Quality In Translation Crowdsourcing

This article is originally published at translation-blog.multilizer.com.

Translation quality is one of the most important issues in translation crowdsourcing. Based on our analysis of dozens of crowdsourcing articles and cases we elaborate the quality aspect of our earlier article about top reasons for crowdsourcing translations.

The common view is that crowdsourced translations are usually better than professional translations. The main reason is said to be that “users know best”. That is, the end-user experience is the ultimate measure of quality and when end-users themselves do the translation they will use terminology and translations that they are comfortable with. Another reason is that translations often contain a number of small, perhaps secondary errors. Due to cost, these would not be worth fixing by professional translators but end-users are able to fix these in a couple of minutes.

There are also some hints that end-users might be more tolerant towards translation errors when they know that the “crowd” has made them. On the other hand it must be noted that e.g. with Facebook most users don’t know that the translations have been crowdsourced. With small languages professional translators with good knowledge of the subject matter may be very difficult to find. Therefore the choice could be between crowdsourcing and professional translator without knowledge of the subject matter. This obviously greatly affects quality.

To achieve good quality with crowdsourcing is not self-evident, however. It requires good processes that enhance quality. For example, without first creating glossary and agreeing on terminology, the translations can not be consistent. This problem is highlighted when new versions of products are developed. The time between publishing product versions is often long and the original translators might not we available any more. The translation discrepancy between products is a real problem but it can be enhanced with good crowdsourcing processes.

One aspect of translation quality is brand identity. Crowdsourced translation might not take this aspect into account sufficiently. Also regional variations in languages are a challenge. People will translate to their own language and sometimes will not even notice that their own language is actually a regional dialect.


In general the quality of crowdsourced translations is good, often even better that by professional translators. However, crowdsourcing does not automatically result in good quality. There are some challenges but it’s possible to overcome them. The most crucial thing is to have proper crowdsourcing processes in place.

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What Is Software Localization?

In a previous post we discussed about translation and localization. To take this localization conversation little further, let’s talk shortly about one common term strongly related in localization. This term is software localization.

Software localization means translating a piece of software, like an smart phone application or a computer program, from one language into another. Usually any software like this consists of a bunch of hidden codes and pieces of visible text. In most cases only the text part is translated in localization projects. All the definitions related to localization applies also to software localization: all kinds of localization are combinations of translation and rewrite.

As compared to “normal” localization, from a translator’s point of view software localization requires not only language skills and knowledge of the culture but also some understandings of software and their structure. By this I mean that there can be some codes and other more or less technical stuff within or next to the text parts. These codes need to remain unchanged or otherwise the finished software won’t be able to run correctly. An experienced software translator is able to find and recognise the text which should be translated because human languages differ significantly from the computer languages. However software knowledge is something which is not closely related to translator’s core competencies and thus the requirement of these skills crucially limits the group of potential translators to a localization project.

This is why most translators would definitely benefit a lot if a localization tool is utilized in the software localization project. Localization tools are able to separate the text from the other software coding material. This way the translator won’t make crucial and expensive mistakes. By knowing this, the translator can fully concentrate on his/her translation and localization work. Likewise the software company can choose the translator with most relevant language skills and it don’t have to pick the one with best technical skills.

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What Is Localization?

Localization is real and widely used word but its meaning is not too easy to understand. With common sense it can be deduced that localization includes a refer to something local, near and close. Still the word localization is repeatedly used within the same context as globalization which has a strong meaning of something global or worldwide. So what does localization really mean?

Localization is more than translation. Translation and localization are easy to mix up. At the terminological level they are indeed very close to each others but a closer look reveals some clear differences. To point out the main difference I define translating as the function of replacing words in a piece of text from one language to another. This is quite a strict definition and I know there are also other opinions. Anyway, if we hold on to this definition, translation is product of mechanical word or phrase replacing work. Actually this is basically what most machine translators do.

Localization is less than rewrite. Machine translators are being developed constantly towards more localization oriented approach. Basically localization is sophisticated translation with the idea of rewriting the message with another language. If the task is to localize something, there should be excellent language skills and knowledge on the cultural environment. Let’s take an example: in English it is polite to say “you” to a stranger, but in Italian “tu” (ie. you) is not in line with the general practice. (If interested, “Lei” is the correct expression in Italian.) However, localization doesn’t mean that the whole text would be rewritten. There are always parts of text which can just be translated without any major considerations in most localization projects.

As a conclusion, localization is like translation but with a cultural twist and a rewrite attribute. Localization can be linked to globalization in a sense that successful globalization can be based on clever localization. Sounds confusing, right? Let’s take an example: A firm wants to globalize its business which means that it wants to do business also outside its home country. To achieve this goal it decides to start exporting its product to some country. If the product is a processed commodity, it probably has a package or a product description or at least a brand name. This kind of informational material should be localized properly so that all the potential customers could understand why they should purchase the product. Depending on the product, also the local legislation may require the firm to perform these localization actions. If the firm pays attention to the localization work, it improves remarkably its own possibility to succeed in the foreign market. “Think global, act local”, like they say in business world.

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