I don’t need translators; I get my customers to do it for me

Can translations be delivered by the user community?

Online content is leaning towards a model that generates a much more engaged experience with the user. This is not only affecting the way companies communicate with their community, but also how they are engaging their users in other areas of the development process, such as the localisation of their content.

The fact that customers can now be used to translate content is proving very beneficial for developers:

  1. Users are engaged from the very early stages of a product launch in their local market. Creating an ‘early adopters’ group that takes ownership for the initial localisation process can be used to generate awareness.
  2. Tier 2 markets (those that are only pursued after launches have been successful in other markets) can be targeted at an earlier stage. Developers can test the waters in these markets where a full internationalisation budget is not available. If the community is involved during the early stages of the product launch, a full language strategy can evolve at a later date if take-up is successful.
  3. Internationalisation costs can be reduced. Translation is always a significant part of globalisation costs, so the involvement of the user-community in the process significantly reduces the investment required.
  4. A higher language input. Not every publisher will have internal language capabilities for all the markets targeted, so the community can act as the reviewers and language experts.
  5. A lower number of internal resources for internationalisation. It is possible for publishers to handle over 20 languages in a single-person localisation department by interacting with the community as their translators, reviewers and sometimes even as testers for local products.

Although this approach may look ideal – this model does present some challenges that are worth considering when evaluating a community-driven localisation model:

How does the publisher handle quality and brand compliance?

The publisher will need to implement a quality programme across the community with clear style guides and reference points for the volunteers working within the community.

How do you control time to market?

Users within a community cannot be pushed for deadlines. It is all about planning and having a comprehensive workflow that allows for assurances that time to market deadlines will be met.

Is Intellectual Property secured?

Allowing users in our community to access part of source content early in the process needs to be carefully managed. Setting up translation environments that are protected from transferring data will be essential.

How do you obtain the maximum benefit from user engagement?

It isn’t all just about obtaining a free translation, but it is also about generating engagement with the international user community. The localisation process has to then become part of the marketing, user engagement and PR process too.

How do you ensure consistency within each market?

Volunteers will generally not be specialised translators and each local community could have different levels of quality, engagement or commitment to the translation process. It is important to assess and recognise different levels of involvement and address any inconsistencies within a long term plan.

It is really exciting to see companies looking towards their users for interaction at such early stages of their globalisation process. As long as the challenges are mitigated and the benefits realised, language service providers will continue to add value to their customers

Ultimately, it is down to the industry players to drive these models and apply the knowledge and tools available to facilitate and manage this engagement with the community.


As General Manager, Antonio combines significant experience in the localisation industry with management and leadership capabilities to help the business deliver language solutions to clients. In his little spare time, he enjoys following his two sons around basketball courts as their biggest fan.


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