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

Posted by: Tedstaff

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We here at TED are thrilled to announce this news!

NEW YORK, May 13, 2009 — The acclaimed 18-minute talks available free on the TED website will now be accessible beyond the English-speaking world, through the TED Open Translation Project (www.ted.com/translation), which launches today, generously sponsored by Nokia.

A year in the making, the project offers video subtitles, time-coded transcripts and the ability for volunteers worldwide to translate any talk into any language. The project launches with 300 translations in 40 languages; more than 200 volunteer translators have already contributed.

Download the Open Translation Project press release as a PDF >>

“TED’s mission is to spread good thinking globally, and so it’s high time we began reaching out to the 4.5 billion people on the planet who don’t speak English,” says TED Curator Chris Anderson. “We’re excited to be using a bottom-up, open-source approach that will in time allow all our talks to be translated into all the world’s languages. A web-empowered revolution in global education is under way. We’re not far from the day when anyone on Earth can directly access the world’s great teachers speaking to them in their own language. How cool is that?”

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

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.

“Volunteer translation will be increasingly important for anyone trying to reach a global audience,” says June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media. “It’s the only feasible way to reach all the world’s languages. Crowd-sourced translation creates communities of volunteers who are passionate about producing great work, accountable for the accuracy of their translations, and invested in evolving the system itself. It turns users into true participants, helping to spread ideas.”

Crowd-sourced translations in all the world’s languages

To launch the Open Translation Project, a handful of talks were professionally translated into 20 languages. But all translations going forward will be provided by volunteers. In fact, volunteer translators have already contributed more than 200 published translations to the project (with 450 more in development). These volunteers range from well-organized groups working together in their own language, to lone translators working individually and matched by TED with others.

To support this program, TED and technology partner dotSUB have developed a set of tools that allow participants around the world to translate their favorite talks into their own language. This approach is scalable, and — importantly — allows speakers of less-dominant languages an equal opportunity to spread ideas within their communities.

This open-source approach mimics the successful strategies of products like Wikipedia, Linux and Mozilla, which have proven the power -– and ultimate reliability –- of open solutions. Crowd-sourced translation has already been proven effective on a handful of sites worldwide, including Wikipedia and the Global Voices blog at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

To ensure quality translations, TED established a set of guidelines and systems to help translators deliver the best work possible. To begin with, a professionally generated (and speaker-approved) English transcript is provided for each talk, so that all translations are based on the same source document. TED then requires every translation to be reviewed by a second fluent speaker before it’s published; both translator and reviewer are credited by name on the site. TED controls the final “publish” button (nothing is “automatically” published), and there are feedback mechanisms for ongoing community input and improvement after publication.

At launch, TED’s Open Translation Project will include more than 300 translations, in more than 40 languages, including Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Kirghiz, Korean, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese. Our translators hail from cities from Beijing to Buenos Aires; Tehran to Tel Aviv; Espoo, Finland, to Barranquilla, Colombia.

Accurate, searchable, interactive transcripts for every TEDTalk

Each of the 400+ TED talks now has a time-coded, interactive transcript, in English and all available languages. Using this interactive transcript, a user can select any phrase and have the video play from the point where that phrase is spoken. The transcripts will be fully indexable by search engines — in all languages — exposing previously inaccessible content within the talks themselves. For example, someone searching on Google for “green roof” will ultimately find the moment in architect William McDonough’s talk when he discusses Ford’s River Rouge plant, and also the moment in Majora Carter’s talk when she speaks of her green roof project in the South Bronx.

Questions about the project? Write to subtitles@ted.com or read the FAQ.

Comments (35)

  • Joaquin Rueda commented on May 13 2009

    Muchas gracias!!
    Ha sido para mi un placer descubrir hoy que voy a poder disfrutar de las charlas de TED con subtitulos en espaniol.
    Venia aprendiendo de los speakers de TED desde hace mucho tiempo y ahora voy a aprender aun mas.
    Muchas Gracias a todos los que habeis trabajado en esto. Se lo contare a muchos amigos espanioles desde Carcabuey para que empiecen a enriquecerse culturalmente con TED
    Joaquin Rueda # Keny

  • Sarah Bleby commented on May 13 2009

    Gobsmackingly brilliant, enormously exciting. Congratulations!! Such exciting potential for this in developing countries and amongst minority language groups. I shall start working on Mongolian translations and spread the word through aid networks in the Asia Pacific. Visionary leadership, from TED, yet again.

  • David Rojas Elbirt commented on May 13 2009

    It was about time! I’d lke to share ted videos in Spanish with non-English speaking friends.

  • Stephen Scanlon commented on May 13 2009

    This is a boon for the deaf and hearing impaired communities. Let’s get the word out.

    In another vein, this will make it easier for people to quote – with proper sitation one would hope – these ideas worth sharing.

  • wylie jones commented on May 13 2009

    I’ve invented a new adjective. It’s “TEDspeed” referring to the speed of creation of new ideas. Other groups and companies invent and create but none at the speed of TED. There’s TEDMED, there’s TEDcred, now it’s the Open Translation Project, next week…..The government, universities, and businesses need to study how TED comes up with wonder
    FULL ideas and then translates them into actions. I wish I worked for TED.

  • Dimitra Papageorgiou commented on May 13 2009

    I would like to thank TED for the wonderful opportunity to share TEDtalks with my family and friends in our native language, Greek.
    A big “thank you”, to Kristin Windbigler for her help and support, these past few months.
    Translating for TED is fun and easy and I am looking forward for my next translation.

  • Nenad Maljkovi? commented on May 13 2009

    The fact that ted.com and dotsub.com (my two favourite websites) joined forces in this kind of endeavour made my year! And TEDx is bonus on top of that. Great! :)

  • Sylvie Launay commented on May 13 2009

    Excellent news! though I was trying to guess as many words as I could, I will have a plenty ability to enjoy these talks. I like their plurarity and Ted’s goal. I can’t really help much since it would take me a long time and believe me, I would do this with pleasure if it was easier, thanks for all the people who will be a part of the translation. Regards to every Ted member and the staff.

  • magda rittenhouse commented on May 13 2009

    I spend quite a lot of time on New Jersey Transit. Those commuter trains rolling through Newark, passing Rahway prison, and abandoned factories, that I am sure must have been beautiful and stunning a few decades ago, but today are overtaken by weeds and drug dealers…. They can make you depressed, believe me. Looking at fellow passengers (did you know that 3 mln people commute into Manhattan every day?), most of them tired and stressed, I often wonder whether they are happy with their lives and what they do? There are days I feel I am not. And then, sitting on a crowded NJT train, I get my i-Pod out and choose a Ted Talk. Most often listening for 15 minutes to someone so passionate about their work does the trick! It energizes you. Far better than a Red Bull. It inspires. It makes you think that things can be in your hands if you choose to. It makes you believe that it is worth to try. And that is by far THE BEST IDEA that Ted is spreading!

  • Diego Leal commented on May 13 2009

    As one of the volunteers involved in this, I want to congratulate TED on this effort, and highlight the fantastic support that Kristin Windbigler gave us in the last months. It’s been fantastic to be part of something that, without any doubt, will give a lot of people around the world unprecedented access to “ideas worth spreading”. Congratulations also to all volunteers around the world, especially the Spanish group! :D

  • Nazila Khalilova commented on May 13 2009

    Wow, an excellent idea!!!

  • Takuya Homma commented on May 13 2009

  • Joachim Walewski commented on May 13 2009

    Excellent idea. I have been raving about TED for over a year, but many of my friends’ command of English is just not sufficient to follow along on all these mind walks. Now, they have to come up with other excuses for not watching TED talks. ;-) Kudos and good luck.

  • Bayram Annakov commented on May 13 2009

    Great initiative and I will definitely participate in it – going to translate into Russian.

  • Philipp Schaefer commented on May 13 2009

    Amazing project! Could this also bring some non-English-speaking-speakers to TED?

    • Nenad Maljkovi? commented on May 13 2009

      I guess there will be non-English-speaking speakers on TEDx events worldwide; their talks will be recorded and subtitled in English. Combining TEDx and TED Open Translation Project it seems to me that TED is going to become continuous global event. Way to go TED!!

  • Simon Drozdowski commented on May 13 2009

    Well done TED people! Bring on the babel fish!

  • Christopher Everett commented on May 13 2009

    I was really blown away by this initiative when you first announced it at TED this year. You are standing behind your promise to make ideas truly spreadable. Congratulations on this incredible effort!

  • Nicole Heidbreder commented on May 13 2009

    brilliant. can’t wait to see how many languages this reaches out to.

  • Mohammad Keyhani commented on May 13 2009

    Excellent work! I’m so glad TED did this. I hope sites like Fora.tv and YouTube EDU will follow.

  • Autumn Frisco commented on May 13 2009

    Kudos to accomplishing this. I think this IS the best thing to ever come to TED because the more people TED reaches, the more united we can feel as a globe. This brings us one step closer.