As you translate and transcribe talks, here are some things to keep in mind.


Collaboration is key to subtitling for TED: every set of subtitles requires at least two volunteers working together.

For successful collaboration, we recommend that you:

  • Be clear in your direction and feedback.
  • Be courteous and direct your critiques at the work, not the person.
  • Choose words and phrases that are most universally understood among all dialects of your language.
  • Tread lightly: don’t make changes just for the sake of making changes.
  • Be cooperative, and find a way to resolve disputes. Language Coordinators can help with language-specific issues.

Reviewers should kickstart the collaboration process by contacting the translator (or TEDx transcriber) to communicate changes.

Connect with volunteers in your language


Subtitling is a unique skill set: volunteers must accurately convey meaning, despite time and space constraints.

To ensure viewers can read your subtitles with ease, stick to these guidelines:

  • When a subtitle is longer than 42 characters, break it into two lines.
  • Never use more than two lines per subtitle.
  • Keep broken lines as close in length as possible.
  • Keep 'linguistic wholes' together when breaking lines.
  • Keep the subtitle reading speed at a maximum of 21 characters / second.
  • Compress subtitles over 21 characters / second. Try to preserve as much meaning as possible.

The following guides elaborate on the rules and techniques mentioned above:

Tutorial: subtitle length and reading speed

See how Amara's subtitling interface helps you track these counts.

TED style

Informal over formal
Where appropriate, choose informal, colloquial terms over formal or academic ones.

Modern over traditional
Choose modern terms and phrases over traditional ones. Translators should be well-versed in the topics covered.

Personal over generic
Strive to match the tone and flow of the speaker's original talk. Rather than produce a word-for-word translation, aim to find the color, energy and "poetry" in the speaker's organic style and try to emulate it.

Global over regional
Choose words and phrases that are most universally understood among all dialects.

Instead of a word-for-word translation, try finding a similar expression in the target language. If no equivalent exists, opt for the translation that readers will find least confusing, even if it is less colorful than the original.

TED is always written as "TED" and should not be translated.

Titles of works
For books, movies, magazines and poems, check if the work has an official translation in your language; if not, don't translate the title.

Proper nouns
If the target language uses a non-Latin alphabet, transliterate people’s names. For places, use the name that is most common in your language. Otherwise, transliterate.

Use the target language's native punctuation.

Character sets
Use standard unicode characters and avoid those that are platform-specific. While working offline, make sure to save the subtitles as a Unicode UTF-8 file to preserve the encoding of non-English characters.

Units of measurement
You may convert units of measurement to make them more understandable to viewers in your language. We recommend the Google unit conversion tool.

Subtitling resources

Find helpful guides, tutorials and ways to connect with the translator community.

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