An interview with Kinga Skorupska – of the Open Translation Project and more

Richard Lucas May 2014

Introduction Kinga Skorupska is part of the TED and TEDx Community  – and through the OTP is one of those people who make TED talks available to those would would struggle with English. It’s a pleasure to share info about what she is up to with a wider audience

Kinga Skorupska

Kinga Skorupska


Please introduce yourself, who are you, what do you do and where are you from ?  My name is Kinga Skorupska, I am a Polish Language Coordinator at TED Open Translation Project and a member of TEDxWarsaw team.

Were you supported by family and friends or did they think you are crazy? My family liked that I was doing something that made me happy and that I was learning at the same time, but a lot of my friends thought I was crazy! Back then hardly anyone except for hardcore nerds and people in the industry heard about TED and it was common for me to hear „You work for free! Why?” 

Can you describe what you do for OTP, and what the point is?  As TED and TEDx stand right now in many parts of Europe they are quite English-centric, because they want to be attractive to international guests. So without translations TEDx and TED remain inaccessible to a large part of the local community – especially to older people and children. I hope this will change, if not through direct participation, then thanks to localized websites and translated talks. This is why Language Coordinators like me devote their time to oversee the quality of translations, recruit and mentor volunteers, write translation manuals and organize training workshops.

You’ve been active in both TED/ OTP, TEDx, and I’ve heard other projects What and who inspires and motivates you? Why did you decide to get involved?  I became a member of the OTP right after the project was announced, as I was studying English Philology at that time and I wanted practice in translation. I had already been a fan of TED for a few years at that point and as I translated more I realized that is the best way to appreciate and really understand the talks.  Then I started sharing them with my family and friends, I exchanged emails with other translators and we became friends. I met Krystian at TEDxWarsaw, TEDxKraków and then he invited me to be a remote member of TEDxYouth@Kraków core team – after I learned more about TEDx it was natural to reach out to the TEDxWarsaw team..I am active in the OTP because I want our translators to feel like they are part of a community – it’s easy to forget when you stare at pixels for hours. Contributing to TEDx is a bit different, because there are more team meetings, phone calls, direct discussion and then the grand event. The OTP also attracts more introverted people who like TED and TEDx and just want to translate the talks. It’s great motivation to see your translation appreciated, but it’s not always enough to keep interest in the project – the knowledge, connections and friendships you form on the way ultimately are why you stay.

What did you find most challenging, stressful?  That was the very beginning, back in late 2009. As there was no imposed time limit for translating talks the first task took me well over two months to complete – I wanted my first translation to be perfect. Of course I was clueless at that point, so a few months later, after getting pointers from Krystian Aparta (thank you!) I asked TED staff to reassign it to me and changed it again. Then finally, Rysia Wand did the review and still changed so many things…I had a lot to learn!

What are the biggest elements of the workload that are not visible to outsiders? There tens of thousands of TEDx talks available for transcription and translation, alongside TED-Ed and TED talks. A 15-minute talk means about 20 hours of work in total, with 6 steps to complete on the way: transcription (original language subtitles), review of the transcription, approval of the transcription and then translation, the review and the approval again. Each of these tasks requires a certain set of skills, so a knowledge transfer has to occur ideally for every new member – for this we use OTPedia, social media and comments in Amara, our translation platform. Giving good feedback on tasks is crucial and then there is the research, terms, and my nemesis: punctuation – why can’t we just do away with these teeny scribbles?

What would you describe as your key roles and contribution? I am a Polish Language Coordinator and as such I approve translated talks and give feedback to volunteers. Other than that I write English and Polish content for OTPedia: and last year I started organizing a community of OTP translators around TEDxWarsaw, with increasingly more regular meetings and training workshops. I hope our example will inspire more cooperation between TEDx and OTP around the world and spark a sense of belonging for OTP members– the TEDxWarsaw team has been incredibly supportive in these goals. Thank you!

What was the most unexpected, funniest and strangest TEDx experiences and what are you most proud of? We organized an international OTP workshop after this year’s TEDxWarsaw and meeting other OTP translators has been a blast! After the workshop we had a sightseeing tour of Warsaw – we fed animals in Łazienki Park, and saw a live deer there – when does that ever happen?! Sure it rained a bit when we got to the Old Town, but it really didn’t matter. I have heard that we are leading the world in TEDx and OTP cooperation, and that makes me proud, grateful and happy – is there one word for these emotions combined? Sure could use it now.

What do you say when you meet someone who hasn’t heard of or TEDx, does it happen often. Lately more often people have heard about TEDx but haven’t heard about TED, which just shows how big of an impact TEDx has on our society – Kudos! When that happens I explain the concept, show them a talk they may like and tell them to ask me later how they can contribute.

How did you come into contact with TED?  I always wanted to know a bit about everything. First it’s great for creative writing. Second, it’s great for connecting with people. It helps you see and understand how what they love and do is interesting. So in my quest for understanding I browsed a private educational tracker for free lectures, and found the first bundle of TED talks – that got me hooked.

Which are your favorite TED talks and why? I absolutely loved John Hodgman’s “Aliens, love – where are they?” – it was heartwarming, lyrical and quite geeky. Other than that I love talks about life sciences, physics and astronomy, for example Brian Greene’s talk “Why is our universe fine-tuned for life?”.(in Polish here:


What advice would you give to anyone who is considering getting involved in TEDx or the OTP, or starting a new project? Don’t try to do it all by yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are plenty of enthusiastic and reliable people who are actually happy to help. Krystian and Rysia helped me learn to be a better translator and encouraged me to try things out. Magdalena Daniel has been an awesome help when it comes to organizing the TEDxWarsaw OTP sub-team. TEDxWarsaw team, Mateusz, Milada, Adam, Ralph all supported our efforts to bring the translators together, as part of the bigger community and make them feel appreciated.

What interesting and/or strange facts can you tell us about yourself than most people don’t know about? I love games: board games, competitive computer games and pen&paper RPGs. My hobby led me from being a Game Master for Warhammer and WOD to becoming a Deputy Commander on the World of Tanks battlefields. I coded a bit for a MUD. I am also learning freestyle rollerskating.

What are you working on at the moment, what’s next and what will you think of as a success in 5-10 years from now.  I translate movies, games and work part-time as a small business assistant and teacher, but I love sf and creative writing, so in 5 years I expect I will have published my book set in the HQ of a post-SETI group operating covertly in a dystopian society.

What is the biggest impact TED and TEDx has had on your life? Because of TED I met smart, open-minded and fun people and I stopped worrying about fitting in. As my friend put it, I became awkwardly social, more self-confident and as a result – happier. TED and TEDx celebrate human connection and curiousity and when these two meet innovation and knowledge are born, but you have to have the courage to admit you that you want and need to learn. I am trying to contribute to the community in such a way as to create a similar experience for others.

Anything else you’d like to tell us:

Sure! Join us, it’s easy:

Soon, we are organizing another TEDxWarsaw/OTP Translatathon so if you are free on the 1st of June show up and we will show you the ropes.

Find out more here:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *