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Crowdsourcing Translations

Crowdsourcing translations is a great way to engage with your community and offer a way for members to contribute to something they love. If you’re planning to crowdsource translations using Transifex, this guide is for you. Through it, you’ll learn how to:

  • Invite your community to Transifex
  • Structure your translation teams
  • Translate and review content
  • Share updates with your community
  • See top contributors
  • Keep your community engaged

Let’s dive in!

Inviting your community to Transifex

As you start off, you probably have users for your product, but no translation community yet. To build out your community, you’ll need to create a project on Transifex, recruit volunteers, and decide who to let into the community. 

Creating a project

When you create your project, we suggest making it public. This lets anyone see that the project exists and request to join the team assigned to the project. However, only people you approve will be able to see the project contents and submit or review translations.

Recruiting users

Once you have a project, you can direct people to it and invite them to help contribute. Our customers have done this in a number of ways:

  • Emailing their userbase about the new community translation efforts
  • Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. a link to the project
  • Adding a “Want to see this in your language?” link or call to action inside the product
  • Reaching out to users who have asked about using your service in another language

Deciding who’s on your team

As join requests come in, you’ll have to decide who to let into the team working on your project. In the beginning, it might make sense to let everyone in so you quickly build up a community. And as time progresses, you can become more selective. 

In some cases, our customers ask volunteers to apply to be a part of the community. They'd ask applicants about their language proficiency, experience with the product, etc. Based on the responses, they'd decide whether to let someone in.

Tip

To ensure requests to join your project are truly from your community, ask everyone to follow a specific username convention when signing up for a Transifex account. For example, if your company was Dunder Mifflin, have translators sign up as dm_firstnamelastname, e.g. dm_johnsmith.

Contributor License Agreement (CLA)

A CLA is an agreement between your company and the volunteers in your community. Usually, it's about how the work done by the community may be used, and who has permission to use it. You can add your own CLA in your team settings, and only let people who accept the CLA to contribute. As legal things can be touchy and confusing, we recommend consulting your legal counsel.

Structuring your translation teams

Your crowdsourcing efforts will only be scalable if your community becomes partly self-managed. Think about Wikipedia. Thanks to community admins, Wikipedia doesn’t have to hire a large team to handle edit disputes, block disruptive users, etc. Likewise, having well-structured translation teams lets you delegate some responsibilities to your community members. 

Within Transifex, there are 6 different user roles: Admin, Project Maintainer, Team Manager, Language Coordinator, Reviewer, and Translator. We suggest you only give Admin, Project Maintainer, and Team Manager roles to people from your company, and assign one of the other three roles to members of your community. Here’s one way to use these roles:

  • Translator - Translators have the most basic permissions – they can only submit translations. It’s best to start off any new community member in a translator role. You can always promote them to another role later on after they’ve earned your trust. 
  • Reviewer - Reviewers can both translate and mark as translation as reviewed. Their job is to make sure translations meet certain quality and consistency standards. Look for translators in your community who reach out to ask questions, submit lots of good translations, and make them Reviewers.
  • Language Coordinator - Language Coordinators are primarily responsible for handling team join requests for a particular language and managing who’s involved in that language. When you begin your crowdsourcing efforts, you or someone from your company will most likely be the Language Coordinator. As time progresses, you can make the most trusted members of your community Coordinators and share the burden of the role. They can also answer basic questions from the community and help onboard new translators.

Note

If you’re using crowdsourcing mode (see the next section for details), you don’t need to assign anyone as a Reviewer. With crowdsourcing mode, strings with the most votes are automatically used as the translation.

Projects in Transifex are assigned to translation teams. In most cases, you can put all your community translators in a single team and assign all your crowdsourced projects to that team. This way, if you have content in different projects, the same group of people can work on all of them.

Translating and reviewing content

Once your translators have joined Transifex, there are two ways you can crowdsource translations:

  1. Using the normal translation editor to translate and review strings. This workflow is the default for all projects, whether you’re crowdsourcing translations or not: a translator submits a translation and a reviewer then reviews it. Once it’s reviewed, a translation can’t be changed by a translator.
  2. Using crowdsourcing mode to let your community to suggest and vote on translations. With this approach, there’s no review step. Your translators can suggest as many translations as they want for each string, and the suggestion with the most votes is automatically used as the translation (you can set a minimum vote if you wish). This is a more engaging experience and allows everyone in your community to feel like they’re participating.

Heads up!

Changing from one method to the other is difficult after translations begin. We strongly suggest picking one workflow from the start.

Providing instructions

However you decide to translate content, it’s important to provide guidelines for your community and have everyone read through the guidelines before they start any work. Otherwise, each translator will do things their way and your brand will soon sound very different from one language to another (or even from one sentence to the next!). 

Guidelines often come in the form of a style guide. In Transifex, you can create style guides to inform translators of your brand's personality, tone, voice, and any other information such as instructions for written syntax. A style guide can be assigned to multiple projects, or you can create separate style guides for different projects.

And if you don't have a style guide yet, that's okay. Start simple and begin with basic instructions for translators. Check out what Waze, a Transifex customer, did here: 11 Tips for New Translators. The whole idea is to make sure that every translator is working in the same direction.

Sharing updates with your community

Communication is key to the success of any project. And it’s no different when crowdsourcing translations. Announcements and Discussions in Transifex can help you share deadlines and updates with your community.

Announcements 

Announcements are messages sent to everyone involved in a project. They’re useful for:

  • Telling your translators about new content they can work on
  • Asking translators to finish translations before an upcoming release
  • Giving context about content in the project, e.g. a video walkthrough of a new feature
  • General requests and updates, e.g. letting everyone know their translations are live

Discussions

Unlike announcements, discussions are messages sent to everyone in a team, or a language within a team. This lets you send a single message to people involved with different projects. Discussions are useful for:

  • Asking translators for a specific language to finish translations before an upcoming release
  • Talking about how certain terms should be translated
  • General updates, e.g. introducing new members or employees to the team

These are just guidelines. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to use Announcements and Discussions. Just be sure communicate early and often!

Recognizing top contributors

When someone translates for your for free, it’s important to make them feel appreciated. There are many creative – and affordable – ways you can thank them:

  • Send swag such as t-shirts, stickers, water bottles, or notebooks
  • Invite them to visit the office and meet the team if they’re local
  • Sponsor a local translator meetup and pay for food and drinks
  • Include their names in a “special thanks” section of your app or website

If you’re on the Advanced plan or higher, we suggest using Reports to see who your most active contributors are.

Tip

Recognize your community, but not with money. If you give the community money, people quickly turn into mercenaries.

Keeping your community engaged

In any community, you’ll see some sort of 80/20 rule at play where a small minority (~20%) of the community makes most (~80%) of the contributions. There isn’t a way around this. Most companies have a small, passionate group of users who will give a lot to the product out of love. Still, it’s important to keep as many of your translators engaged as possible. 

Here are a few things we’ve seen our customers do:

  • Let translators know when languages are published. It’s seems minor, but people want to know their efforts were worth it!
  • Host translate-a-thons or “localization sprints”. Our friends at Localization Lab often hosts several-days long gatherings where translators work together. Sometimes these sprints are virtual; other times they’re live gatherings. Either way, it’s a fun way for translators to meet others in the community while making progress on a few projects.

Further reading

Interested in learning more about crowdsourcing translations? Check out these posts from our blog: