Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Crowdsourcing Translations

Recently, a number of companies have contacted me to ask me to advertise their new free crowdsourcing translation services. I suppose I don’t feel willing to do this, because I am suspicious of just how well such services can work.

For example, many of us look at Wikipedia for information, but we know that it isn’t always accurate, so we always make sure we check the info against other sites or texts. Would people do that with translations as well? Would they have the ability to do so?

Also, how can non-professional translators understand all the language and context in a given text? How can they know exactly what is involved in translation work? Would you let a crowd of people operate on you, just because it was free and they thought they’d know how to do it? No? Then why let a crowd of people translate your texts?

One of these websites even wrote to me to say that besides their free option, they also allow “customers” the option of paying for a better service, one that “allow[s] users of their programs to opt for a more accurate and professional level of translation through hybrid translation, if they so choose.” If you want “a more accurate and professional level of translation”, why not pay a translator? You know, the old-fashioned method of getting a translation done.

What do you think?


Kevin Hendzel said...


Kevin Hendzel said...

So sorry, please remove this post and post above; just testing. Problem is now fixed! :)

Anonymous said...

It depends, crowdsourcing has become really popular as a phenomenon but it remains to be seen if it can be applied to translation. It depends on what the individual participants get out of it, because no-one does things completely for free. But I don't think it gives us professional translators that much to worry about; already automatic translation like Google Translate provide a good enough option for cheap, approximate translation. Professional translation is to that the premium service which people are happy to pay for.

Unknown said...

I have to admit that I am still slightly confused at the expanse of crowdsourcing. A nice idea, but to an extent.
In subtitling animated series (Japanese, mostly), for example, fansubbing is a lot of the time of a much higher quality than "professional" work; this also links to the notion of context mentioned in the post: the fans have a much better idea of what is happening, what has happened and what might develop from here.
Textual translations, on the other hand, do not seem to fit the same standards.

Just a bit of shameless plugging now: for a nice look at an example on crowdsourced translation, stay tuned for the upcoming Issue 20 of Norwich Papers: The Next BIG Thing. Due September 2012.