There is a TED for everybody out there. People, who have struggled in one way or another, share their experience, insights and ideas on how to improve different aspects of our lives. TED talks are renowned for their ability to greatly impact the audience, while at the same time inspire business ideas.  

The field of translation and interpretation is also present in the talks given by different TED speakers. It is interesting that most of them are not translators or interpreters themselves but professionals in various fields, who came to realize the importance of the translating profession. Here are a few talks that can inspire you to become a translator/interpreter or if you are already one, to feel even more proud about what you are doing.

Patricia Ryan: Don’t Insist on English!

Patricia Ryan is an English teacher in the Gulf with more than 30 years of experience. She speaks on one of the TED shows in Dubai about the importance of not empowering the English language that much. While it is important to have one global language as English, Patricia points out that it should not be used as a barrier. The most prestigious universities are in the US and UK where candidates must submit an English language exam in order to get in. So, a just question she asks is: “If there is a monolingual Dutch who knows a cure for cancer, would I stop him from going to my English university?” While the logical answer is “No,” the reality is the opposite. And here comes the real question – “What happened to translation?” Every language is an asset and with the help of translation we can spread knowledge to each point in the world, regardless of its origin. Listen to Patricia Ryan here to get more motivation about your job as a translator.


Ann Morgan: My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World

Ann Morgan’s talk at TED: Global – London is a true inspiration for literature translators. She has challenged herself to read a book from every country in the world in one year. The first issue was how to determine the countries. So, she came up with the list of UN recognized nations and added Taiwan to it, thus having a total of 196 countries. At the beginning, Ann thought that the problem will be how to read and blog about 4 books every week, while going to work five days a week. It turned out, however, that the biggest challenge was to find translated books. Only 4.5% of the books published in the UK are translations. It turns out that some nations have little or no commercial literature in English. Thus, books remain invisible to readers of the world’s most published language. In order to find books from different countries, Ann contacted writers or translators directly and got copies of self-published or unpublished translations. She even had to look for volunteer translator for a book from the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe. Luckily, she found several translators who did the job. So, if literature is the field of your preferred translation work, you should know that it is highly appreciated and much needed. Listen to the inspiring story of Ann Morgan here and keep up the good work.


Sandra Fisher-Martins: The Right to Understand

Sandra Fisher-Martins delivered a TED talk, which focuses on a different aspect of translation – to translate from your own language into your own language. It may sound a bit strange as an idea, however the ordinary people do not speak the sophisticated language of law or medicine that is often present even in everyday documents. Sandra speaks about simplifying the language, so that we communicate in a simple and clear way, enabling our reader to understand it at first glance. She points out that Sweden and the United States have introduced a legislation that forces the State to communicate with people in a language they can understand. This is a talk that translators who are dealing mainly with document translation can relate to. As professionals we know that it is of paramount importance to first understand the original text in order to be able to render it properly in the target language. Therefore, we suggest listening to Sandra Fisher-Martins presentation here in order to get a bit of a boost to your confidence that you are doing a magnificent job by translating documents from one language into another.

These are just three examples of TED talks that can serve as a great motivation to experts in the field of translation and interpretation as they show how important their role is for the society. Quite often, we are focused only on the service we provide to our immediate customer, while in many cases the job we do entails a lot of additional benefits.   

Last but not least, it is important to note down that the career of the translators and interpreters is of great importance and can often be the difference between life and death, especially in situations involving medical care or conflict zones. On top of the fantastic TED talks that can inspire you to pursue a job in the field, it is also worth mentioning some movies like “The Interpreter” from 2005, which poses some questions about the role of the interpreter and the risks they undertake in their everyday life, which sometimes remain unnoticed by the general public.

In conclusion, it can be pointed out that the job of a translator and/or interpreter is an interesting and challenging one but all the same time quite rewarding and is worth dedicating your life to perfecting yourself in this field.  

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