Considering Volunteer Translation? Five Businesses That Succeeded

If you are thinking you should translate website content but don’t have the budget for the project, you might consider using crowdsourced or volunteer translation. This means asking your users to help translate your product into their native language. Though this option is free and can be a great way to boost community engagement, it is certainly not for every business. The following are five examples of businesses that have leveraged their audiences for successful translation:


Twitter has been crowdsourcing translations from users since 2009. The social media company uses volunteers to get more localized translations and quickly expand its global reach. To do this, Twitter built its Translation Center, where moderators can approve translations and offer feedback to volunteers. To make translating fun and keep volunteers motivated, Twitter awards badges to top translators.


Foursquare chose Smartling to help it grow from one language to 11 in just 12 months. Instead of having to create its own translation management system, the company utilized Smartling’s software, which seamlessly integrated with Foursquare’s infrastructure. By combining Smartling’s software with its volunteer translation program, Foursquare was able to ensure high-quality and culturally relevant content for key territories.

Google Translate

It may seem strange, because the popular application seeks to remove humans from the translation process, but Google Translate actually has a community of volunteer translators. When adding new languages, Google Translate takes the help of native speakers to get the new language launched. This helps improve its algorithm for each language.


In 2008, Facebook went multilingual due to the help of its users, launching Spanish, German, and French versions to name a few. As a social networking site, it seemed natural that Facebook would tap into its community for its translation efforts. It asked users to translate content from English into their native language and allowed them to vote on translations to weed out any bad ones. Since then, Facebook has grown to offer more than 100 language options.


At the request of worldwide viewers of its popular series of TED Talks, the nonprofit launched its TED Open Translation Project, allowing viewers to contribute translations. The project launched in 2009 with 40 languages and 200 volunteer translators. Now, talks have been transcribed and translated into more than 100 languages by more than 15,000 volunteers.

Although these businesses successfully utilized volunteer translation, enlisting the help of professionals will ensure the most accurate translations.

Image source: Bigstock

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About Amy Rigby

Amy Rigby is a freelance writer and world traveler who divides her time mostly between the San Francisco Bay Area and Cusco, Peru. She has a fascination with words, language acquisition and all things animals. Her writing specialities are marketing, travel, photography and technology.