Language Open Translation Project

Meet Sebastian Betti, TED volunteer translator

Posted by: Jenny Zurawell


Tell us about yourself.

I was born in a little countryside town called Rauch (in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina) where I had the opportunity to spend my childhood in touch with nature and the simple things of life. After finishing high school I moved to Tandil, a neighboring small city, where I took up systems engineering. After moving again, I now live and work in the capital city, Buenos Aires, so even though I’ve lost the small scale of things, I enjoy this great beacon of art, science and cultural turmoil, which we shared at TEDxBA.

As for my interests, I love cinema, literature and science. Because I’m curious by nature, I feel an indescribable satisfaction in traveling, socializing and discovering new people, places and cultures. In that spirit, I’ve been traveling around the Americas in search of its cultural and natural wonders. Captivating places such as the moon-like landscapes in Costa Rica, the ancient caves and pre-Columbian sites in southern Colombia or sacred places like La Raya in Peru not only capture my attention but also awaken my inquietudes and eagerness for knowledge and — of course — multicultural experiences.


What drew you to TED?

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.


Why do you translate?

I’ve been translating articles since my high school and college days simply because I’ve always wanted to deeply understand and gain insight into very specific subjects. The act of understanding brings me such an intellectual and emotional joy, therefore I think that translation is something worthwhile. After translating some TEDTalks for my own interest, the next step was to spread the word to others. No doubt I strongly believe that knowledge sharing is even more enjoyable than keeping it for oneself.


What are you favorite talks? Why?

“Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice” because I like his idea of “good enough is OK” for doing better in life, and his articulation of ideas is superb.

“Robert Lang folds way-new origami” and “Paul Stamets on 6 ways mushrooms can save the world” because of their passion for knowledge above all, making a plea for that inner spark inside all of us.

“James Geary, metaphorically speaking” because it’s an interesting topic that’s very well presented through mind maps. I know there’s a massive presentation of automated mind maps at TEDxDubai 2010, and I’d like to see more of this in TEDTalks to come.

Finally, the amazing TEDxTalk by Constanza Ceruti at TEDxBA about the sacred mountains of the Inca civilization on the highest peaks of the Andes.

Comments (18)

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  • Carmen castro Castro-Mortara commented on May 20 2012

    Hi Sebastian,
    I am peruvian but lived in UK for 20 years and I am back in Lima working in the Ministry of Education.
    I went to a conference in Lima yesterday and discovered I have been seeing video in the last 3 hours and have not been able to go to bed. They are brilliant!!
    I trained as a translator 30 years ago in Lima but I never translated since. Recently I had to interpret a talk by an expert on sustainable development Dr. Hopkins and I really enjoyed it.
    I had not realised how important a translator can be for Spanish speakers only.
    I just wished more Peruvian spoke English and as the English specialist in the Ministry I wish I was able to do more….

  • Daniel Herrero commented on Aug 16 2010

    Hola Sebastián, quisiera contactarme con vos por un asunto de TED. A qué email te puedo escribir? Saludos…

    • Sebastian Betti commented on Aug 21 2010

      Hola, estoy leyendo tarde este mensaje. De todos modos por si alguien más se quiere comunicar, con registrarse en la comunidad TED si no lo está, seleccionar el perfil de la persona con quien quiere contactarse, envía un mensaje sin necesidad de conocer la dirección de correo electrónico…

  • Colleen Steen commented on May 22 2010

    Dear Sabastian,
    I came upon your bio by chance because all the ted sites seem to be shut down for “maintenance” at the moment, and the only thing I could access was the new ted translators:>)

    I love your outlook on life, especially your comment…”the act of understanding brings me such an intellectual and emotional joy”. Do you know how many people are searching for that joy? How many methods and practices have been recommended to find that joy throughout the ages? How much time people spend seeking that joy? You have it my friend…never let it go:>) Love what you’re doing with your time on this earth school:>)

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 24 2010

      Thanks a lot Collen! Of course there are also love, celebration of friendship, family ties, and many other important things in life, but trying to understand the world, seeing it through other’s eyes, being able to empathize with people belonging to other cultural contexts, or even learning from other fields of knowledge, it is something that really enrich one’s life, something worth spreading…

      • Colleen Steen commented on May 25 2010

        It is all interconnected and very much worth spreading and sharing:>)

  • Ay?e Seda Demirel commented on May 12 2010

    Yeah, translation is a way of deeper understanding… :)
    And a much better way than telling everyone “about the great talk” u have watched :D

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 14 2010

      Thanks Ay?e! As Tony Yet said it best: “It’s like we’re all curious souls exploring the depths of knowledge.”

  • Veronica Vera commented on May 12 2010

    Hola Sebastián!
    What a pleasure to see you here! You’re doing a great job!
    I also think your story is very nice.
    I always remember the talk we did together; I’ve learned a lot, thank you very much!
    By the way, do you know if there are already available TEDx BA Talks?
    All the best!

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 12 2010

      Hola Vero! I also remember the talk we did together and how intense our discussion was; you were very supportive and a great peer.
      I didn’t see any news about the TEDxBA videos yet. I hope some day, as June Cohen recently suggested at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2010:

      other language’s sites could contribute with TEDxTalks; that those talks would be then translated into English, and into the other languages afterwards.

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 22 2010

      TEDxBA Talks are already available at (in Spanish)!

  • Yan saint commented on May 12 2010

    Nice to hear your stories. Your job is very challenging and interesting.

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 17 2010

      Thanks a lot! According to Kristin Windbigler, Translation Coordinator, subtitle usage is growing very rapidly. Currently, they account for 14.2 percent of all views on

  • Anour Dafa-Alla commented on May 12 2010

    Great Job my friend…Keep it up :-)
    I agree “Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice” is one of the greatest talks :)
    All the best!

    • Sebastian Betti commented on May 17 2010

      Thanks Anour. I’ll tell you one more time: I admire and celebrate your energy!

  • Sebastian Betti commented on May 11 2010

    That is true regardless of the region, country and culture. People are an intangible heritage of their own cultures. I wish sometime there will be a TED Talk on
    old Russian architecture, i.e. from Suzdal, and about the people who made it possible.

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