Translation Crowdsourcing: Channeling a Community for Quality Results

This is a guest post from one of's advertising partners, Middlebury Institute of International Studies

By: Christopher Dean


Translation crowdsourcing is a growing trend in the localization industry. 

Understandable, because it can be an efficient way to accomplish large translation projects in a short amount of time. It’s been successful for large companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as for nonprofit organizations such as Translators without Borders



Crowdsourcing allows organizations to utilize the collective skills and knowledge of a community of users. But it can be complicated to manage a crowdsourced translation project. How to best recruit a sufficient volunteer community (quantity) and ensure excellence in end-translations (quality)? 



  • THE MORE THE MERRIER. Crowdsourcing translation can lead to work being done quickly and efficiently. Although the majority of your users are likely not professional translators, that won’t necessarily be an issue. Often, because product users have firsthand experience and engagement with the product, they can produce a higher-quality translation than professional translators. You don’t necessarily have to work with everyone as a participant in the translation process, but being open to a wide range of skills and experience is a wise option.
  • SEAMLESS PROCESS. Those involved in crowdsourcing are often contributing their time and effort free of charge. So it’s important to ensure a user-friendly experience for them without extra steps, frustrating interfaces, or other difficulties, to be sure they stick around. Set up a translation platform that’s simple to understand and easy to use. 
  • GAMIFICATION. Gamification is a technique used by many companies to keep people motivated. This includes features like point systems, badges, leaderboards, etc. Integrating this type of system into your translation platform will likely keep people motivated and can also help identify the most (and least) valuable participants. 
  • INCENTIVES. Similar to gamification, incentives can help motivate your community to contribute further. Keep in mind your community of volunteers are often contributing more for personal reasons, such as belief in your company/product, self-enrichment, processional development, or simply the fun of it. So, while monetary incentives are not off the table, consider alternatives such as crediting your users once the project is finished or allowing your users to take a more active role in the company’s ongoing work. 



Depending on your project, you may want to implement a vetting process in order to choose the translators who would be the best fit for your project. This process can be as simple as a survey to acquire demographic information, such as age, country of origin, or native language, or it can go as far as a translation test, if you wish, for only the most skilled translators. 

Next, you will want to separate your content into small chunks so your translators do not feel burned out after each translation. In other words: microtasking. As users are likely not professional translators, having a short word or phrase to translate will ensure that they are able to handle the translations with ease. 

Finally, when setting up your translation platform, make sure users have access to all of the necessary resources, such as any translation memories, termbases, or contexts for the translations at hand. 



With thousands of users and translations constantly coming in, it would be both costly and impractical to bring in a professional to review each and every translation you receive. Instead, a system in which the community judges its own translations can really automate the process. How would this look? Once users submit a translation, it goes up for review. Your platform can be configured so that other users can vote or rate the translation. Finally, the highest-rated translations will stick around and the lowest rated ones will be discarded. 

Lastly, plan for trolls. In order to protect your translations from sabotage, you’ll want to set up some sort of filter system in order to prohibit certain entries. This can be done via a “blacklist” of words and phrases, such as profanity, in the target language. 



Once you have highly rated translations by the community, the next step in ensuring high-quality crowdsourced translation is a final-review stage. This can be done either by professional translators ($) or by your top-rated users (if you’ve implemented a leaderboard, as mentioned previously in the section about gamification). 



Although the above steps are labeled before, during, and after, each one can actually support the next in a continuous cycle. For example, let’s say there is a high number of top-rated translations by a specific user. In this case, your user would move up the leaderboard and become a high-ranking translator. The opinions of your high-ranking translators would likely be more valuable than those of lower-ranking translators. Therefore, implementing a weighted voting system would allow the votes of the high-ranking translators to be more determinant in deciding the best translations. 

Similarly, the quality of the translations can ultimately shed light on the efficacy of the translation platform as a whole. Tweaks can periodically be made along the way in order to improve the overall process. 

All in all, if implemented properly, these best practices can allow the translation crowdsourcing process to run smoothly and yield quality results. 

Happy translating!

Topics: guest post, crowdsourcing, recruiting, best practices, crowdsourcing translation

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