TED launches open translation subtitles to its TED Talks


Last week June Cohen of TED ("Technology Entertainment and Design" -- a yearly conference consisting of fascinating 18-minute presentations) gave me a demo of TED's new Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles for the TED Talk videos in over 40 languages.

It's a very cool project, and even the English subtitles are useful to English speakers because if you click on a sentence in the text transcription, the video jumps to the corresponding spot.

Each of the 400+ talks on TED.com will now offer:

+ Subtitles, in English and many additional languages (several videos carry up to 25 languages at launch)

+ A time-coded, interactive transcript, in multiple languages, which lets you click on any phrase and jump straight to that point in the video. This makes the entire content of the video indexable on search engines

+ Translated headlines and video descriptions, which appear when a new language is selected

+ Language-specific URLs which play the chosen subtitles by default

Check out the TED Talks here.

TED's Open Translation Project brings subtitles in 40+ languages to TED.com



  1. I love the initiative – but also dread it.

    Crowdsourcing translation – in contrast to, say, programming or encyclopedia-writing – would work better if it allowed more iterations than seem to be available. Currently, TED seems to have a translator and a reviewer – both of whom are “native speakers”.
    But “native speaker” is neither sufficient qualification nor a necessary one for translation.

    The skills I look for when working with translators are linguistic sensitivity, written expression, ability to catch errors at every level, from typo to idiomatic unclarity.

    I love the TED site & videos. As a professional translator (I’ve been translating professionally since 1989, and unprofessionally since I learned my second language, as a four year old, back in the 70’s), I wonder how much accuracy, clarity, and idiomatic phrasing will get through – and whether this can be consistent throughout the project.
    TED speakers should be getting the very best translation; I doubt very much that crowdsourcing is the very best.

  2. @1

    The beauty of crowdsourcing is be that anyone can translate. So you, a professional translator since 1989, can provide those great translations you think the TED speakers deserve.

  3. I just wanted to say how much I love the TED talks. Free sharing of thought, and sure it’s great marketing but it doesn’t feel icky or like they’re just doing it for cheap promotion.

    It’s so good to have inspiration like this on tap its a small thing but simultaneously brilliant and makes me feel lucky to live here and now.

    I chat with friends in meatspace, and I wonder if the TED folks know exactly how much good will there is and how much appreciation out there for what they do in the community? If you’re reading this TED folks, you’re all absolutely brilliant.

  4. MrShrubber@2, I’m not sure how providing my professional services for free to a company that declines to pay for them will promote respect for the profession of translation.

    My point is exactly that *not* everyone can translate.

    A bit of communication with the TED people has revealed that they hired for-pay professionals in order to start the project. Wise of them.

  5. I would never be able to resist adding “flavor” to the translation.

    Or, shall we say,

    Marklar would never marklar marklar marklar “marklar” to the marklar.

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