Translation crowdsourcing on the rise thanks to open source software

More and more companies are using translation communities to localize their software thanks to open source platforms based around the Translate Toolkit, a collection of useful tools for localization and an API for developers of localization tools. Some of the better known companies that are using these platforms for translating their software are Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Statcounter, OpenOffice and Drupal. Altogether, over 100 companies are using platforms based on this software.

The rising prevalence of crowdsourcing translations has invoked the ire of professional translators, who see this as a threat to their very livelihood. But for some software companies, it is a no brainer: localizing software into many languages can cost a fortune. And some of the software companies who crowdsource translations, like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, provide their product for free which makes it hard to justify allocating big budgets to localization. Furthermore, some of the social platforms like Twitter and Facebook are finding it easy to get people to contribute free work.

One of the most popular crowdsourcing platforms is Pootle, which is an acronym for PO-based Online Translation / Localization Engine. Pootle provides many advanced features to facilitate the localization process including use of Translation Memories, terminology extraction/glossary creation, automatic parsing of translatable texts in the software resources, spell checking, quality evaluation metric tools and a lot more. The text handling of these systems is based on PO files, which is a commonly used standard which is supported by many free editors and other commercial CAT tools.
Installing and deploying Pootle seems to be fairly unproblematic judging from the large number of deployed servers (click here for the list). There seem to be many communities and Internet groups dedicated to Pootle support so an abundance of information and use cases can be found.
If you are a translator, it may be fun to poke around some of these servers and see what they can do. On some of the servers, you can download PO files and gain access to a wealth of bilingual text files with large volumes of translation. Some of these resources can be profitably used to train machine translation servers. Finally, if you are in charge of localization at a software company, these free tools may be worth checking out.

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