Crowdsourcing is Evil

crowdsourcing-translationSo say the 102 misguided translators who have signed up to the petition, “Professional Translators Against Crowdsourcing and Other Unethical Business Practices

According to their petition professional translators and interpreters all over the world have been expressing their concerns over the ethical problems posed by crowdsourcing and how this practice negatively impacts an already suffering industry.

Basically they are saying translation is a skilled task that requires training, whereas crowdsourcing bases itself on non-professional translation provided by people who are not qualified to translate in the first place. In particular, they take issue with Twitter and Facebook asking professional translators who use their sites to provide free online services.

As someone who has worked with translators and interpreters extensively I totally agree that these are highly skilled professions. You really do get what you pay for, and the top professionals can pretty much name their price. I know of a Japanese to English translator who works out of Australia for US$350,000 per annum. Having built up his credibility doing translations for banks in Japan he hopped on a plane to Aus to work freelance from Perth. It wouldn’t be my first choice of location if I could live anywhere, but there you go. I also remember that when we did financial press conferences there was one interpreter who charged $2,500 for an hour, which was around 30% greater than her peers. But we always tried to get her because she was so much smoother than the others.

Whilst I have great respect for translators I don’t see how they can seriously object to companies sourcing poor quality translations if that is what they are happy with. It’s not like someone posing as a doctor and messing up your heart by-pass when they cut into the wrong chamber in the heart.

But what is really going on here is that these crowdsourced translations are pretty good, and thus a serious competitive threat to translators. It’s one further example of the rise of the amateur and the effectiveness of crowdsourcing in certain situations.

Good translators should not be complaining. They should be looking at ways to remain competitive.

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