an extra deep-dive treat for the TED Translators who attended the conference. On July 15, they met online with three-time TED Speaker Sally Kohn, author of the book “The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity”, which was the basis of her TEDWomen 2017 talk “What we can do about the culture of hate”. All of the translators had read Sally’s book prior to this first-ever virtual TED Translators book club gathering, so everybody was primed for an in-depth conversation with her during which they asked the author questions, shared their reflections on her thesis and discussed personal experiences with hate. Moved by the stories she heard, Sally explained that one of the best antidotes to hate is information—which, of course, TED Translators are dedicated to spreading as freely and widely as possible every day.

TED2020 Translators discuss combatting hate with TED Speaker Sally Kohn

TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 3

For the third edition of our “TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine” series, we took a quick look at what the Indonesian language community has been up to during the global pandemic.

In late March, Indonesian Language Coordinator (LC) Ade Indarta and TED Translator/TEDx organizer Deera Army Pramana hosted an educational webinar that was attended by 35 translators in the Indonesian language community.

The event began with a tutorial on Amara that was led by Deera. Ade followed up Deera’s “Amara 101” session with a presentation that focused on mistakes TED Translators—especially new volunteers—often make in their work.

A Q&A period wrapped up the webinar, during which participants posed any translation-related questions they had to Ade and Deera.

This virtual gathering was further proof that TED Translators communities, whether in Indonesia or elsewhere in the world, continue to thrive despite the drastic burdens COVID-19 has imposed on all of our lives.


P.S. If you’d like to host a TED Translators virtual workshop, discussion session, translate-athon, transcribe-athon, or if you’re part of a TEDx team looking to recruit TED Translators for your online event, feel free to reach out to us at translate@ted.com. We’re here to support you!

TED Translators get innovative during COVID-19 quarantine // Part 1

Kurdish LC Daban Jaff (center) with Koya University students and TED Translators

Greetings, everybody! It’s been a while since our last post, so we’re excited to share this new story with you. But first and most importantly, we here at TED Translators hope you’ve all been safe and sound during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

As it’s spread around the world, forcing us to isolate and social distance indefinitely in order to slow and stop it, the latest novel coronavirus has altered our lives in countless profound and drastic ways. It hasn’t, however, diminished our individual and collective creative capacities. Case in point: TED Translators in many countries have come up with various inventive means to continue translating and collaborating in their respective language communities.

In this time of worldwide fear and uncertainty, then, we’re happy to highlight the ingenuity of several of these translators in a multi-part series. For this first installment we spoke with Kurdish TED Translator and Language Coordinator (LC) Daban Jaff, an instructor at Koya University in Iraq, who recently organized and has overseen a virtual translate-athon with his students.

“Once the university shut down,” Daban told us, “my students (many of whom are experienced TED Translators) and I began to brainstorm how we could keep busy during quarantine. We eventually devised a project wherein each student would translate at least four TED Talks into Kurdish in 10 days. So far,” Daban reported, “nearly 40 of my students have translated well over 100 talks, and 60 more translations are in the works.” For his part, Daban has been reviewing all of his students’ translations and providing them with both individualized and group feedback.

Koya University students and TED Translators in Iraq

Daban also told us that this virtual translate-athon has been a tremendous psychological boost for him and his students during these days of self-isolation. For student and TED Translator Aga Ismael, “Nothing but volunteering has been able to cheer me up. The opportunities for collaboration and mutual support—for human connection—that it offers are boundless and have been heartening for me. I hope this TED Translators project continues for as long as possible.”

What’s more, in an effort to expand the Kurdish translation community, Daban arranged for a few local newspapers to publish his students’ translations along with links to the translated talks. You can find articles here and here.

Daban and his students’ virtual translate-athon, by any measure, has been a remarkable success and an exemplary blueprint for how TED Translators, wherever they’re based, can keep their language communities motivated and active while waiting out COVID-19’s demise.

In the next two weeks, we’ll bring you more stories of such resilience from other translation communities, so do check back in with us for those.

And stay safe out there!