The role and impact of volunteer translation in translators’ training

The setting for this study is the TED Translators’ community, and what research on TED subtitling in classroom tells us about volunteer motivation. The democratizing effect of the internet has blurred the lines between experts and non-experts in many fields, and changed the concept of knowledge and how and where learning takes place (Tapscott and Williams, 2008).

In the field of translation, technology not only is shaping content, but also substantially altering the landscape of practice. TED’s popularity, “one of the most prominent science popularization initiatives in history” (Sugimoto and Thelwall, 2013) has been attributed to the successful harnessing of technology to reduce the gap between experts and the public. This research set out to capture and describe the experiences of participants undertaking an authentic, experiential, situated activity (Kiraly, 2015), and to explore the perception of the social impact of TED subtitling by translator trainees.

TED Translators, an online community of volunteers involved in translation of audiovisual open content, provides an opportunity to translator trainees to complete authentic tasks that make a real contribution to society, in this case, disseminating ideas across languages and cultures whilst practicing the skill of translating video subtitles.

Based on the analysis of participants’ views, via a questionnaire, we explored the translator trainees’ drivers for participation, following the categories set by Olohan (2014). We focused on students’ perceptions of the learning derived from participation in TED Translators, and also the social impact of subtitling for TED, and found that participants valued the learning of new skills, potentially useful for professional development, and taking credit for their translation, in a well-known and respected community. They were mostly positive about the role of this kind of activity. Many of the trainee translators interacted and supp orted each other through the associated Facebook group of Greek TED Translators.