Crowdsourcing Translation – is it really worth it?



A recent Business Insider article provided by a company called Smartling suggests that you should translate your website through crowdsourcing translation.

 Crowdsourcing Translation

As crowdsourcing translation involves significantly more work (and, later, money) than just hiring a professional, trusting the translation of your website to random strangers on the internet and spending more money and effort in the process wouldn’t be a good idea.

First, you’ll need to hire people just to create this crowdsourcing infrastructure. You will then need people from your company or from another company that believes you should entrust the translation of your company website to strangers on the internet, monitor submissions, monitor quality, and provide technical support during the crowdsourcing translation project.

You will also have to hire or establish a team of reviewers, composed of professional translators and create style guides and glossaries. In other words, a significant amount of time and effort to utilize the average work of a random person on the Internet, who may get tired or bored in the middle of the project, who has little interest or encouragement in reading all of those style guides that you created, who is not responsible for what he is providing regardless of whether it’s bad or a great one. Everything so that you end up with a website that appears to have been translated by an amateur and with dissatisfied users. For example, most users (who are not using the English interface) complain about Facebook versions that are translated by crowdsourcing.

And unless you’re a gigantic social media like Facebook, you’re unlikely to have the community of users you need to try to implement that idea of crowdsourcing translation.


Compare that to hiring a translator.

You give the translator your documents. The translator translates them, doing all the necessary research in a professional way and rewriting your copy in the best possible way to ensure that your site is as beautiful in another language as the original because that is the work of a professional translator and it’s for this service that you are paying for. The only effort on your part will be to answer a few questions from the translator, put the files they give you on the internet and, of course, pay the translator.


A supposed disadvantage of professional translators would be:

Twitter uses the word “unfollow” to label the button that stops following another account. If you ask an amateur working on this crowdsourcing translation project to translate this, they will probably return a word like “Não-Seguir” in Portuguese. If you ask a translator (or linguist) directly, they will probably point out that “unfollow” is not a word. Twitter’s language is very informal in English, and the user translation helped keep that informal tone in all languages (even the “Deixar de Seguir” in Portuguese, even the “Entfolgen”- not-grammatical in German).

What makes random Internet users more likely to invent a term like “Entfolgen” than a professional translator? Absolutely nothing, in fact, the opposite is more likely. While a bilingual Internet user may be able to understand and express himself in two languages, a professional translator makes his living through language and writing. A professional translator understands the nuances of their native and working languages, updates the latest trends in the fields in which they work and enhances their writing skills so they can provide the best possible product to their customers. The bilingual person is much more likely to translate something literally, whereas a suitable professional translator will reflect on the cultural context of the content, on the target audience and on the best way to express the content in the target language.


Do you still think that crowdsourcing translation is a good idea for your website translation? Pay for professionalism or pay for amateurism – it’s your choice.


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