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I translate for the millions of Arabic language speakers (spoken by more than 280 million people as a first language). I translate because it’s a way to promote mutual respect between different cultures, people, religions, etc. Translation is a way to exchange ideas among us as humans. I also translate for my friends; I think it’s a good gift that could change something in their lives. I translate for my daughter, your daughter and every kid and for the coming generations. I hope they’ll one day benefit a little from my translations.

Anwar Dafa-Alla, Arabic TED Translator


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Looking for material for a presentation on the non-computational factors affecting software quality, I created several brainstorming sessions on some social networks, and a colleague of mine sent me a link to the awesome talk by Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice. It was then when it occurred to me that I had to put Spanish subtitles on that talk … and so I did! Later, in a conference where I was presenting my work, I saw how captivating one of my video references was — once I translated it into Spanish — to an audience that might otherwise not have access to that information. I discovered that my interests matched with the Open Translation Project, and that’s how I got to TED.

Sebastian Betti, Spanish TED Translator


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I started translating TEDTalks, because I wanted my son to learn about them. Especially I wanted my son to learn about Willam's story.

Kristine Sargsyan, Armenian TED Translator


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Our team volunteered to translate TEDTalks because we wanted to make it possible for more people to reach valuable information, skills, experience and inspiration that TED shares. We are very happy of the chance that TED Open Translation project gave us to contribute to the changing world together with TED’s community. Being part of the project makes us proud, while translating the talks is an exciting experience that brings us further inspiration.

MaYoMo, TED Volunteer Translation Group


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My bi-cultural experience inherently included the need to express ideas foreign to a given audience in terms that would render these ideas comprehensible. Very often I find that I also need to “translate” my own thoughts into language, being a predominantly intuitive / kinesthetic thinker. I also have an insatiable need to share ideas that I find fascinating, and sometimes this involves expressing them in another language. I started translating for TED because I desired to share ideas that I found fascinating, and to use my Polish translations to make these new ideas an incorruptible fixture in a culture that may very often be considered not very progressive, and pretty repressive.

Krystian Aparta, Polish TED Translator


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I stumbled onto TED while preparing my MBA Final Thesis. I was writing a chapter on plain language, and Google brought me to the TEDTalk of Alan Siegel. I translated it into Dutch, just to get a feeling of how the translation dynamics worked. I liked it so much that I decided to try to 'make a small contribution' by becoming a TED Translator. Since I'm a true philologist (word-lover), this is in fact just fun to me. In the process, I have come across zillions of interesting ideas, and interesting people.

Els De Keyser, Dutch, French and Italian TED Translator


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If you think about the Islamic Golden Age, there was lots of translation then. They translated from Latin and Greek into Arabic, into Persian, and then it was translated on into the Germanic languages of Europe and the Romance languages. And so light shone upon the Dark Ages of Europe.

—Patricia Ryan, TED Speaker, Don't insist on English!


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The real problems in the world, the interesting problems to solve are global in scale and scope. They require global conversations to get to global solutions.

— Ethan Zuckerman, TED Speaker, Listening to global voices


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Is English a tsunami, washing away other languages? Not likely. English is the world's second language. Your native language is your life.

—Jay Walker, TED Speaker, On the world's English mania


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Language is a collective human creation, reflecting human nature -- how we conceptualize reality, how we relate to one another -- and by analyzing the various quirks and complexities of language, I think we can get a window onto what makes us tick.

—Steven Pinker, TED Speaker, On language and thought


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If language really is the conduit of our cooperation, the technology that our species derived to promote the free flow and exchange of ideas, in our modern world, we confront a question. And that question is whether in this modern, globalized world we can really afford to have all these different languages.

—Mark Pagel, TED Speaker, How language transformed humanity


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All this would not have been possible without this incredible team of volunteers, both the TEDx Organizers who are finding these incredible speakers and the Translators who are labouring to make their words available across languages. The translators tend to spend 8 to 10 hours on each translation. We now have more than 20,000 translations of TEDTalks in 82 languages. They were done by 6,000 translators. We really want to thank you for your work and for being such extraordinary cultural ambassadors and helping us spread ideas.

June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media, speaking ad TEDGlobal 2011


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Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.

Anthony Burgess, 1917-1993


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For whoever is so misguided as to think that the place of his birth is the most delightful spot under the sun may also believe that his own language - his mother tongue, that is - is pre-eminent among all others; and, as a result, he may believe that his language was also Adam's. To me, however, the whole world is a homeland, like the sea to fish - though I drank from the Arno before cutting my teeth, and love Florence so much that, because I loved her, I suffer exile unjustly - and I will weight the balance of my judgment more with reason than with sentiment. And although for my own enjoyment (or rather for the satisfaction of my own desire), there is no more agreeable place on earth than Florence, yet when I turn the pages of the volumes of poets and other writers, by whom the world is described as a whole and in its constituent parts, and when I reflect inwardly on the various locations of places in the world, and their relations to the two poles and the circle at the equator, I am convinced, and firmly maintain, that there are many regions and cities more noble and more delightful than Tuscany and Florence, where I was born and of which I am a citizen, and many nations and peoples who speak a more elegant and practical language than did the Romans.

Dante Alighieri, De vulgari eloquentia, 1302


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Let's try and accept this suggestion coming to us from far away. The Original Language was not one, in fact, it was the complexity of all languages. Perhaps Adam did not receive this gift, it had simply been promised to him, and the original sin interrupted the slow process of learning it. But it was left as a legacy to his offspring, the task of conquering the full and harmonized lordship of the Tower of Babel.

—Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language


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After all, as all words are ideas, the time will come for a universal language! ... And it will be the language of the soul, for the soul, and it will comprehend all, scents, sounds, colors ...

—Arthur Rimbaud, Letter to Paul Demeny, 15 May 1871


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Translator competence means knowing how to work co-operatively within the various overlapping communities of translators and and subject matter experts to accomplish work collaboratively; to appropriate knowledge, norms and conventions.

—Don Kiraly, A Social Constructivist Approach to Translator Education


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TED has the astonishing humanizing force to share knowledge in its entire variety of possibilities. This diversity is shown by people transmitting thoughts, ideas and perspectives about the world from a range of disciplines and backgrounds. This amazing humanizing power is also shown by the effort which volunteers from all over the world devote to transcribing, translating and reviewing published talks in the Open Translation Project. By subtitling in a huge amount of languages, the TED Translators contribute to the democratization of knowledge and validate Jonathan Zittrain’s thesis of the Web as random acts of kindness: I was trying to think of the right model to describe this form of random acts of kindness by geeky strangers. You know, it's just like the hail goes out and people are ready to help. And it turns out this model is everywhere, once you start looking for it.

Lidia Cámara, Spanish TED Translator


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I got a split reaction to that during the live performance. There is some people who understand live subtitles are a kind of an oxymoron. Because usually there is someone making them afterwards. And then a bunch of people who were like, "What's the big deal? I see subtitles all the time on television." You know? They don't imagine the person in the booth, typing it all.

—Golan Levin, speaking at TED2009, about an installation that produces live subtitles to an artistic performance


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[Book designs] derive their origins from the text of the book, but once the book designer has read the text, then he has to be an interpreter and a translator.

—Chip Kidd, TED Speaker, Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is


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