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June 9, 2009

Not lost in translation

GLOBALNokia first teamed up with the folks at TED for Pangea day, but now the ambitions are stretching much further. The TED Open Translation Project brings TEDTalks to a wider world, using subtitles and translated transcripts. With over 300 translations covering 40 languages completed by 200 volunteer translators for launch, the project has already got off to a brilliant start.

The Open Translation project is being supported by sponsorship from Nokia, and is billed as one of the most comprehensive video translation projects ever undertaken. As a start, every TEDTalk will have English subtitles, which can be flicked on or off by the user (makes watching videos in the library or the office that bit easier). The number of additional translations is down to whether or not the talk will have been translated by a volunteer. It’s naturual, I believe, to expect more popular talks to have the widest range of languages available. That said, with the broad nature of topics available on TED, it’s likely that some more locally-relevant talks will also get the translation treatment.

To add a translatable twist, there’s an additional transcript feature. Firstly this enables you to track the talk and have the video start at a point you find interesting or want to return to. What’s more, you can combine the video, the subtitles and the transcript in any combination of languages. Fancy watching a video in English, with a transcript in Urdu and Korean subtitles? Clever, huh. This has clear benefits for those interested in technology, and learning another language.

The first 20 talks were actually translated professionally. The rest though have been done by volunteers, as that’s seen as the most scalable solution. Every translation is checked by a second volunteer translator and as it’s all credited, it should be done properly. This is clearly open source in action, I reckon.

Let us know what you think below.