More and more social media websites are discovering that having translations on their sites is vital to their expansion. The new darling of social media, Pinterest, recently blogged that they wanted to crowd source translations of their site.

While we of course applaud Pinterest for actively looking to translate their site, so that it can break out of being just in English and truly engage a global audience. We’d make a note of real caution for the following reasons:

1. Lack of translation quality

Asking your users to translate your website might sound like a great idea, but just because they have a grasp of a language doesn’t mean that they’re translators. Translators like accountants, architects, lawyers and surgeons study for a long time to ensure that translations are just direct word for word. They add style, understanding and context.

2. Consistency of translation

When you read any amount of text, in any language, you need it to be a consistent style. By crowd sourcing lots of translators without having an overall editor, the style of the translations will have no consistency at all.

3. Wasted effort

When ever professional translators work on a large amount of text they use Translation Memory software. This means that once a section of text has been translated it is stored, so that if the same, or similar, text occurs again the software adds it to the translation so that the translator can review it. They then accept or edit it slightly, depending on the context. Crowd sourcing translation means that there’s no way translation memory can be applied.

4. Loss of control

When you’re writing copy for a site you want to control the message, to ensure your values are consistently portrayed. While Pinterest’s content is user-generated, those users will want any of their content to be translated so that their comments and messages are lost in translation. Crowd sourced translation is like the Wild West, lack of control means that messages will be lost. This will ultimately devalue the point of having translation at all.

Pinterest’s content is constantly being added to the users, so having it translated is obviously a massive ongoing project for them. So it’s no wonder they’ve looked into crowd sourcing the translation of the site.

Maybe rather than looking to translate the whole site this way, they would be better using a combination of professional translators for the main sections, about, FAQ’s etc and using crowd sourcing for the individual pages?