Five fantastic TED talks for translators

August 2, 2017
Five fantastic TED talks for translators

TED talks are renowned for their insights, their wisdom and their powerful revelations. Whether you want to work smarter or improve the way you market yourself, there’s a TED talk that can serve as your inspiration. As such, we’ve taken a look at what TED has to offer on the subject of translation. 

A universal translator for surgeons

Dr Steven Schwaitzberg didn’t set out to promote the benefits of translation. The son of a bingo hall operator, he pursued his passion for medicine as he grew up. This has led to him becoming Chief of Surgery at the Cambridge Health Alliance at the Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital. His career has included the development of pioneering techniques for minimally invasive surgery, causing less pain to patients and enabling them to recover faster. 

It was the desire to spread knowledge of those techniques around the world that first led Dr Schwaitzberg to consider the value of translation. He now uses video conferencing and real-time translation to teach surgeons around the world in their native languages how to undertake his pioneering procedures. His TED talk highlights the importance of communicating across language barriers. 

Why I put myself in danger to tell the stories of Gaza

Ameera Harouda is a ‘fixer’ in the Gaza Strip. She works with foreign journalists to guide them through the often chaotic area, connecting them with those who live there in order that their stories can be told. By virtue of her gender, Harouda is able to access areas that men cannot, and has become one of the most important translators linking Gaza with the outside world. 

Harouda’s TED talk shows how powerful and essential a tool translation is when it comes to providing an understanding of the human suffering that ongoing conflict causes. 

Comedy is translation

Stand-up comedian and juggler Chris Bliss looks at the role of translation in opening up new perspectives. He focuses on the challenges of communication and the role that comedy can play in expanding our minds and circumventing our ingrained perspectives. We often think of translation as focusing on two or more languages, but Bliss looks at how we translate within our own language in this fascinating talk. 

Listening to global voices

Ethan Zuckerman is an advocate of free speech – not in one particular country, but across the globe. He is seeking to broaden our spheres of influence through the power of translation with the Global Voices project, which shares news and views from citizen media in more than 150 nations. His promotion of the concept of global citizenship is a powerful message and one in which translation plays an essential role. His TED talk provides fascinating insights into how we can use new media to broaden our horizons. 

Lost in translation - the joy of a jargon-free world

Thea Knight trained as a reporter before ending up a part of the TED Internal Communications team. Her passion is simplifying the world, driving out jargon in a quest for enhanced interaction and communication. Her TED talk is essential viewing for anyone interested in communicating clearly and removing barriers to the way we interact with others. Knight looks at how our choice of words relates to the messages that we convey – and how thinking carefully about the former can enhance the delivery of the latter. 

Final thoughts

Have you come across any other TED talks that would be of interest to the translation community? If so, we would love to hear about them. Please leave a comment below in order to share the details. We’ll review all suggestions and potentially incorporate them into the second edition of this article. Thank you! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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