Culture Open Translation Project

Meet the translator: Hugo Wagner, who translates talks into French

Posted by: Dimitra Papageorgiou

HugoWagner1TED Talks are available in 102 languages, from Albanian to Vietnamese, thanks to the tireless work of our volunteer translators. So far, more than 10,000 volunteers have created 47,000 talk translations — and today, the TED Blog brings you a Q&A with one of them. Here, meet French translator Hugo Wagner.

1. Where do you live? And what do you do by day?

I am a student and a space enthusiast. While I currently live in Paris (and I should say: Paris lives within me!), I’ll move to the US this summer to pursue my graduate studies in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley. I start each day with a cup of tea, and I end it the same way. When I am not studying, I spend my time trying to find something new to study and I let everything surrounding me amaze me in new, unexpected ways.

J.J. Abrams: The mystery boxJ.J. Abrams: The mystery box2. What first drew you to TED?

Serendipity! As a huge fan of LOST, I stumbled upon J.J. Abram’s “Mystery box” talk where he passionately makes a case for nurturing mysteries to enhance creativity. I loved it and I immediately wanted to know more about TED. I have never found my way out of it. The love story continues…

3. What was the first talk you translated and how did you pick it?

Zainab Salbi: Women, wartime and the dream of peaceZainab Salbi: Women, wartime and the dream of peaceIt was Zainab Salbi’s talk, “Women, wartime and the dream of peace.” I chose it because Zainab’s story was very powerful and moving and it conveyed a universal, peaceful message: beyond any fear, there is hope.

4. What have been your favorite talks to translate? Why?

There are so many! Cesar Harada’s “A novel idea for cleaning up oil spills” is definitely among my favorites, mainly because I met Cesar at TEDGlobal 2012 and we’ve been friends ever since. Cesar Harada: A novel idea for cleaning up oil spillsCesar Harada: A novel idea for cleaning up oil spillsBut I also truly believe that Protei — his shape-shifting sailing robot — will be a game changer in the global effort to protect the ocean. Salman Khan’s talk “Let’s use video to reinvent education” is also on my list, as I felt like a part of the learning revolution and a witness to a major shift in education as I was translating this talk. Peter Diamandis’ talk “Abundance is our future” is also one I felt honored to translate. I’d like more people to live by the underlying principles in each of his entrepreneurial endeavors: faith in the future and in humanity’s ability to solve grand challenges. Then there is also Paul Nicklen’s “Tales of ice-bound wonderlands” but I have to stop here as the unfathomable list of explorers and geniuses goes on…Paul Nicklen: Tales of ice-bound wonderlandsPaul Nicklen: Tales of ice-bound wonderlands

5. Which talk was the most difficult for you to translate and why?

Most certainly Thomas Barnett’s talk about America’s military strategy. He is very idiomatic, talks very fast, uses a lot of acronyms and refers to important parts of history I had to know well in order to do my job. As translators, we always spend a lot of time searching the web to learn more about the topic of a talk.Thomas Barnett: Let's rethink America's military strategyThomas Barnett: Let's rethink America's military strategy But I think this is the talk I spent the most time on.

6. What’s a phrase in your language that you wish would catch on globally?

“C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron” or “practice makes perfect.” Everyone can start a new project and succeed through hard work. I think that’s also what TED is all about: the future is ours to create.

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