Crowdsourcing translation is seen as a desirable alternative to recruiting a professional translator as can be, in theory, cheaper and faster than using a professional translation service. While it is true that crowdsourcing translations may be less expensive in the first instance, crowdsourcing certainly opens the user up to mistakes in translations, which can lead to loss of meaning and a sacrifice in personal or professional reputation.
The best I can say about crowdsourcing translations is that the process may have some genuine advantages for users who are looking to complete large translation tasks in which a lower overall quality is not going to be an issue. Crowdsourcing is also an excellent community-building project that gives end users a sense of ownership of and responsibility for the final product.
Crowdsourcing translation is a viable way to work on projects with hundreds of thousands of words or on projects with thousands of documents. The speed of translation is generally regarded as one of the most important reasons for translation crowdsourcing. An example is the translation of Facebook from English to French, which was performed by 4,000 Facebook users within one day. Other major corporations such as Microsoft and Cisco have also said they implement crowdsourcing translation because of its speed in achieving results rather than costs.
However, crowdsourcing should never be used where the original meaning of the text must strictly be maintained – especially for business or professional purposes. When translating business or marketing documents, only a professional translation service will be able to provide you with the peace of mind in knowing that the original meaning and context of your content will be maintained.
Of course, there are differing views about the quality of crowdsourcing translation. It has even been argued that crowdsourcing translations can provide a more accurate result than machine and even professional translations. These arguments tend to rely on the fact that, because there are many people (often hundreds or even thousands) involved in crowdsourcing projects, there is more chance that an expert in a particular subject matter will be present within the group.
However, this relies on a need for translation project managers who will perform coordination and oversight over the translation community and who will manage the whole process, ensuring quality and consistency of translations. Simply allowing hundreds or thousands of potentially unqualified ‘translators’ to choose what they believe is the best translation for a given phrase without any form of oversight or quality control simply will not work.
The example listed above of the translation of Facebook from English to French being performed by 4,000 Facebook users within one day was only made possible by Facebook hiring several teams of professional translators to oversee the whole crowdsourcing process and to ensure that the resulting translations were consistent and accurate. In other words, this was not a crowdsourcing project at all, but one that relied heavily on the work of a professional translation service.
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