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User Translation, what are the best practices?



4:27 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I have a site that is available in about 40 languages. I'm asking my users to do the translations for me. Here is how it works right now.

  • Each bit of text used on the site is assigned a translation id
  • To serve the site in a different language, the server looks up the text for each translation id in the specified language.
  • There is a template system for building some messages like "Hello $user, you have $messagecount messages waiting for you."
  • When I launch a language I run the English text through translation software to produce an initial (often very shoddy) translation.
  • Users on the international sites are invited to improve translations through a translation interface.
  • When a user submits a translation it takes effect on the site right away for them (stored in their session) but isn't immediately available to other users.
  • I get a notification when translations are submitted and can choose to accept them in the admin interface.

The response from users has been promising but lackluster. I'm getting one or two people a week submitting corrections, usually for 4-6 translation strings. Has anybody here tried this before? How do you entice users into making your site better with translations?

I'm currently detecting if a user on an international site has English as one of their browser languages. If so, I put a more prominent call to action for them (otherwise it is in the footer). Any other techniques that I can use?


9:43 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have to ask - what's in it for them? Are they devoted fans who just want to help? Will the community bow down before them and thank them to the heavens?

I'm not saying people need an obvious (i.e. financial) benefit, but they need to at least get a really good feeling from it.

So I would ask
1. What are you doing to make them feel like they will get profoundly thanked?
2. How are you making sure you deliver on that promise?

For example, do you have a list of active translators? If it's a forum or place where user names show up in the normal course of things, do they get a "Community Superhero" designation or something like that?


11:34 pm on May 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

There are problems with using many different sources for translations. One is that you may get different "voices" or interpretations between translators for the same text to be translated. If part of the text is translated by a 60-year old and part is translated by a teenager, they're most likely going to be quite different styles.

Unless you are an expert in the language (in which case you don't need someone else to translate in the first place), how do you know any particular user submitted translation is better than another?

In addition to Ergophobe's questions, I would ask:
3. Do you have any self-policing from your community to alert you to bad or incorrect translations?


1:37 am on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I don't have any community features on this site currently. In fact, I added the ability to login for the translation feature. The top translators page is a great idea. Should be easy to implement and give kudos to those that have helped out.

I'm not too worried about tone. Even varied tone is going to be a big step up machine translation. Once the international sites get enough users to warrant professional translation, I'll go that route. The Spanish, French, and German sites are getting to that level now. They each have over 100,000 visits a month. Most of the languages only have a couple thousand visits a month though.

For translation approval, I have been machine translating back into English, just to be sure that there are no swear words or obviously off topic submissions. I'm assuming that if somebody took the time to improve a translation and it passes my reverse translation sniff test, then it is actually an improvement and I accept it. I have no way of knowing which of two humans does a better job, but so far I've only had corrections for machine translated text, so that hasn't been an issue. Before I implemented the user translation feature, I occasionally got feedback from users through the contact form about bad translations (and sometimes suggestions for improvement), I'm sure that will continue to happen.


3:57 pm on May 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The top translators page is a great idea.

In isolation, though, it's nothing. For example, I will never contribute a translation of a Microsoft, Apple or Google help page. I feel no connection, loyalty or debt to them. I need a carrot and that's about an entire feel and atmosphere.

I don't think a contributors page will help that much unless I feel like the users of this site are a group whose recognition matters to me... and there are times I ask myself why in the world I've typed so many words into WebmasterWorld. Ha!

But I've met friends here (real, come and visit me, flesh and blood friends), gotten incredible help in return for what I've offered, and learned a ton by trying to find answers to questions. It's enough to keep me coming back. Having my name on the front page wouldn't change that for better or worse, if you see what I'm saying.

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