Language Open Translation Project

Meet Tony Yet, TED volunteer translator

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Tell us about yourself.

I was born in China in 1986, and I’ve been living in this land of burgeoning hope for 24 years. I graduated from university in 2009 with a degree in English language and literature. Now I live in Guangzhou, a city of talent and ideas, which is near Hong Kong.

I am interested in language, technology, social innovation and stories. My love of language opened up my mind to the world of myriad possibilities. It has been crucial in enabling me to make sense of the bigger world.

I also run a blog in Chinese which features social innovation stories. I believe that the future of China relies on those people who care and are in pursuit of creative solutions to complex problems.

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What drew you to TED?

I read a lot on the Internet. Sometime around 2006, I stumbled upon some podcast episodes from the iTunes store. I downloaded them, and listened again and again on my portable music player. They were speeches of a sort I seldom came upon before. There were ideas in the talks that really intrigued me. That was TED. I felt amazed that complicated ideas can be explained in such a simple and lucid fashion.

Then I discovered TEDTalks on solving big problems with new approaches, like Amy Smith’s talk on low-tech solutions for Haiti and Nicholas Negroponte’s talk on bringing hope and possibilities to kids in developing countries with his OLPC project. They opened up my mind to the world of creative challenges and I fell in love with it. The TED community has many such creative minds; I can find really dedicated people here. It’s like we’re all curious souls exploring the depths of knowledge. This special feature of TED’s community is the major attraction for me.

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Why do you translate?

Well, first of all, translation is fun in and of itself, but it’s even more fun when the content is from TED. My idea to translate TEDTalks into Chinese was largely inspired by the OOPS (Opensource Opencourseware Prototype System) initiative launched in Taiwan. So I translated some talks and put them on the Internet. Many of my friends loved it, so I worked hard and translated a bit more. I’m very happy when I hear people say that they learn something from TED through my translations.

Later, I thought it would be a good idea to create a website to feature these translated TEDTalks. So with the help of a friend living in the US, we launched TEDtoChina.com. The idea is to bridge over the language barrier and bring these innovative talks to more Chinese people. It’s been a great journey for us to witness the birth and growth of the TED Chinese translator community and the much bigger TED fan community in China.

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What are you favorite talks? Why?

All of Nicholas Negroponte’s talks. He says, “When you have a bug that you can’t get rid of you turn it into a feature.” I love this quote so much and it’s kind of become my motto. I also love that OLPC can become a whole new platform for learning for the younger generation — one of exploration and learning by doing.

Cameron Sinclair on open-source architecture — It’s the first time I learned that the opensource idea could be applied in fields other than software development. And I love his book Design Like You Give a Damn.

Dave Eggers’ wish: Once Upon a School — I love his passion and the simple idea he proposes in this talk.