Cost, Speed and Quality
Crowd translation has both its advantages and its disadvantages. It can speed up large scale projects, but tends to lack organization and professional aid.
Why crowd translation is good: cost and speed
Crowd translation is really helpful for substantial or significant online projects that contain thousands of pages for example. Traditionally, the project manager who deals with this type of project has to divide the project among several translators, then select the most skilled as chief translator and then finally manage the proofreaders to ensure 100% accuracy. This increases the workload and the cost of the translation because different technical and specialised translators have to be managed. As quality isn’t the number 1 priority with crowd translation you can sacrifice quality against cost and speed.
A common myth is that crowd translation will eliminate the need for professional translators. However, on the contrary, customers will often ask professional translation agencies to proofread and fine tune their crowd translations as their products mature. It is often used as a quick, cheap go to market strategy to launch global products which have active communities.
Why crowd translation is bad: Quality Issues
With traditional professional translation, the quality of the final work depends on the translation agency, their quality process and the skills of their translators. Professional translators use the same tools and centralise their translation to provide consistent and professional work. Computer-assisted translation enables translators to work with the help of computer technology such as Transit NXT. These tools provide translation memory and terminology tools so that the translation is consistent throughout.
The major disadvantage with crowd translation is inconsistency. Just considering English alone, everyone speaks English slightly differently. We share a common understanding but may often use similar but different words. For example is it a table or a desk? A stool or a chair? Application, software, technology or program? With many people translating at the same time you get lots of inconsistencies like this. As the crowd typically work together in the same field they will generally understand the meaning of the text as they understand the context. So the translation is good enough for purpose as they say.
From a translators point of view, it’s bad as they frequently don’t get paid, you’re a volunteer doing your bit for the community, but it depends on the community. Should commercial products have translation done for free?
Crowd translation has become popular among certain types of industry groups. Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter use crowd-assisted translation that enables bilingual speakers and translators to collaborate on a single, common project. The work they do is often free and done as part of the community spirit and ethos. This is the case for Twitter which allows its own users to submit and modify translations through its Translation Centre. It is great for the company since the work is done by volunteers, so it has no cost and can be done quickly. Therefore crowd translation delivers a fast product to market.