How I Learned Spanish: Part 5- TED Translations
After leaving the military in late 2016, I decided to become an interpreter with Spanish as my main language. I had spent the majority of my adult life studying foreign languages in some way, I wanted to become not only fluent in Spanish, but also be literate enough with it to use it in a professional setting.
As you can imagine, this is no small task, and as of this posting, I am still working toward that goal today.
One of the things that always intimidated me about learning a foreign language at a high level was how to deal with the massive amounts of vocabulary in a language. Being fluent doesn't necessarily mean having a large vocabulary, but I knew I would need a lot of words to be able to work as an interpreter one day.
This concern was what eventually led me to the TED Translators program. I'm a big fan of the ideas that are shared through TED talks, so I figured it would be a good place to improve my Spanish vocabulary while learning new things.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If you've ever watched a TED talk and noticed that it had subtitles in another language other than what the talk was originally given in, that was probably the work of a volunteer TED translator.
As a volunteer translator, you can choose from TED talks on any topic that need the subtitles translated into another language. Afterwards, you have about 90 days to translate the subtitles into the other language. The video is then submitted for review and edited by a higher level volunteer and then subtitles are completed.
NOT JUST ABOUT THE LANGUAGE
This was my first time doing anything publicly with Spanish, so considering that I was very much a beginner with the language at the time, I was very meticulous with the first video that I translated. I remember I took almost the full 90 day period to complete it (and I was working on it for at least 30 minutes a day).
Yeah it was pretty ridiculous.
One thing that I wasn't prepared for was the technical aspect of subtitling. Generally, the TED translation editor is somewhat user friendly, but even that didn't nullify the annoyance of formatting subtitles.
Each subtitle needs to be cut at a certain interval, and can only be a certain length, which makes it where you have to pay very close attention to what and where you type. If what you translated was too long and busted the subtitle block, it could throw off other subtitles that followed.
Additionally, the subtitle needs to be synched to the audio of the speaker and the subtitle length may need to be adjusted just to make it fit. Ugh. If you've ever had to edit a video or a piece of music you will probably be familiar with the process. I'm sure there are some people that love this, but for me it was tedious and greatly distracted me from learning Spanish.
While it was possible to ignore these technical aspects and just submit the work with the completed translation, it was also possible that the reviewer could send it back to you for it to be corrected if there were too many errors.
Remember I was doing all of this as a volunteer, and it quickly began to feel like a job to me.
HOW DID IT IMPROVE MY SPANISH?
I can't say that volunteering as a translator improved my Spanish much. Sure I did encounter a lot of formal and casual language, but few grammar principles or vocabulary words appeared often enough for me to actually learn them. It was just too much information to process at once, especially as a beginner in the language.
SO YOU'RE THINKING OF BECOMING A TED TRANSLATOR?
Ultimately, this is only something that I would recommend for people who are already very familiar with Spanish. If you're at that level and would like to volunteer you can click below to sign up:
They always have tons of videos that need subtitling, so you will have no shortage of interesting topics to choose from.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the last time that I would overextend myself while learning Spanish. I made a lot of mistakes when I started learning Spanish full-time, but every one of them helped me refine my focus even more and this was no exception.
What type of things have you tried to learn Spanish that turned out to be complete fails? Share in the comments below.