Crowd-sourcing language translation agencies

Language translation

Oh, I’ve got a friend who speaks that…

This is an article that a lot of my colleagues and language translation agency counterparts will initially not thank me for publicising. But bear with me sweet linguists.

On the BBC News website this week, there’s an interesting article on a UK/ South Korean company called Flitto set up by entrepreneur Simon Lee. Annual turnover of just over $ 2m – so something’s working.

Effectively, as they say themselves, it’s a crowdsourcing language translation website. Do what? Well, just as when you want to raise money for a start-up project you can pop something on the web and simply ask for financial support from investors, here you can ask members of the public who know more than one language to help translate stuff for you. Sometimes for a fee (albeit via a points system) and Flitto takes a cut for putting you in touch. It also has a charitable arm too, which can’t be a bad thing.

It has 3 sides to its language translations bit – the altrusitic element- letting the world know what our celeb heroes on social media are saying in local languages; the quickie – a translation of no more than 250 characters and the biggy – translations of up to 8000 characters. It also flogs goodies likely to be of interest to the younger generations.

And then, a little like ebay, a translation is rated by other users. So there’s a kind of audit trail and you can certainly report people for deliberately providing bad language translations. I can see the point – especially when you might just need a few lines of text translating. However, and this is a big however, whilst this is tons cheaper than your average agency and usually more accurate than machine translation, it does raise the question of quality control.

Where’s the objectivity?

Just because I say I’m a competent translator doesn’t mean I am. Where’s the objectivity? It makes me shudder.

Now I’m sure that there are some well-qualified translators who are on the site. But equally there will be many others who believe (or maybe want you to believe) they are good but ask yourself …

  • Do they have any formal qualifications?
  • Is the translator in question a person or a machine behind a name and a profile picture?
  • And if they are a person, are they translating into their own language?
  • Are they a specialist in the right field?
  • Do they ask the right kind of question before and after undertaking a project?
  • Apart from other (potentially as inexperienced) translators, what options for objective proof reading are there?
  • What recourse is there if there’s a dispute over quality?
  • What insurance cover is there if there’s a financial penalty to pay?

At the risk of stating the flippin’ obvious, there’s a reason language translation companies get quality awards like BS EN 15038 – they don’t come free in a box of cereal you know. Just make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

Rant over. Thank you Mr Phillips for the heads up.

So what are your thoughts on using crowd-sourcing language translation agencies? We would love to hear from you.

Language translation

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