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The possibilities and perils of Crowdsourced Translation

Crowdsourced translation has become very popular in the last five years – so much so that it is now the foundation of several translation businesses. There’s no denying it has its place, but what is that place, and what other options are there?

Sometimes described as a “disruption”, crowdsourced translation’s main contribution to the market is price-competitiveness and scalability compared to professional translation. At the other end of the scale, the incredibly cheap (but sometimes questionable) output of machine translation can be countered by the “middle ground” provided by crowdsourcing.

So let’s have a closer look at the benefits of crowdsourced translation, and the occasions when it may be the best choice.

Crowdsourced translation – key benefits:

  • Significantly cheaper than professional translation
  • Fast turnaround of translation projects
  • Language that speaks directly to customers
  • Extremely scalable for larger projects

So what kind of projects is crowdsourced translation best suited to, and why?

First and foremost, user-generated content.

This is highly effective, as it’s one consumer communicating another’s views in real, human language. Whether that’s social media posts or product reviews, the best way to get an accurate view of what your customers are thinking are to ask real people to translate it for you. Colloquialisms, typos and abbreviations may not be picked up by machine translation, and professional translation for this content probably isn’t the wisest use of translation budget.

Terminology and style development for key consumer markets.

It can be particularly useful in the early stages of building a customer proposition and language for new product launches. The “crowd” can give you an idea of what terminology is most relevant to that audience, especially for smaller markets, such as young people.

Small jobs that need a fast turnaround, at a low price.

For small, ad hoc projects, where quality and consistency with agreed terminology are not important. There will normally be someone in the crowd available to work on your job straight away, and for very limited return. Again, why spend a lot of money when you really don’t need to?

Apart from this though, we are starting to scratch our heads. For translation buyers who are starting to think about anything more than the bare basics of quality, consistency or more complex or technical documents, you really do need to get professionals in. A friendly neighbour may fix a wobbly door handle as a favour, but would you trust them to install a whole new kitchen? And would they be willing or able to do it?

The perils of crowdsourced translation

So what exactly isn’t a crowdsourced approach to translation good for?

Technical translations – this can be anything from medical, sector-specific, legal or any other subject that requires a high level of specialist knowledge.

Consistency and accuracy – when you need your brand or product’s specific terminology used correctly across all communications, or you have specific regulatory commitments in your communications, you need professionals, with a sophisticated Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tool on the job.

Project Management – when you have large jobs or, several small jobs, you need someone to manage the process quickly, effectively and at a reasonable price.

But if you’re still looking for a cheaper and faster solution for certain jobs (perhaps product updates on an e-commerce site), a premium machine translation engine tailored to your sector (or even your specific terminology database), could be just the answer. Connect it to our API for one-click ordering and the world, as they say, is your oyster.

*Picture credits: igor.stevanovic /

Steve Griffin

Steve Griffin edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Drama at Exeter University and completing a postgraduate diploma in Management at Durham University, he worked in Marketing & Communications in a global recruitment company for five years, before spending some time as a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant. Steve enjoys bringing his creative flair to writing and marketing projects, and has always been a passionate student of language.

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