Not a long time ago, I did a KWestions series on the opportunities lying in translation on the Internet. I had the chance to interview edupreneurs from various backgrounds in order to portray the different angles one might have regarding translations online as a market.
There was Paul Sulzberger with his more than 30 years of experience in the field of translation and who now wants to establish a platform for translators on the Internet and thus to allow them and potential customers to offer and buy services.
I then interviewed Jani Pentinen of PremiumFanpage, a start-up that offers business timely human translations at a competitive price. Interesting about PremiumFangpage is that the vast majority of companies prefer the more costly solution of getting their message translated by a real human being over the company’s other option of a machine automated translation.
To top the picture off, I had the pleasure to talk with Christian Arno whose company Lingo24 has been in business for 10 years now offering translation services via Internet and that has a revenue of US $8 million in annual sales.
In our talks I was of course very interested in getting their take on the potential of crowd-sourced translations particularly in a business context. An early stage start-up called Babelverse is now part of the project start-up Chile and they’re promising real-time voice translation effected by a community of human interpreters. What road they’ll eventually take is a little too early to define now.
I know, both language learning communities busuu and especially Livemocha made their experiences with crowd-sourced translations of their courses, busuu with their Brazilian Portuguese course and Livemocha with almost all of their free courses, at least at the beginning. I also know that at least busuu had professionals look over the crowd-sourced results again.
In the bab.la community users can post translations that will then get translated by other users. A nice feature but it’s far from being core for neither the company itself nor its users apparently as it doesn’t attract that much of activity.
mygengo is offering crowdsourced translations from a network of 2500+ professional translators from across the globe, 24/7.
Yesterday I learned that Oxford’s Ancient Lives website is inviting people to translate ancient Egyptian texts together.
So, it seems that many start-ups fancy the idea but none of them seems to have found the key of making this core of their business. Bottom line remaining questions around crowd-sourcing for me are still quality and professionalism in a business context.
Sure, you might say that Wikipedia provides us with great results and I agree, the quality of posts is predominantly very high. But this is gathering of information. Being a translator is something you study. Even translating into your mother tongue is not a piece of cake per se. You need to learn techniques on how to translate.
That being said the promises of crowd-sourcing attract investors. In an article over at Gigaom today, I learned that New York City based start-up Smartling raised US $10 million from Venture Capitalists in a series B round. They had previously raised US $4 million. Essentially, Smartling offers the following solutions to publishers. They can rely on machine translated solutions provided by Google and Microsoft. Companies have access to an editing platform that enables them to engage their users and community and thus get the website translated into other languages more quickly by humans. Lastly, Smartling connects a company with professional translators. The article doesn’t provide information on the individual loading of those three different possibilities.
The business looks besides the obvious difference of the editing platform similar to what PremuimFanpage offer, so it would have been particularly interesting to know more about the acceptance of crowd-sourced solutions from the businesses as basically all my interviewees agreed in telling me that quality along with timely translations is the primary concern and also importance for their business customers.
It might be too early to make a final statement but interesting to follow the individual paths and last but not least to hear your opinion on the discussion between more costly professionalism compared with the potential of quick and budget friendly translations done by users or community members.