Crowdsourcing appears to be the latest trend in obtaining information or input into a particular task or project, by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet*.
The way crowdsourcing for translation works is that individuals submit possible translations on forums and webpages and other users can vote on the ‘best’ versions. These people are not necessarily professional translators; they may have no formal qualifications or experience in the profession.
In fact, if you were a professional translator – you wouldn’t even think about sharing your work with anyone else. Translators are generally highly protective over their translations and know that this method is indeed, a recipe for a disaster.
It is to be expected that the rapid expansion of crowdsourcing and the new working strategies it introduces interfere with the way translators perform their profession. It may be that it creates new opportunities but when it comes to the translation industry, it also risks disrupting business relations as we have known them up to now, involving casualties in the process.
Serious concerns are voiced both about the status and prospects of translators in the future, and about the quality of the work carried out by amateurs. Many professionals claim that companies use crowdsourcing to make profit from free labour. Moreover, the issue of quality is regularly raised, as quality is at stake when the work is done by a crowd of non-professionals who, more often than not, lack specific qualification and expertise. Furthermore, where confidentiality and accountability are required, the use of qualified professional translators is a must.
There is wide agreement that professional translation will always be needed and that the new methods and technologies that are emerging will boost that need, rather than destroy the profession. Indeed, linguists are already managing translations done through these new methods. This does not mean that the risks mentioned above should be underestimated. However, once we realise and accept that crowdsourcing, like other innovations, is here to stay, the issue is no longer whether we want it or not, but rather how to best exploit it to the advantage of the profession. Indeed, the new opportunities it opens up should not be underestimated and the great potential of the collaborative way of working should be further explored with a view to applying it to professional and not merely amateur translation.
*Crowdsourcing definition from Oxford Dictionary