Smart Translation Crowdsourcing
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Smart Translation Crowdsourcing

Smart Translation Crowdsourcing

Smart CrowdsourcingPresenter Katerina Gasova is Moravia’s Director of Linguistic Services. In her webinar “Managing In-Country Communities – How to Get It Right she answered questions on the definition, challenges, and best practices of translation crowdsourcing.

What is translation crowdsourcing?

Simply put, translation crowdsourcing is professional-level translation created by non-professionals. These non-professionals are the users of your product and services who agree, as volunteers, to put their user-expertise to work in providing translations that are right for your company and right for their fellow users in their home markets.

Volunteers? “Free” sounds like the right price to me!

Despite the myths — It’s cheap! The crowd leads the way! — the reality is that smart translation crowdsourcing demands financial, staffing, and structural investments like any other important customer-facing venture. As a result, you’ll want to launch this process with your rose-colored glasses off. That means that you’ll want to define what you want to achieve, to understand the pros and cons of this model, and to do some assessments of what the costs of implementing it may be.

Sounds hard. So, why would I bother with it then?

Translation crowdsourcing has generated its fair share of buzz because, as you guessed, there are plenty of sound reasons for engaging your product and service users in this way.

One of the most important reasons: your users bring an expertise in the language of your product and service that is considerably more likely to produce better quality than the groups of professional translators who don’t know the product so well. Your users not only understand your product and services more deeply, they are already communicating about it in their markets in their native languages.

That expertise is not the only benefit of translation crowdsourcing, of course. Agile localization demands mean that crowdsourced translations could contribute to faster turnarounds. Translation crowdsourcing also delivers opportunities for enriched feedback from your user base. Moreover, by enlisting the help of your users you can build on their enthusiasm by empowering them as brand ambassadors for your company in their markets.

You’re right to be concerned about its challenges. Such a large-scale, public-facing initiative comes with a myriad of complicating factors — things like cultural- and country-based differences, volunteer management demands, quality assurance concerns, and deadline pressures. Nevertheless, smart translation crowdsourcing anticipates these challenges so that, ultimately, both companies and users are rewarded by their participation.

What, then, is smart translation crowdsourcing?

Smart translation crowdsourcing is three key commitments.


  1. The first is the commitment to understanding your users. What do your ideal translation crowdsourcing volunteers look like? Why would they want to get involved in this crowdsourcing effort? How do you recruit them to the effort? What’s in it for them in the end? Really taking the time to profile your users will make the other key commitments function.
  2. The second is the commitment to supporting your users in their efforts. Any volunteer program is as good as its leaders. In translation crowdsourcing especially, users will want to be inspired by someone in your team who serves as the initiative’s visionary — someone who frames the project for the community but who also represents their voices within the company.

    Because such a venture would be too much for any one leader alone, others should also be engaged to support the users: community moderators who keep the communication channels flowing, team facilitators who bring specialized knowledge in the products/services or the market, and linguists who help ensure that the final translation product meets the company’s quality standards.

    There are then, of course, the engineers and developers who are charged with implementing the translation in the product or service.

    Of course, understanding your users means that this support team is equipped with the means to deliver an experience in which your users’ expertise, feedback, and ideas are welcome and encouraged.

  3. The third is the commitment to keeping the translation process simple. Professional translation tools — with their translation memories, content management workflows, terminology databases, and more — can be entirely too complex for the average user of your product and services.

    In smart translation crowdsourcing, then, the goal is to provide easy-to-use tools that allow them to quickly and simply translate the text and provide feedback. Translation tools? Simple. Access to guidelines, glossaries, and instructions? Simple. Feedback systems? Simple. Your investment in making it easy for your users to contribute translations is an important way of showing them how much you value the commitment of their time, interest, and perspectives.