TED Talks On Translation

TED Talks are always great resources for various information and new insights. But sometimes it can be hard to find subjects that interest you.

I love watching TED Talks about science, computing, new ideas, learning and, of course, translating. Here are some of my favorite TED Talks on translating and interpreting.


Unfortunately there aren’t many TED Talks about translating. Most of these videos also appear to be for non-translators. But here are three I really like.

All of these videos are about 10 minutes long. But if you don’t have lots of time though, I have written summaries of each of the talks, so you can find ones that would interest you!


More Than Words

It takes more than words to translate from one language to another.

Translation = written.
Interpretation = spoken.

Interpreting is divided into modes: consecutive and simultaneous.
They then give demonstrations of consecutive and simultaneous interpreting is. And explain that interpreting takes HUNDREDS of hours of training to get good!

Why doesn’t everyone speak English? Well, why don’t we all speak other languages?
It’s so important to have interpreters and translators. So we can communicate to each other’s hearts.

Translators and interpreters bridge the gap between cultures, people and languages.


This is a basic breakdown of what translation and interpreting is.
Great 10 minute introduction for people who don’t know what translation is.


Lost in Translation: The Importance of Language in Cultural Exchange

Janesh Rahlan grew up in America to Indian parents. He was brought up bilingual but it was only when he was older that he realized how important that was. “If you forget your language, you forget your heritage.”

Language and culture are constantly shaping each other.

Bilingualism can dispel prejudices and take people beyond boundaries.

Languages are amazing because they can establish inter-cultural connections. They connect not just people, but worlds.

Learning a language helps someone grow into or form new identities. Learning a language isn’t just words but also slang and body language. When you go to another country to learn a language you’re constantly picking up on subtle parts of the culture.

Being an English teacher abroad isn’t just teaching English. It’s about being a cultural ambassador. So when Janesh went to teach English in Turkey he was thrown in the deep end. He had to learn the language while in Turkey and he learnt it from the people around him. The people he learnt from broke down his biases about them, and taught him their culture. He then took this knowledge into the classroom to help expose American culture to students.

His exchange with the students exposed them to perspectives and worlds they had never been exposed to before.


This is a great video looking at the importance of learning languages and sharing culture.


Why Translating Literature is Sometimes Impossible

Concepts are very different between cultures which are reflected in language. You cannot say “blue” in Russian, you have to specify “light blue” or “dark blue”.

Mariam Mansuryan read Harry Potter growing up, but she read the Armenian translation. She read a book that was mostly the same as the English version.

Languages are different – You cannot move ideas between them without losing something.

Literature can be so difficult to translate because there are often times where ideas don’t match in languages. In To Kill a Mocking Bird Scout’s gender is hidden in English. But in Russian that theme isn’t hidden. Russian readers know right from the start.


A really interesting look at literature in different languages and how ideas between cultures don’t match 100%.


TED Talks On Translation
Tagged on:         
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments