Crowdsourcing Translation: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Smartling’s translation platform lets its clients to use a range of translation options for their websites and apps. One of these is “crowdsourcing.”

At Smartling, we know from experience that crowdsourcing translation can be a very powerful tool–one of our clients, for example, the social gaming site IMVU successfully crowdsourced the translation of its content into 14 languages. Engaging your crowd can be a powerful way to translate your digital content while building brand loyalty and increasing community engagement.

But first, a little background

What we now call “crowdsourcing” became much easier with the arrival of the Web, but it didn’t start with it—an impressive example of a crowdsourced project was the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which for its 1st edition pulled together 600,000 definitions over 70 years from over 6 million volunteer submissions. But it was only with the arrival of the Web that this kind of interaction became easy enough to justify a special word to describe it. (Interestingly, the closest modern equivalent of the OED in terms of scale is Wikipedia.) 

Now for those questions…

If you want to know if crowdsourcing might be for you, ask yourself:

1. Do you have a crowd? Is it big enough? 

For full-blown crowdsourcing, you probably need to think in terms of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of visitors a month to make it work. If your idea of a crowd is 2,000 passive visits a month, then it will take some exceptional circumstances to make crowdsourcing viable.

2. Is your crowd excited about what you’re offering? Is it engaged? 

A community that loves you and identifies closely with what you are doing will enthusiastically take up the burden of doing the work. This can be true, in some circumstances, of commercial organizations, although it is more typical of non-profits. If you’re an accounting firm or an investment bank, forget it!

3. Is your crowd knowledgeable about your product or service? 

If so, that may make it a better resource than professional translators who know nothing about it – and for that reason, it may be a deal clincher.

4. Do you have a mini-crowd? 

If you don’t have a crowd as defined above, do you have a closer group of potential volunteers whom you actually know? This may not fit the classic definition of crowdsourcing, but it may have the same outcome in practice.

5. Do you have the time?

If you are working against a deadline, crowdsourcing alone may not be enough. When you use volunteers, it’s harder to predict how long it will take to complete a project.