TED Conference Talks Now Available in Multiple Languages

TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design), the annual conference that brings together influential people from the areas of technology, entertainment and design, is now offering translated videos of speeches and performances from its conferences. According to the Huffington Post, “the TED Open Translation Project is one of the most comprehensive attempts by a major media platform to subtitle and index online video content. It’s also a groundbreaking effort in the public, professional use of volunteer translation.”

One of the most distinctive features about this project is that it allows volunteers who visit the site to translate talks into their native languages, with no restrictions as to which languages can be used. To get the project started, a small number of talks were translated by professionals into 20 different languages, but from then on, volunteers took over. Now, the project has over 300 videos translated into 42 different languages and more are being added everyday.

The languages of the translations range from languages as dominant as Mandarin Chinese to languages like Kirghiz, which only has about 4 million speakers. The translations are available in the form of subtitles, shown on the bottom of the video player, and as transcripts. The transcripts are interactive-you can use them to select the part of the video that you’d like to play back.

Other than the sense of satisfaction that comes from doing a good thing, what’s in it for the volunteers? The volunteers who translate these videos get credited for their work, and set up profiles on the TED site. So, if you volunteer to translate, you get the ability to promote yourself on an established website.

All in all, this is a cool project. The videos make the knowledge exchanged at the TED conferences available to everyone, and the translations mean that more people across the world will benefit.

5 Inspiring TED Talks About Translation

If you’re looking for inspiration or a new perspective on a particular topic, TED Talks are a fantastic resource. If you’re not familiar with TED, it’s an organisation that showcases “ideas worth spreading” through conferences that feature short talks from speakers around the world.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of our favourite TED talks about translation (and languages in general).

 TED Talks About Translation: Lera Boroditsky, How Language Shapes the Way We Think

How does language shape the way we think? That’s a question that’s occupied researchers and academics alike for decades.  In this TED talk, cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky describes some of the fascinating ways that linguistic diversity can shape the way people experience the world. For example, unless the sun is rising or setting, most of us would have a hard time pointing to “North” without a compass. But in some indigenous Australian cultures, there’s no “left” or “right” or “this way” or “that way.” There’s just north, south, east, west and all of the directions in between. So, people from these cultures develop a much better internal compass than we do, because their language forces them to practice that skill more than we do.
People sometimes ask why it’s important to preserve endangered languages. Wouldn’t everything be better if we all spoke the same language, anyway? Boroditsky ends her speech with a powerful antidote to that line of thought:
“[T]he beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is. Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000 — there are 7,000 languages spoken around the world. And we can create many more — languages, of course, are living things, things that we can hone and change to suit our needs. The tragic thing is that we’re losing so much of this linguistic diversity all the time.”

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