You may have heard the expression, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” The same can be said for crowdsourcing translations. Language Services is an industry that is continuing to grow each year, and with the widespread availability of free crowdsourced translations, there must be a reason why the translation industry continues to grow. Henk van Ess simply defines crowdsourcing:
Crowdsourcing is channeling the experts’ desire to solve a problem and then freely sharing the answer with everyone.
While the words ‘freely sharing’ certainly display a positive connotation, nothing in life is free. You will end up paying for the mistakes that are made.
You can save time by doing it right the first time, instead of backtracking and having to fix mistakes that could have been prevented by hiring a Professional Translation Service Provider. Crowdsourcing eliminates the quality that a TSP can ensure.
The way crowdsourcing for translations works is that people submit translations and other under-qualified translators can vote on the “best” translations. These people are typically not professional translators, meaning they did not go to school or receive certification in linguistics. Not everyone can be a professional translator. Many businesses are not willing to take the risk of allowing under-qualified translators, translate their private documents or even their public websites. The time and money that could be spent fixing a translation disaster (that could have been easily prevented by hiring a professional) is certainly not worth the hassle. One example where crowdsourcing may work is Wikipedia. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia for academics and it is typically not known for its quality, it is a good place to get a general sense of knowledge on a given topic. The reason why crowdsourcing works for Wikipedia is the same reason why it doesn’t work for translation. Businesses aren’t looking for a general translation that may capture the gist of the original document. Rather, accurate, high-quality translation is required to recreate a document in another language that relays the same message as was intended in the language it was originally written in.
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