Advantages and disadvantages of crowdsourcing in translation

Published on 08/12/2020

Crowdsourcing, or collaborative participation, involves professional teamwork provided by external communities or collectives.

Many web platforms, including the most well-known ones (Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, to name a few), use the work of their users to translate or improve the quality of the content translation.

As well suited as crowdsourcing may be in some cases, in many other cases it will prove to be counterproductive.

Why is collaborative translation interested in crowdsourcing?

Why collaborative translation in crowdsourcing matters

In the field of translation, crowdsourcing is a great advantage compared to themachine translation tools available online.

Crowdsourcing allows:

  • involving translators who are motivated by purpose rather than money
  • translate certain texts that would otherwise not have been translated
  • cost savings and expansion of the number of partners
  • to increase the number of ideas and the number of translation variants

Translation opportunities offered by crowdsourcing

Translation opportunities offered by crowdsourcing

Many authors point out that crowdsourcing is not only a way to get texts translated, but also a method to improve language learning.

As pointed out in many websites and articles such as the one in the R&D Research Journal regarding the Pacific Asia Conference on Information System, crowdsourcing has a lot to offer in terms of education and promotes the improvement of translation tools.

A successful example of the use of crowdsourcing for language learning is the Duolingo website. This page provides users with the possibility to contribute to the translation of web pages in a collaborative way.

Crowdsourcing and the reliability of translations

Crowdsourcing and the reliability of translations

Crowdsourcing shows its limits when time and quality constraints come into play when translating.

What at first sight may appear to be an advantage (getting free translations) will sometimes clearly turn out to be counterproductive. For example, when we are translating texts intended for specialists, such as a medical protocol or a patent; or if we are translating highly confidential documents, such as a commercial contract or the company's internal procedures for a quality standard. In such cases, it is preferable to first contact a professional translation agency that guarantees the quality and confidentiality of translations rather than having to correct poorly translated texts afterwards.

Crowdsourcing: a risky bet on translation


As explained in The dangers of crowdsourcing translations, a blog published in the website of our fellow translator Pieter Beens), there are many dangers in crowdsourcing translation, as poorly managed collaborative translation can quickly become a source of problems.

Major drawbacks:

  • unverified employee competencies
  • no guarantee of quality in final documents
  • quantity is preferred to quality
  • difficult planning with long delays (small community or lack of time)
  • translations started and not finished
  • lack of knowledge and ethics
  • copyright infringement

Cases in which a professional translation is essential

Cases in which a professional translation is essential

Crowdsourcing should be avoided when translations are required to meet certain quality requirements (commercial, official, medical translations, etc.). Bad translations also compromise the image and responsibility of companies.

The list of disadvantages of crowdsourcing in terms of translation is therefore unfortunately longer than the list of advantages. It is important to understand our project and to know whether we can use collaborative translation or whether we will need the services of a translation company. In many cases, it is clearly better to use a professional translation agency such as AbroadLink Translations to prevent the translation process from becoming a linguistic wreck!

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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