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English speakers: OTP needs you too!

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The Open Translation Project is Photo: Ryan Lash

The Open Translation Project brings TED Talks to speakers of 104 languages. Here, a volunteer workshop at TEDGlobal 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Ryan Lash

The word ‘translate’ means to bring words from one language to another. So you might think that the Open Translation Project — TED’s globe-spanning initiative to bring the ideas from talks beyond the English-speaking world — would only need volunteers who speak multiple languages. But being bilingual is not a necessity. The OTP needs single-language speakers — yes, even those who speak English — to help in the process of transcribing TEDx talks.

See, before a talk can be translated, it must be transcribed: Someone who speaks the same language as the speaker must watch the talk and type out what is said, using custom software from the open-source initiative Amara. (And no, the auto-generated YouTube titles are often not good enough to use.) More than 26,000 TEDx talks — most of them given in English — are available for transcription. There’s also a chance to help with TEDx talks given in another language — as they go through the translation process, English speakers can review the work of other volunteer translators, to make sure that grammar and style is consistent with English-language rules.

Ivana Korom, our OTP/TEDx Liaison, stresses how much English speakers can help. “The transcript is the most important part of translating,” she says. “Talks reach millions of viewers, but with transcripts, it’s possible to reach an even wider audience — the deaf and the hard of hearing. Also, people aren’t often confident enough to just translate by hearing, so the written transcript provides an accurate baseline that makes it easier to translate accurately.”

The review process is also vital. She explains, “If more volunteers apply to review English translations from other languages, they will help bring ideas from all parts of the world into the English speaking world.”

Want to apply to help the OTP? The video below will walk you through how to do this, step by step. And from there, happy transcribing.


Find out more about the OTP »