Probably each of us has seen at least one TED or TEDx video. Some of you may have even attended one of the TED events and experienced the amazing and inspiring atmosphere. But have you considered using these videos to improve your foreign language skills?
On the TED homepage, you can see and listen to speeches by experts in various fields. You could probably find at least one speech for each topic imaginable – whether it is science, literature, history, art, education, or sociology. Let’s take a look at what the site has to offer so that you can use the videos for your benefit. As an example, let’s use one of Sir Ken Robinson‘s videos, which is one of the most popular ones with more than 66 million views.
1. Here you can find out basic information about the speaker and the speech itself, or find additional resources (for example, published books, recommended articles, and interviews). You can also open the speaker’s profile, where you will find additional information and often a link to other websites.
2. In the “Transcript” section, you can find a transcript of the speech. It is in English by default, but there is a possibility to switch it to another language from the menu. The choice of languages varies from video to video, as the texts are translated gradually by volunteer translators. The more popular a speech is, the faster it gets translated into other languages. The transcript is interactive and highlights the corresponding place in the transcript in real-time while listening, so you never lose track. At the same time, it can be used to work with your vocabulary or to combine reading with listening.
3. Are you interested in the video and would you like to find out more about the topic? Then there’s the “Reading List” with links to other articles, published books, or other additional videos. Thanks to these resources, you will learn everything there is about the topic, and you can excel in conversations with detailed knowledge.
4. In the “Comments” section, you can practice writing, as it allows you to participate in the discussion, to ask a question, express your opinion or write to other users. In this case, the Grammarly website plugin installed in your browser can be very helpful. It will find the most serious errors and typos in English in real time.
5. Select the language you want from the subtitle menu: Besides basic English, you can choose from other languages, so the choice is up to you. Their diversity and number depend, as in the case of the transcript, on the translation of the volunteers. And of course, if you want to focus only on listening, you can turn the subtitles off.
6. Is the speech too fast for you? Or you just want to scan through it quickly and not waste time? Select your desired speed under the gear icon and the video will immediately adjust to your needs.
7. By clicking on the „Share“ button you can not only share the video on different social media websites, but also download the video. You can choose the video to be with or without subtitles (in the available languages), or you can choose the audio version of TED Talks Daily, to which you can listen offline on various devices as a podcast.
8. If you have created an account on ted.com, you can add the video to your list…
9. … and also hit the like button under the video.
10. You can also recommend a video, choosing a suitable characteristic, and thus help future viewers in choosing interesting topics.
There are even more posts on Youtube, where TED and TEDx have their own channel with thousands of other videos. Here, too, you can use integrated subtitles or adjust the speed. Just click on the gear icon in the lower right corner and the selection will show up.
English speakers have an undeniable advantage because the videos on the main page are in English and only offer the possibility of other language subtitles. However, their translations undergo a multi-level quality control which guarantees their high standard. For starters, try watching videos with subtitles, and when you feel more confident, you can turn them off and just listen.
As we mentioned above, you can use the interactive transcript of the speech, to monitor the text in real time. If you click on any word in the text, the program will automatically play that part of the video and you can listen to the pronunciation without having to search for it in the video.
TED is no longer just conferences and videos; it encompasses many other projects, and one of them is TED-Ed, an educational website created by teachers.
Hundreds of lessons await you with additional activities in the Watch, Think, Dig Deeper and Discuss sections. The supporting texts and vocabulary will be useful for a conversation, and they will also expand your knowledge. Due to their smart length and topic handling that is accessible to a wide audience, you can use them as a language learning tool at any time of the day, during breaks, on the way home from work or while you are waiting in line.
TED also has a special page ready for you with many articles on interesting topics – IDEAS.TED. Thanks to thematic links in the texts, interactive quizzes and links to related videos or other similar articles, you will not be bored for a minute while reading.
So far, we have focused mainly on articles in English. However, could TEDx videos be useful for learning other languages as well? I have good news for you, yes, it’s possible, but it will require a little more effort.
The best way to find videos in different languages is directly on Youtube, where you search, for example, for TEDxParis and select videos in the French language that caught your attention. For German, you can try entering the term “TEDx deutsch” and see what is available in this language. People learning Spanish can visit a separate, TED en Español channel.
With some creativity and knowledge of geography, you will discover videos from different parts of the world in several languages. However, it should be noted that events in large cities are often held in English, so searching for TEDxBerlin, for example, does not necessarily mean that you will find videos only in German or that TEDxRome will only be in Italian.
The TED website itself can also help you in your search. You will find an overview of planned events with additional information in the ATTEND / TEDx events section. You can sometimes watch a webcast or live stream, i.e. attend the conference via the Internet from the comfort of your home.
And if you want to listen to your (perhaps) first TED video right now, you can start practicing English on Lýdia’s TED talk The secrets of learning a new language.
Translation: Romana Christová
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The author of this blog post is Daša Oravcová, a professional translator and member of the Language Mentoring team since 2018.
Language Mentoring provides a complete guide for learning any language using simple and often free resources on the internet and in bookshops. It was founded by polyglot, language mentor and author of this website, Lýdia Machová, in 2016. She's learned 9 languages by herself and she adds another one every other year. Her philosophy is that everybody can learn a language regardless talent, age or other qualities – if they know how to do it.