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?


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List of sources used in this article:

  • http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=17732333448&topic=9517
  • http://techcrunch.com/2008/06/12/facebook-no-longer-the-second-largest-social-network/
  • http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705366964/Can-companies-obtain-free-professional-services-through-crowdsourcing.html?pg=1
  • http://blog.matthewbennett.es/44/linkedin-infuriates-professional-translators-10-big-questions/
  • http://welocalize.blogspot.com/2010/03/crowdsourcing-translation.html
  • http://www.globalization-group.com/edge/2011/03/why-crowdsource-translation/
  • http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Default.aspxContenttype=ArticleDetAD&tabID=63&Aid=591&moduleId=391