Have you ever made a PDF file and wanted to email it but it was just too big and took forever? Or maybe you just wanted to store files on a flash drive but your PDF files were taking too much space. Whatever the reason may be at one point in time you’ve probably wanted to reduce a PDF file to a smaller size.
The grammatical correctness of a translation is undoubtedly important per se but its role in the buying, decision making and evaluating process is minor. The customer cares only about the perceived translation quality which is – at least partly – created in the buyer’s mind already before the actual transaction. Any buying process is more complex than we might think, and situations without any prior knowledge or attitudes are rare. Objectivity is not easy to achieve when you have to be an active subject.
Translator’s reputation is one important factor which tunes our opinions from the very beginning. In a buyer’s mind, the translator’s reputation can both build a trustworthy image and act as a guarantee or an insurance against flawed translation. Human mind tends to build causal relationships between different things. We think that a reputable translator is able to produce high-quality translations constantly because otherwise the reputation would be damaged. This kind of circular reasoning tells very little about the actual translation quality but it creates positive energy over the translator.
Professional translators can always build good reputations with their actions, but the situation is different with machine translators; they cannot speak for themselves. I would even argue that although a machine and a human being produce translations which reach the same quality level, we will probably think that the one made my human is better. A professional translator can utilize several kinds of secondary quality indicators which a machine translator cannot have.
The contradiction between the translator’s and client’s points of views leads to an absurd situation. When reading online discussions, it is clear that many translators are extremely concentrated on the grammatical issues. These translators are often very shocked when someone uses machine translation. However, the good enough translation quality combined with quick and easy access can result in perceived quality which is satisfactory enough. People know that machine translation is seldom flawless, but in certain cases it’s the best choice for them.
When machine translation is good enough for you?
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We reviewed dozens of articles and cases about translation crowdsourcing and collected in this article all the reasons why companies do crowdsourcing. Most of the benefits are related to issues that are present in any translation work. But there are other reasons as well.
Translation cost naturally plays an important role. Surprisingly, in many articles the cost has been regarded as a secondary or minor reason for crowdsourcing translation. This is somewhat difficult to understand. For example, Facebook has been translated to 70 languages with over 100 000 words each. With the price of e.g. USD 0,10 per word that would be about USD 7 million which is a significant cost saving. On the other hand, Adam Wooten of Globalization Group Inc. claims that crowdsourcing will cost the same if not more than traditional professional translation. He does not mention any sources, though. Perhaps a reason that cost savings are not mentioned as important is that it could be difficult to persuade users to translate for free if the reason would be increasing company profits. Not surprisingly, some professional translators object strongly translation crowdsourcing by for-profit companies.
Translation speed is generally regarded as one of the most important reasons for translation crowdsourcing. An enlightening example is translation of Facebook to French. 4000 Facebook users translated the whole site to French in 24 hours! That must be a world record in translation speed. That kind of translation speed seems to be something that just can’t be achieved with traditional organization of translation. And as we all know, time is money: when Facebook surpassed MySpace it happened exactly because of its international users. The day Facebook became bigger than MySpace, in US MySpace still had twice as much users as Facebook.
Translation crowdsourcing is often very scalable. One user base is able to translate to many languages. There is no overhead in finding and recruiting translators for different languages. For example, Facebook would have had a difficult task in mere finding skilled translators for 70 languages.
What about translation quality then? Some believe that the users do produce better quality than professional translators because they know the field much better. While some disagree, I think it’s safe to say that the quality by crowdsourcing is at least “sufficient” or better. That has been the way with Facebook and Twitter. Microsoft and Cisco name quality and speed for the main reasons of translation crowdsourcing.
Marketing benefit, that is engaging users, has been regarded as one of the most important reasons for crowdsourcing. According to Facebook, 300 000 users have taken part in its translation. Facebook has over 500 000 000 users so roughly 6 in 10 000 users have been engaged by the translation process. Whether that is little or much is relative. In my opinion, crowdsourcing has not been an effective way to engage users for Facebook. Especially when probably only small share of the 300 000 (that downloaded the Facebook translation application) has actually translated actively. The user engagement benefit is further diminished with large languages. Of French speaking Facebook users, only 2 in 10 000 have had some part in the translation.
Speed is the greatest benefit of translation crowdsourcing. About quality there are differing views but we can say for certain that at least Facebook and Twitter have achieved good quality. Some argue that quality is better with crowdsourcing than with traditional translation. About cost it is difficult to get reliable information. At least Facebook has saved money with translation crowdsourcing.
Translation crowdsourcing improves scalability. This is also related to translation speed. Obviously recruiting professional translators for dozens of languages is much slower and more difficult compared to translation crowdsourcing in which it is sufficient to communicate with one’s own user base.
User engagement is regarded as an important reason but, at least for Facebook, its effectiveness seems to be limited.
Do you find this list complete or is there some reasons which should be added to this list?
Outsource & crowdsource the translation work of your localization project. Multilizer offers easy ways to send and share projects with others. Learn more.
List of sources used in this article:
Translation can be the key to an unlimited amount of information, or the access to new markets, or the solution to communication issues. Easier said than done? Not really because nowadays there are several methods to get translations. We have listed four ways in this blog post: translating yourself, using machine translation, outsourcing to a professional translator and crowdsourcing. Let’s discuss these in more details:
1) Do It Yourself
“I can do it quickly and effortless by myself.”
This option requires that you speak and understand very well both the source language and the target language. The output of doing the translation work by yourself depends heavily on your own skills and resources. If you have the required language skills and the project is relatively small, the translation can be done quickly and smoothly.
But if the target is to get perfect translation and if you have any doubts about your ability to produce flawless text, this method can be quite risky. If you’ve ever studied a foreign language, you probably know that it can take an eternity to produce text with limited language skills. However this is not a problem if you master the language as well as your project requires.
In addition it is good to be aware that some translation projects require technical skills. Web pages can be written in HTML, for example. If you don’t know how to translate files like those, it’s better to abandon this method.
2) Use Automatic Machine Translator
“I could do it by myself but I don’t have the time or the patience to do it manually.”
Machine translation is a potential tool if time is a limiting factor. Machine can beat human in translation speed because machines don’t get tired, bored or frustrated like we humans sometimes do. If your translation project consists of text which is easy-to-read, ie simple sentence structures and common vocabulary, most machine translators are able to produce good translation quality. If your project involves plenty of special terms and rare expressions, machine translation may make more mistakes requiring more resources in proofreading and fixing.
Depending on the desired outcome and the wanted quality level, you should be able to read and understand the target language at some level. Machine translators won’t be able to produce totally authentic text and thus proofreading is a mandatory. Again it is reasonable to take a look at your project and determine what is the wanted quality. Sometimes it is enough that the core message will be understood.
If you consider using machine translation make sure that your text can be translated automatically with good quality (check our guidelines for writing machine translation friendly text) and that your situation is suitable for machine translation (check our guide for using machine translation).
3) Outsource Translation Work To A Professional Translator
“I cannot do it by myself. I don’t know the language nor have the skills.”
Professional translator is able to produce high quality text efficiently. In an ideal case the translator is a native speaker of the target language. Native speakers usually have a remarkable advantage in understanding the nuances and tones of the language which can be very difficult to learn by “an outsider”.
The challenge in this method is to find the best translator for your project. Time, quality, subject and context can set their own restrictions and limitations. Money is also an important factor because, up to some point, better quality and faster delivery can be purchased. However nowadays an increasing amount of translation service providers offer a service combination of machine translation and human proofreading with a lower price than pure human translation. This makes translation services available for wider group of potential customers.
4) Crowdsource Translation Work
“Let’s do it together! I want to give my community a chance to participate the project.”
In some cases none of the aforementioned methods is suitable or profitable. It is possible, for example, that you don’t have the language skills to do the translation by yourself and that you don’t want to or don’t have the required resources to hire a professional translator. Instead you might have a social media community with wide fan or customer base. The idea behind social media is to enable cooperation and involvement. Even Facebook and Twitter have tried crowdsourcing.
Committed people are willing to give their effort to your translation project because the output is in their interest or just because they want to take part; to be part of the group. Software development is a good example of crowdsourcing with all the open developer communities and application innovations. Modern technology enables easy and simple crowdsourcing even without special technological skills. For example MOTO is an efficient and fast tool for crowdsourcing.
+1) Mix and match all these methods
Naturally you can mix the best parts of these four methods to find the most suitable combination for your project. Do what you can do by yourself with the help of a machine translator. Crowdsource the rest of the translation work. And finally let a professional translator proofread the outcome.
This list of ours is not totally comprehensive. What other ways are there to get something translated?