Anwar Dafa-Alla

ASSISANT PROFESSOR, King Faisal University - Hofuf


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Translating website into other languages...

I found out that people are struggling to understand very basic stuff on TED talks are the main product here..but the struggle is how to get there!

I suggested to a Sudanese young lady, Bio-fuel inventor to apply for TED Fellows program...but she couldn't figure it out because of the language barriers...I profoundly believe that through translating the whole site into other languages, will make a significant change.

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    Feb 15 2011: I agree that it would be helpful for users to have the whole website translated. But I also think that it can't be done like the translation of the subtitles. Localization of websites is far more complex than translating subtitles.

    But I am sure that you could find a team of reliable and professional volunteer translators for each language to translate at least the most important parts and the navigation.

    Facebook offers me to change the language, when I am logging in from another ip/country. That should be possible for as well. I think. Am I right?
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    Feb 15 2011: I agree! Translated talks are great and while it helps get the ideas spread, it is stil limited to people with sufficient knowledge of English who can browse the site for other talks. A while ago, a friend suggested to make a blog-like platform which would post translated TEDtalks, transcripts and also have a comments sections where people would exchange and spread ideas in the native language. That is exactly what TEDtoChina is about but like Martin said, why not make it an official ted project.
    I think it should be done by the translators, but maybe there should be a team of most active translators (2-3) who would work on the website. In that way we could be sure the new talks would be translated almost immediately. Of course, the question of quality remains and there would have to be some standards.
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      Feb 15 2011: I am not sure that I follow the bit about translating the talks, but I think a good idea would be to have someone translate the talk title as soon as the talk becomes featured at This way you get localized content appearing on the site, while there is no drop in the quality of the translated subtitles, because the translation doesn't need to be rushed.
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    Feb 17 2011: I believe the current system of translation (translator-reviewer) for talks is good enough that it could be applied to the website. By simply distributing the text files to the existing translators you could get them translated to a large number of languages.

    The problem I see would be dealing with the updates and the different speeds of translations, meaning that you would end up with a fragmentation of hundreds of TED websites all slightly different depending on the language you are reading.

    So the translation of a "core website" that is only sporadically changed might be a solution for this. Anybody has a better idea?

    Or maybe living with a slightly different depending on your language is acceptable as long as the main items remain unchanged...

    Kudos to Anwar for a great proposal ... you can count on me for the translation into Spanish!

    Go TED!
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    Feb 15 2011: The translated TED website will give assess to school kids to TED. WoW!!!! Good Idea Anwar!
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    Feb 15 2011: First navigation links should be translated. After that bio sections of speakers can be translated with translator-reviewer model.
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    Feb 15 2011: I absolutely agree. The subtitling is great, but I cannot send a link to a non-English speaker, because I can't be sure they'll be able to set them on (or to find another talks, interesting topics...)

    I think there already are some pages simulating this (e.g. ) and I think it would be better done officially via
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    Feb 15 2011: Also localized layout can be easily spread out by using localized Facebook likes, twitter feeds, quepasa, Vk, etc. Perfect t.
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    Feb 15 2011: Dear Anwar, I cannot agree more!
    I remember one of our translation team members had it done but it takes time and effort to get it individually. Still, he made it. Tony Yet.
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    Feb 15 2011: I totally agree. I am glad that the subtitles are there, but I still have to go "there's going to be a gray box under the video, saying 'Subtitles available in,' which means subtitles are available in, and choose your language from there." Two points, though:

    1. I believe that it shouldn't be done through crowdsourced translation. Two main reasons: quality (who's going to check it, how do you make sure the reviewer will be able to spot the mistakes?), and consistency (keeping the terminology the same all over the site, e.g. the word "talk" can be translated into my language in 3 ways, but only one should be used in context/text that is supposed to be similar).

    2. Any new release on the website would have to be translated more or less immediately (a few days at most), which also means that you have to have translators on hand for each of the languages you want the site to be updated for (probably at least 2 per language for backup and reviewing). Again, crowd-sourcing can't cut it.
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      Feb 15 2011: No, it cannot be relied to be done via crowd-sourcing, but it may be good to begin the translations with local TEDx organizers (they have come across most of the terms and often have created a website in their language - we for example had a large debate how to translate the word TEDster)

      ad 2: the first step can be translating only the core of the site - the menu and about pages, basics about the TED community, ect. so that people can orientate on the site. Later on, when proper translators are found the system of translating news "real-time" can be developed.
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        Feb 15 2011: I agree with Martin. A lot of TEDx events have reliable teams that can be tasked with special projects as part and parcel of their event...

        And at TEDxCanton and TEDxGuangzhou we had signing translators. Would be worthwhile to include sign translation/English subtitles for the hearing impaired. I am, and it comes as a shock to many, hearing impaired and have difficulty with podcasts...I'd be happy to assist...
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        Feb 15 2011: If you translate the "core" and leave some regularly updated stuff in English, you'll get a mixed-language website, which looks very unprofessional. One option would be to make a limited version of the site for each language, showing only content that's already been translated into it. Actually, this would make sense anyways, because you can't expect to be able to get someone to translate every new update the moment it comes out, so keeping a less frequently updated foreign language version of the site is a good idea (the updates come up with a few days' delay). This is actually done very commonly in my experience in website localization - there's a company with a main site (usually in English), while the localized versions are updated with a delay.
  • Feb 25 2011: I could not agree more on this idea. The fact that we all provide subtitles in other languages to talks means that we are appealing to a non-English speaking audience. Sadly, if these people do not get the video as a link from a social network or as an email there is no way for them to get to the rest of the idea's on
    I think that is too valuable to be kept in one language. especially because TEDx is becoming so popular amongst new innovators and thinkers.
    I feel that allowing to be translated will not only help spread the ideas that are worth spreading but also serve as a platform for learning English.
  • Feb 21 2011: IShare your opinion on the translation into Arabic Site
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    Feb 18 2011: Yeah dear i guess you are right in this point, we facing a big problem publishing TED soul because of the language barrier, a lot of really great thinkers, inventor and idea spreading lover we hope to be involved in TED they can't because they don't have enough language repertoire .
    We hope that TED team cooperate with all translation to make the whole in all possible language.
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    Feb 15 2011: Translating the whole site in many languages would be an important investment. I believe TED could translate just the area relative to the talks grouping all the talks translated in that language. Great idea Anwar.
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      Feb 18 2011: We facing a big troubles organizing a tedx event because all tedx rules TED PERMISSION RELEASE documents are in English language, and not all the organizers or speakers are good at English so we had to translate a lot of things that should be - as i see - in multi-language in the first place.
      I can imagine who our work will be easy if all site was multi-language site.
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    Feb 15 2011: Thank you all for your positive responses...Yes, the initiative is really great one and we learn from Tony Yet and his team. We (Arabic translators) have another initiative called TED For Arab ( ).
    Mahmoud Aghiorly writes notes around TED talks and it's great way to spreading TED talks...Salma M Anwar uploads the ".srt" files. Bander AlMutlag runs our site Twitter account. Khalid Elshafie is the site developer...this kind of collaboration can be more vibrant if site was in Arabic...

    Now, we formed a new group of translators for TEDxKhartoum and someone started to translate TEDx guide lines into Arabic... to make easy for local communties to organize their TEDx events...with our help for sure as TEDsters/TED Translators/TEDxers, etc...
    By the way, You're all invited to attend the first TEDxKhartoum on Saturday April 30th, 2011.

    I'm really happy to read every single letter from you all.
    TED= One Love