2014 annual report: TED Open Translation Project

From the director

Whenever we talk about the origins of the Open Translation Project, we are always quick to give you most of the credit. Before there was ever an OTP, viewers like you were writing us and volunteering to translate talks by speakers like Jill Bolte Taylor, Hans Rosling and Sir Ken Robinson. You wanted to share their ideas with people beyond the English-speaking world—most importantly with your family, friends and colleagues. All we had to do was find a collaborative and scalable way to allow you to do so. We had no idea just how successful you would be!

In May, OTP will celebrate its sixth birthday, and will have grown from 300 translations in 40 languages, produced by a couple hundred translators, to nearly 70,000 translations in 107 languages, completed by almost 20,000 translators. To say we are both proud and humbled by your efforts would be an incredible understatement. In fact, your subtitles now account for more than a third of all TED Talk views on TED.com, our mobile platforms and partner distribution channels around the world. As we increase our internationalization efforts to make subtitled talks more accessible, we believe that percentage will continue to grow.

One of our goals this year is to feature more talks given in different languages on TED.com—because good ideas don’t just happen in English. To do this, we’ll need help finding and sharing them, so we’re reaching out to a select group of TEDx organizers who are eager to work with the Open Translation Project. We’re looking for more volunteers, too, who are skilled at translating from other languages into English. And very soon, we’ll begin recruiting TEDx event audience members to join our ranks and transcribe their favorite talks, making those ideas accessible to Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences, indexable by search engines, and, of course, ready for translation by you. We will continue to work closely with our partners at Amara to add new features and improve your collaborative translation experience.

As we set our sights on goals for 2015, we think it’s important to look back at what you helped us achieve this past year. We're excited to share with you the first-ever OTP annual report. And let us know if you have comments or questions!

— Kristin Windbigler and the TED OTP team

2014 Stats



statistics on OTP volunteers + subtitles

TED Talks

TED talks OTP statistics

Most active:
1. Japanese
2. Greek
3. Korean
4. Chinese, Traditional
5. Portuguese, Brazilian

TEDx talks

TEDx OTP statistics

Most active:
1. English
2. Spanish
3. French
4. Korean
5. Portuguese, Brazilian

TED-Ed lessons

TED-Ed OTP statistics

Most active:
1. Chinese, Simplified
2. Korean
3. Arabic
4. French
5. Chinese, Traditional

Global distribution

World map of volunteer-subtitled TED talks
Volunteer-subtitled talks expanded TED's global reach through a growing network of distribution partners.

iFeng, Netease, Youku
Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific
NHK, Yahoo Japan
South Korea
NHN Naver, Pandora, Home Choice

GroupoA, Netflix, DLA Brazil

LinguaLeo, Bilim TV

Saudi Arabia
Hurriyet Viplay

TED volunteer translators' work was credited on a variety of partner websites.

itunes France

Hurriyet Turkey

Yahoo! Japan

itunes Spain

NHN Naver South Korea

Mobile + TV

Apple TV and Google Play app download screen
OTP helped TED increase its mobile and TV presence with subtitled talks and localized apps that target a fast-growing global audience.
  • Android mobile app (localized in 24 languages)
  • iOS app
  • Chromecast
  • Xbox
  • Android TV apps (on Google Play Store, Amazon Kindle Store)
  • Samsung SmartTV app
  • Telus Smart TV app
  • Mobile-friendly, redesigned TED.com


Screenshot of Amara editor
Feedback from OTP volunteers drove key improvements to the Amara platform.
  • In-editor draft uploads
  • In-editor notes
  • Subtitle auto-saving
  • Subtitle character counts
  • Automatic subtitle guideline hints
  • Activity stats
  • Improved diffing experience
  • Increased site speed
On the horizon for 2015 are projects to improve communication, efficiency and quality.

New messaging system
To streamline communication, Amara will switch to an email-style messaging system. It will support targeted welcome messages for new volunteers based on language.

Redesigned dashboard
Volunteers will be able to customize the content on their dashboards. The talk-finding process will be simplified and tailored to volunteers' level of experience.

Mentorship features
Volunteers will be able to see and directly message their language coordinators from the dashboard. Coordinators will have a suite of tools for tracking volunteer activity and identifying quality concerns.

Language Coordinators

Language Coordinator profile pictures
We’re creating a more extensive mentorship program to help language coordinators (LCs) advise new volunteers.

One-year term
LCs serve for one year, and may choose to stay on for a second year as Senior LCs. All LCs (past and present) are distinguished with a badge on TED.com.

Monthly reports
LCs may submit a report covering what's happening in their communities. Regular communication helps us better support communities' goals.

Application form
We set up an application process to evaluate prospective LCs. We share submissions with current LCs, so they can actively shape their teams.

Video tutorials
We created a video tutorial series to train new LCs. New tutorials will be added each month.


TEDx Madrid Transcribathon image
TEDx Madrid transcribathon
We distributed and accelerated the process of subtitling the TEDxMadrid 2014 talks — and we built a team of translators around our event.
Antonella Broglia, TEDxMadrid

Transcribing TEDx talks

Once a TEDx talk goes online, transcribers create original-language subtitles. The transcript allows the talk to be translated into any language through the Open Translation Project. Transcripts also bring TEDx talks to Deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.

With the help of OTP volunteers, many TEDxers host transcribathons — events where attendees learn to transcribe and subtitle talks. Among the first TEDx events to hold transcribathons in 2014 were TEDxDubai, TEDxKraków, TEDxMadrid and TEDxWarsaw.

Thanks to OTP volunteers, TED.com featured three non-English TEDx talks in 2014.

**Suzanne Talhouk: Don't kill your language**
Suzanne Talhouk: Don't kill your language

**Yann Dall'Aglio: Love–you're doing it wrong**
Yann Dall'Aglio: Love–you're doing it wrong

**Antonio Donato Nobre: The magic of the Amazon: A river that flows invisibly all around us**
Antonio Donato Nobre: The magic of the Amazon: A river that flows invisibly all around us
Brazilian Portuguese


OTP volunteers played a pivotal role in the release of TEDBooks talks by Zak Ebrahim and Pico Iyer, translating them into 20 languages before posting. As a result, international partners co-premiered and promoted the talks. Zak Ebrahim’s talk was the fastest-spreading talk of all time, reaching 1.6 million views in one week.


TEDActive 2014 group shot of OTP translators
At TEDActive 2014 in Whistler, BC, TED translators came together to exchange ideas and experiences.
TEDGlobal 2014 group shot of OTP translators
TED translators convened at TEDGlobal 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Speaker appreciation

These translations made my talks accessible to a group of people that would otherwise miss them completely. For example, my father has never studied English and wouldn’t be able to follow my talks.
Mikko Hypponen
It’s one of fantastic qualities of TED — that an idea can reach a global audience. It’s not just that it’s online and accessible, but that it’s accessible in other languages too.
Keren Elazari
I feel the resonance. I receive emails from people all around the globe, who found in my talk the inspiration to undertake their own impossible projects—not only in cinema but from education to engineering. That’s really the best compliment.
Martin Villeneuve