What if a new translation industry were possible?

Reginaldo Francisco *

There are some aspects of the translation industry that have been bothering me for quite some time, most of them stemming from the fact that professional, quality translations aren't cheap―actually, they shouldn't be, and I must admit that the fact that this could bother a translator is odd at first. However, what actually bothers me is that I can only work for people who can afford it, usually companies, and many individuals who cannot afford translation services are stuck with other alternatives, such as machine or amateur translations.

In addition to causing this uncomfortable feeling based on my own sense of justice, this situation also brings negative consequences to translators in general. For example, it drives the development of increasingly better machine translation systems, because it's clear to developers that more individuals have to resort to these systems each day. Besides, it also contributes to making people settle for the quality offered by machine translations to the point that they no longer recognize the added value of a professional translation.

On top of that, even though I don't like the usual "whining" argument that companies or translation agencies exploit translators―I subscribe to the idea that saying "No" is liberating―the thing is that companies always have more power to impose conditions, no matter the industry, and we need to constantly resist the pressure to work more for less.

Being unhappy with this situation has led me to think of a system in which we could do things differently, leveraging the fantastic possibilities created by the popularization of internet, where there's a huge amount of interesting content that deserves to be translated, but will not be translated because of the aforementioned limitations―this kind of translation would be interesting to many people, but none of them can pay for it individually. And that is how I came up with the idea of creating an online system that would allow several people who are interested in the translation of a given content available on the internet (scientific articles, blog posts, news stories, fanfiction...) to come together and pay professional translators for their services. On the one hand, the translator would be paid fairly for a service while, on the other hand, the associated fee wouldn't be too high for individuals interested in the translation, since each one would only pay a fraction of it.

After several months―actually, it's been more like two years―this idea has grown and is now almost taking a life of its own, especially after it was given a name: Win-Win, since its goal is to make sure everybody wins. However, I was aware from the very beginning that implementing this idea was something beyond my abilities, both in terms of knowledge and financial resources. That is why the initial step I took to make this idea become a reality was to get together with very competent people, the first of them being IT guru Roney Belhassof, whose knowledge and contacts were crucial for us to come up with required system features and a budget for the development phase, in addition to experts in different languages. Being able to have professionals of such high standards believe in this idea is what actually makes me believe that this is going to work.

The next step the team took was to create a crowdfunding campaign to gather the funds necessary to develop the system and make it operational. By the way, this funding practice is a perfect match for the principles behind our idea. The campaign went live in mid-October and, since then, we've been promoting it through several channels: social networking websites, email messages, the traditional word-of-mouth effort... We have received very positive feedback so far, and several people have praised it and expressed excitement about the opportunities this could bring. Nevertheless, pledges have come in slowly, and the project may unfortunately not come to life at all.

That is why I'm so grateful for the opportunity to talk about Win-Win on a blog whose readers might be highly interested in it. Initially, my intention was to explain all the operational details we have planned for the system, but then I realized this text would end up being too long, and I thought it would be better to address what motivated me to create the project. For quick, clear information on how it will work, please watch this video and read the explanation you'll find right below it. And, if you want to receive updates about the project, please like our Facebook page and subscribe to our newsletter.

Of course, if you also believe that Win-Win can indeed improve the translation industry by bringing benefits to all those involved (even to those who will not be directly involved in it), please join our Kickante campaign and help spread the word. Every contribution will push us closer to the finish line and make Win-Win become a reality. Since it's a crowdfunding campaign, you'll only be charged the pledged amount if we achieve our goal. In other words, if we don't reach our funding goal, no payment will be made; if we do reach our goal, everybody wins:

  • registered translators will have access to a work platform to address a demand that has so far been repressed, having the ability to select which projects they will contribute to, setting prices and deadlines while knowing that payment will be guaranteed,
  • other translators will gain visibility through a system that emphasizes the added-value of professional translations,
  • individuals who need content translated, but couldn't afford it, will now be able to do have access to this content,
  • on-line content developers will be able to see their material distributed in other languages,
  • since all translations will be available at the Win-Win website, internet users will also benefit from a wealth of information, ideas, and knowledge.

Finally―this article is long enough―I'd like to say that it'll be a pleasure to keep the conversation going on the comments below, so feel free to leave your feedback and ask questions about the project. I hope to connect with you soon!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in Portuguese at Carol's Adventures in Translation.

REGINALDO FRANCISCO is a Brazilian translator who translates from English and Italian. He works mainly with literature and technical materials in the fields of quality management, compliance, people management, and technology. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Languages and Literature and majored in Translation with the São Paulo State University (UNESP). He also has a Master's Degree in Translation Studies with the Santa Catarina Federal University (UFSC). As a result of this research and experiences in the translation industry, he writes articles and presents sessions about translation, especially about computer-assisted tools (CATs). In collaboration with Claudia Zavaglia, he co-authored Parece mas não é: as armadilhas da tradução do italiano para o português.