Activities for OTP Workshops

From TED Translators Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This is a collection of activities that can be used at OTP workshops. Note that depending on the number of attendees, these can be done by individuals on in groups. If there are many attendees, go with groups, to limit the duration of the whole activity.

The limits of compression

Tools: A set of sentences in a language common to all the participants (the sentences can be taken from a TED or TEDx talk); computers or paper printouts and pens.

Goal: Practice compression strategies, gain insight into preserving the original meaning while compressing subtitles.

Duration: 20-30 minutes


  1. Give the participants a quick refresher on the rules of compressing subtitles (see this guide and this tutorial).
  2. Hand each individual or group the same set of 10 sentences. These should ideally be long.
  3. Ask the participants to compress every sentence as much as possible. Encourage them to test the limits of compression - how much can they reduce the text without changing the meaning?
  4. After 10-15 minutes, have each individual or group read out their compressed version of the first sentence. Ask the participants to discuss whether that version preserves the original meaning and whether it could still be shorter, and to share their versions of the subtitle. Afterwards, ask the next individual or group to share their version of the next sentence and continue the discussion.

The chain of back-translation

Tools: A set of paper sheets each with a different English sentence from a TEDTalk; pens; dictionaries or WiFi to enable access to online dictionaries.

Goal: Gain insight into what is preserved and what is lost in translation.

Duration: 20-30 minutes


  1. Hand each individual or group a sheet with a different sentence. Ask them to translate it and then fold the sheet of paper so that the original sentence is not visible.
  2. Ask the participants to hand the sheet with their translation to another individual or group.
  3. Ask each individual or group to translate that sentence back into English. Stress that they should not look at the original sentence. Afterwards, ask them to fold the sheet of paper so that just their English translation is visible.
  4. Ask the participants to hand the sheet with their English translation to another individual or group. Repeat this cycle until every individual or group has translated every sentence or until there is no room left on the sheet.
  5. Gather every sheet. Choose one sheet and read out the original sentence and the last translation. Ask the group to comment on the differences in meaning. Repeat with every sheet.


  • This exercise can only be done in a group where every attendee is capable of translating from English into the same language (or between any two languages, if you're not starting with an English sentence).
  • For the original sentence, select something without specialist terminology. It is best to use a compound sentence that is not very short.
  • Stress that the participants should not worry about the quality of their translation and especially should not be concerned about English (or if you're not using English, their "weaker" language that they don't usually translate into).
  • Don’t give the participants too much time to spend on the translation. Leave at least ten minutes for the discussion at the end, and divide the rest of the time so that each individual or group gets to translate at least two different sentences.