Author Archives: rhabil

Crowdsourcing in translation: what are the pros and cons?

When Aristotle said that, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, he was alluding to how individual parts produce a combined effect that is greater than all of the separate parts on their own. This concept echoes crowdsourcing, which is the practice of requesting specific resources from a group of people -as opposed to an individual provider- to obtain needed knowledge, goods or services.  The term is a combination of the word “crowd” and “outsourcing” and was coined in 2006 by the author Jeff Howe for Wired magazine in an article under the name “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”. So how does crowdsourcing in translation work and what are its benefits and drawbacks?

How does crowdsourcing in translation work?

Crowdsourcing can give companies and employers access to a wider spectrum of providers and experts at a faster pace and a lower cost (and sometimes no cost at all). These business owners leverage the internet and social media to elicit the services they need more quickly than they would have if they had relied on internal staff only. This flexible approach is therefore turned to due to its cost-effective properties.

crowdsourcing in translation

The benefits and drawbacks of crowdsourcing in translation

What are some examples of crowdsourcing?

A famous example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia, where volunteers from all over the world provide intellectual contributions, research and writing as well as financial support. The organisation is actually entirely built on crowdsourcing.

The idea is that, by appealing to the masses, you can reach a crowd of well-informed and enthusiastic users who will not only create the content, but also make sure that it is consistently updated. This can also increase the popularity of your business, project or ideas through online propaganda.

Another example is Facebook, which quickly launched more than 60 localised pages thanks to the power of crowdsourcing in translation. The social networking giant gained huge popularity after the campaign because the crowdsourced translations allowed them to reach a wider audience. The crowdsourcing translation model reduced the time, cost and efforts for the company because the users did all the “heavy lifting”.

But what are the drawbacks of crowdsourcing?

Wikipedia might be an undeniable example of crowdsourcing success, but that does not necessarily mean crowdsourcing is an appropriate avenue for all industries and on every occasion.

Many translation experts believe that translation is not the right environment for this kind of venture because the idea of crowdfunding is based on attracting as much crowd as possible to bridge the gap between the need and the supply. This means that crowdsourcing in translation favours quantity over quality.

The problem is that many of the interested individuals might fall under the category of amateur translators because professional translators are too busy providing their services for clients from whom they benefit financially. The danger of crowdsourcing translation therefore lies in the impact it can have on the final quality because you would not be dealing with the kind of providers who are equipped with the knowledge and skills you need.

Final words

For projects where accuracy is the lifeblood of the translation, crowdsourcing might be a risky road and professional translation companies might be a better alternative. The cost of the translation might be worthwhile as crowdsourcing in translation can be counterproductive. Read about reducing the costs of translation here:

Freelance translator tips

Tips for freelance translators

Medieval mercenary knights struck their lances for the prince who paid them most money in the fourteenth and sixteenth century. These soldiers were referred to as “free lance” because their weapons were not sworn to any lord’s services and would therefore be ready to be dispatched for the highest bidder. The freelance translator’s uniform of pajamas might be a stereotype we’re all familiar with, but a few hundred years ago, freelancers dressed in a whole different attire: suits of armor. If freelancing somehow still feels like a battle to you, you need to read our tips for freelance translators.

What are the most important tips for freelance translators?

Freelance translators whose income depends solely on their virtual career have to take some serious measures to stand out in the eyes of their recruiter. Newly-graduated translators overlook some important aspects of their online profile that are making their potential employers take their candidacy for granted. Some freelance translators are linguistically gifted, but lack some basic knowledge when it comes to business. No matter how talented you are or how many languages you master, you will never generate a decent income if you do not have a group of clients spinning in your orbit. This is why one of the most important tips for freelance translators we have to give you is to create a freelance translator marketing plan.

tips for freelance translators

Having a polished CV is one of the most important tips for freelance translators

How do you create a freelance translator marketing plan?

The main goal of creating a marketing plan for your freelance translator business is to attract as many clients as possible. Your website, blog and CV have to give your potential clients trust signals and convince them that you have what it takes to fulfill the required task. You need to demonstrate your language skills as clearly as possible. Your translator CV must reflect the fields you specialize in in an orderly fashion. You have to be quick to answer your e-mails because your client might otherwise move on looking for a more motivated candidate. In order to create a suitable marketing plan for you, you need to reflect on:

  • What services you have to offer;
  • What areas you specialize in;
  • Who your targeted clients are;
  • Who your competitors are;
  • What your unique skills that differentiate you from others are;

What happens after you create a marketing plan?

After you create a solid marketing plan, one of the most important tips for freelance translators we could give you is to do your best to maintain your clientele. You have probably already put immense effort into finding your clients and the last thing you want to do is to let them slip away from your fingers. This is why one of the most important tips for freelance translators is to keep your current clients as happy as possible.

How do you keep your clients as happy as possible?

The main goal of finding clients is to have a steady workflow. There is no point in finding clients if you are not going to provide your services to the best of your ability. Neglecting your clients’ needs or slacking off your duty in terms of deadlines or quality will not only have a negative impact on your income, but can also taint your reputation in the translation field. In order to keep your client satisfied with your work, you need to reflect on:

  • Listening to your clients actively and understanding their needs;
  • Following your client’s instructions;
  • Being willing to correct any mistakes and modifying the translation when asked to;
  • Being highly responsive to e-mails and telephones and always maintaining a professional and friendly tone;
  • Being honest about pricing and providing discounts when applicable;
  • Respecting your client’s time and never missing a deadline;
  • tips for freelance translators

    One of the most important tips for freelance translators is to keey your client happy

What happens after you keep your clients happy?

Some of the key tips for freelance translators is to know your limit and your boundaries. Freelance translators who have been lucky enough to attract a high number of clients because of their excellent marketing strategies as well as ability to cater to their clients’ needs can sometimes feel swamped and burnt out. One of the most difficult aspects of freelance translating is to learn to say no. Some freelance translators are reluctant to reject job offers because they feel they are wasting an opportunity to increase their revenues. Accepting an overwhelming workload can be counterproductive and actually lead to a decline in the quality and therefore losing your hard-earned clients. This is why one of the most important tips for freelance translators is to set some solid boundaries.

How do you set some solid boundaries?

You should make it clear to your clients that you have a limited capacity per day, week, month, etc. You have the right to say no if you feel your time and energy do not allow you to undertake the requested task. This is one of the tips for freelance translators that are often overlooked despite their importance. In order to learn to set some solid boundaries, you should reflect on:

  • The number of words you are comfortable translating per day;
  • The income you need to feel financial security per month;
  • The holidays you need per year;


These practical tips for freelance translators should help newcomers cope at the beginning of their translation journey and know which path to take when getting established. If you want to read about common mistakes that new freelance translators make at the beginning of their career, read:

“It depends on the context”

If there was an award for the most repeated phrase in the world of translation, it would definitely go to the sentence “it depends on the context”. No translator is free from the guilt of uttering these cliché words to their fellow conversationalists who turn to them for linguistic guidance. Be warned: whenever you ask a translator about the meaning of a term, the answer you get will remain unaltered unless you provide him or her with contextual information. The classic course of the conversation would be along the lines of:

it depends on the context

Your translator will always answer you with: “it depends on the context”.

Asker: “what does “knock” mean?”

Translator: “it depends on the context.” 

Asker: “do you know the meaning of “set”?”

Translator: “it can mean to establish or decide or to fix something, depending on the context.”

 The importance of the context

No matter how repetitive these words appear to be, they still constitute the most truthful answer a translator can give you. The interpretation of some words, such as “knock” and “set”, is highly context-dependent. If he or she was to answer with: “knock” means “to collide with something”, the definition would not be suitable in the phrase “the knock on him was that he couldn’t handle the pressure”. The correct definition would have been “harsh or petty criticism”. Contextual integration is therefore essential to achieve a reliable definition. In fact, most English words are highly ambiguous and sometimes semantically unrelated (e.g., watch: a time piece, to look; rose: a flower, past tense of rise). The meaning is therefore predicated on the linguistic context or the situational context. Words in one phrase are not present in isolation; their interaction with other words in their environment is what truly governs their meaning.

In order to achieve an effective translation, the translator must be able to decontextualize the source text and recontextualize it in the form of a target text. Machine translation and free language services on the internet are still defective because of their inability to identify the context. This is the differentiating factor between human translation and machine translation and a clear illustration of the importance of the context.

Freelance Translator Tips for a Successful Career

Welcome to the world of freelance translation! If your goal is to succeed in the competitive world of location-independent translation, you have no option but to subscribe to the idea of the survival of the fittest. ProZ currently has 1,008,777 registered translators and translation companies. If you want to stand out in the eyes of your client, you need to step up your game and take some serious action. This guide includes practical freelance translator tips that are normally overlooked and can help your career skyrocket.

The importance of having a competitive spirit

If you are transitioning from a student to a freelance translator, you are probably oblivious to your duties as a freelance translator. Newcomers who dive in head-first into freelancing will probably find it hard to cope. Lacking some basic skills, their career tends to be a bumpy ride and their business is likely to die off prematurely.

Freelance translators who have been in the field for some time should aim to expand their pool of clients and double their revenues. A big mistake freelance translators make is taking their foot off the pedal as soon as they have a steady workflow and a decent income. The problem is that they might not survive for long in this environment because they are being outcompeted by their more motivated counterparts. Having a competitive spirit is the atom of self-development and one of the key freelance translator tips.

Freelance translator tips provided by professional translation companies

Why you should take freelance translator tips from translation companies

Contrary to freelance translators, professional translation companies operate based on core processes in every stage of the translation project. They follow international standards and have documented procedures. In-house translators have to abide by the company’s regulations, which guarantees that the translation has gone through the required processes to render it effective. You don’t expect to go to the doctor with the sole purpose of getting a treatment. Your doctor has to run a diagnosis, a revision and finally prescribe the appropriate treatment.

This is an advantage translation companies have over freelance translators. They have a team of project managers, translators and proofreaders who are focused on fulfilling the requirements in every stage of the project.

Common freelance translators mistakes to avoid

If you are thinking of collaborating with a freelance translator, you have to keep in mind that they are supposed to be juggling these three key roles. The truth is they are almost always in a race against time and will deliver the translation without giving their work a second thought. Some might even ask their client or translation company to do them the favor of revising their work or confirming the accuracy of the translation. One of the most useful freelance translator tips is to never depend on your translation company to amend your files.

The fact that the translation is not being revised by another professional is a red flag because it indicates a deficiency in the working system. Students revise their assignments before delivering them to their professors in order to achieve the pass mark. Why should professional freelance translators be exempt from this duty?

The honest answer is: they aren’t. If you want to perform well as a freelance translator, you have to make the effort of sending your client a polished version. You can’t expect to be seen as a professional when you are sending out a drafted document as a final translation. Unconfirmed segments, ghost tags and typos are telltale signs of a preliminary version of a translation. You also can’t rely on your translation company to have your back all the time, because we are also expecting to receive a publishable version. We don’t want to sell services to our clients, we want to offer solutions to their problems. This is why we have compiled a few strategies and freelance translator tips for those who want to build a thriving career in translation.

What are the most important freelance translator tips?

  1. Review the document(s) before proceeding with the translation. You have to adopt a proactive approach in order to foresee possible problems. Make sure you send out your queries as soon as possible and to understand the assignment to the best of your ability. Vague terms, incorrect information and incompatible file formats can be an obstacle in your project. You owe it to your client to let them know in advance. Additionally, you should feel comfortable with the subject matter as well as the deadline.
  2. Adhere to the reference material provided by your client. Many translators make the mistake of neglecting some valuable materials supplied by the client. Little do they know that glossaries, visual reference and terminology databases can work in their favor. Instead, some translators tend to criticize the existing translations based on personal tastes and preferences. As long as there are no fatal mistakes, we urge you to stick to your client’s choice of words. The material provided by the client is probably preapproved and you will be suggesting changes in vain. The project will be sent back to you sooner or later to be rectified.
  3. Do your research. Parallel texts can be a massive source of terminology. You should mine for relevant terms and visual aids in order to boost your translation quality. Unless you have a perfect command of the concerned field, we recommend you to run an exhaustive research. Not only will this deliver an optimal translation, but it will also help enrich your knowledge in the topic.
  4. Be your own reviser. You should only deliver your translation when it’s ready to be published. You cannot count on your client or translation company to correct your errors due to forgetfulness or inattention. Updating your translation memories with unrevised files also means your mistakes will live on, which increases the chances of future errors. Professional translation companies always run an internal QA in anticipation of human lapses, but that does not mean you should take advantage and indulge in making mistakes. This behavior can jeopardize your relationship with your translation company, which in-turn will prevent your career from prospering.
  5. Invest in quality assurance tools and softwares. Never underestimate the power of a basic quality assurance procedure. You can dodge many mistakes using simple and user-friendly programs such as ApSIC Xbench. Dedicating a few minutes of your time to a QA check can do wonders to the quality of your translation.

Professional translation companies appreciate attentive translators who never cease to provide faithful translations. Translation management systems such as XTRF allow translation companies to evaluate their translators and leave notes regarding their work. This approach allows us to separate professionals from amateurs and to assign the responsibility for translating to those who excel at it.

For additional freelance translator tips, please read 12 tips for translators to provide quality translations.