Crowdsourcing translation - debunking myths

Back in late 2007, this translation agency published a report called «Collaborative Translation», which pointed out the need to harness so-called collective intelligence in the translation field. The initiative was given the clever term «Crowdsourcing». Its essence is that a translation task is performed by a group of specialists, not just one person. In this case, the matter is not limited to the field of translation, but extends to any creative projects, such as developing a new idea or technology, the collection and processing of large amounts of data (statistical or industrial), and so on.

The agency’s initiative was supported by the well-known social network LinkedIn, although in discussions there were two polar camps of opinion: some laughed at the idea of CT3, and others took it seriously. Nearly two years of debates and discussions (2007-2008) resulted in some myths about crowdsourcing, especially among translators. Today, we debunk them.

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Myth 2 You always have to pay for your translation

Oh, this myth is very popular, especially among beginner freelance translators. It often omits important aspects of the process, such as a high level of professionalism, literacy and compliance of the text with the client’s requirements.  Working together on a translation is sometimes more successful than working with a single translator. Why is that? Because in crowdsourcing, the concepts of post-editing, proofreading and correcting semantic and terminology errors are built into the process. Add to this the higher speed of translation by a team rather than by one person. Thus, payment for a collective translation product is more likely to be received than for an individual translation, because it almost always requires revision by an editor.

MYTH 3 Crowdsourcing is a panacea for all occasions

Again, it’s not so obvious. In addition to its obvious benefits, CT3 has its drawbacks. The main drawback is the heterogeneous nature of the participants and the need to have well-established processes (i.e. the proper distribution of roles within a team). For instance, in technical translation, it is unlikely that CT3 is used. A clear alignment with the customer’s terminology requirements is required, and a flight of fancy can lead to the opposite result. Sure, if a highly specialized team works specifically on the subject matter, the resulting texts will be great. But what about finding so many professionals, gathering them together, assigning them tasks and controlling their work process? Only multinational companies, which are able to provide adequate working and pay conditions, can do that. An important factor is confidentiality of translations. When teams are working together, secrets cannot be kept, but what if, for instance, a patent application for a brand new technology is involved? It is understandable that the client is not interested in publicity until after the patent is granted.