Crowdsourcing Translation – Should You Do It?

The world of translations is expanding with new machines, software tools, and language pairs, but one aspect that is gaining a lot of attention recently is crowdsourcing translations. The term “crowdsourcing” came about around 2006 and refers to projects, which multiple individuals from all over the world come together to work on, usually for free, with the result of a fast turnaround time. Although this may all sound like a good idea, crowdsourcing in translation is not the ideal way forward, especially for companies that would like to expand into international markets and retain their strong reputation. This blog article explores what crowdsourcing translation means, and why it’s not a good idea and provides some cases where it could possibly be used, with some caution. Let’s take a closer look.

What does crowdsourcing translation mean?

Crowdsourcing translation, as an outgrowth of the term “crowdsourcing”, refers to the practice of having many individuals from all over the world enjoin your translation project to produce a final result. Despite the seeming attractiveness of this endeavor, which is in most cases free, it has some significant drawbacks, which we’ll get into more detail below. However, while projects such as Wikipedia (one of the world’s largest crowdsourcing projects) have experienced success, they do not guarantee the quality or accuracy of a translation requirement as opposed to what a professional language translation and localization company can offer. 

Why a crowdsourced translation sounds like a good idea but actually isn’t

With so many people willing to work for free or to earn some sort of points or badge towards achieving a level of recognition that may sound appealing, professional businesses intent on penetrating new markets and retaining their reputation are advised against the practice of crowdsourcing translation. Here are some of the main reasons why:
pros and cons of crowd sourced translation

  • It favors quantity over quality: as a starting point, hiring people with no vested interest in the project and splitting up the work to multiple individuals in different locations with different time zones, cultural nuances, language uses and intricacies ultimately means that crowdsourcing translations will not produce a high-quality result due to all the discrepancies between the individuals involved in the project. Yes, it may become completed faster, but its main focus is usually on speed as opposed to producing something worthwhile that is of high quality.  
  • Uses amateur translators who may not be native speakers or professional linguists: a second reason why crowdsourcing translation is not a good idea is that the professional and linguistic backgrounds of the individuals involved cannot be guaranteed. In many cases, an organization that chooses to crowdsource its translations may be dealing with amateur translators who cannot put a stamp next to their name to guarantee the quality of the final project. These individuals may also not be native speakers of the source and target language and this means that errors can easily creep in. 
  • Impacts on final quality: further to the above, crowdsourcing translations will have significant impacts on the quality of the final project. There may be numerous inconsistencies in the actual translations and the lack of quality control steps is not present with this type of translation process. There are also no standardized glossaries used, which again means that accuracy cannot be guaranteed. 
  • There are no quality checks to ensure the quality of the final output: as mentioned above, there are no project managers who manage the project from start to finish and they rarely implement quality control checks to ensure that the final product is as accurate as possible. The final output can therefore be an amalgamation of different interpretations of certain words, grammatical and syntactical errors, linguistic differences in word usage (English in America is spelled differently to English in the UK, for example), and many others. Furthermore, technical texts that are much more language and expert-specific can be highly difficult to translate accurately. 
  • Loss of time: although choosing crowdsourcing translation may seem like a quick way to get a final product, it can actually end up being a costly affair in terms of time. This is because multiple translations will need to be redone and this can stall the entire project and delay an organization’s international expansion plans. 
  • Can alienate your target audience: another detrimental element of crowdsourcing translations is the unfortunate consequence of alienating your target audience and losing face and your reputation among the new markets you’d like to enter. This means that you can lose potential customers, damage your brand, and face financial losses as a result of your initial investment.
  • Confidentiality is not guaranteed: there is also the major issue of confidentiality. If you are dealing with client data, you as an organization need to be able to guarantee their privacy. If you are engaging in business negotiations, then both contracting parties need to be assured that their discussions and documentation will be kept confidential. When crowdsourcing translations, you’re inevitably not guaranteed that any of the information or documents that you send to the individuals will not end up in the wrong hands or worse, cause a loss of business reputation in the event that private documents are made public. 
  • Expenses: finally, it may seem that crowdsourcing translations will be a more cost-effective way of having your translations done, but this is actually not the case. For starters, you will need to engage the services of a crowdsourced translation platform or company, and these often require payment for their services to reach individuals who will perform the actual work. As a result, it can end up being a highly costly exercise that does not guarantee the quality of the final project. 
You may also like:  How business should localize their promotions

When can crowdsourcing translation be a good idea?

Although it may seem that there is no place for crowdsourcing translations in the translation industry, there is some hope for it yet. For example, crowdsourcing translation may be the go-to option for some organizations which are seeking short, easy translations where quality is not in question, where financial resources are limited, and the project needs a fast turnaround time. Examples of these include Facebook and Twitter posts.

A crowdsourced translation should not be your go-to for your translation needs

As attractive and appealing as crowdsourcing translation may seem at first glance, it comes with a number of serious challenges that should not be overlooked for your translation needs. Instead, always choose to partner with a reliable translation company that has quality control checks in place, uses the right software tools, takes advantage of pre-established translation processes, and finally, guarantees the final output from the source to the target language. In short, a crowdsourcing translation should be used in very rare cases where speed is of the utmost essence and where quality is not a requirement. Every other translation project should rather go through the rigorous quality processes that a reliable translation partner can guarantee.