Translators saving the world: from crowdsourcing to creativity

The world of translation, the sector that English-speakers call the “language industry”, is a rapidly-changing world. Information and communication technologies are creating new tools and, each day, new sites are developed that seek to exploit (and this really is the word) the masses by offering translation services through the web. Qabiria has advised of an interesting article by Dave Grunwald in which he suggests that purchasers be careful when using some of the on-line translation services that are currently available.
Grunwald spent a few dollars comparing the quality of the translation services provided by certain services based on crowdsourcing, asking seven translation sites to provide a translation of a 400-word text from English into Spanish. Four of the sites quoted prices above the market prices offered by Grunwald (above $0.15 pour source word) and they were therefore eliminated. In one case, the translation (to be delivered within 24 hours) never arrived, and in another, the request procedure was so complex that the purchaser gave up. In only one case was the text delivered, but the quality was unacceptable. Grunwald’s conclusion was that “none of the sites offers a service of acceptable quality for the money paid […] and customers will receive a better service and better quality if they use traditional translation agencies”.

A somewhat depressing picture, certainly. But we can all be cheered up by reading the article “Translators enjoy growing demand” in the Columbia Tribune, suggested by Jean-Marie Le Ray. This article talks of Dale Eggett, who is completing his masters in localisation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He has already received a slew of job offers, and will have no problem finding a job as soon as he has finished his studies: he will be working in project management of website localisations, a complex job that involves both IT and linguistic skills. The article notes that “the global marketplace for interpreting, translating and other language services was estimated at $26.3 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach $38.1 billion by 2013”. What seems clear to me is that in order to enjoy the fruits of this exponential growth, we must all improve our skills in information and communication technologies.

Luckily, translators do not lack creativity and the desire to experiment, as Catherine Jan exhorts us to do in an article dedicated to her most recent labour: the creation of a Facebook page. Catherine did not believe that Facebook was an appropriate place for professional communication, but she changed her mind, and now has a new Facebook page that she talks of in her blog, Catherine Translates. Facebook (and in general all social media) is a potentially very powerful vehicle for marketing and PR, but you need to know how to use it. A great place to start is the “Definitive guide to marketing on Facebook” by Andrea Vahl: we strongly recommend it. I would like to close with the words that Catherine dedicates to the importance of exploring one’s own abilities, staking everything on a new activity: “this post in my blog is not really dedicated to Facebook. And it’s not dedicated to ways to find work or to network or to use social media. Instead, it talks about how to start something from scratch, discovering whether you can do it. For me it was Facebook. But in your case, it might be finding a way to get new clients, start up a website or use Linkedin.”

A real shot in the arm (and a dash of enthusiasm), to kick off the week with new ideas. What’s yours?

Happy working to everyone!

Traduttori Sociali is a weekly feature by Andrea Spila for the European School of Translation. The content is based on tweets and posts that colleagues in the world of translation, language and writing have published during the preceding week.
Andrea is on Twitter at the address