Going Global? Three Ways Crowdsourcing Can Help

May 28 Crowdsourcing BlogSeven billion people. 6,900 languages and dialects.

We say it’s a small world – one growing smaller by the day thanks to the Internet, mobile phones, social networking and simple and free collaboration tools – but it actually remains exceptionally difficult to connect people who don’t speak the same language. Businesses are keenly aware of this challenge. Whether operating at a global scale, breaking into new markets with a service or device, or simply trying to better serve foreign language speaking customers here in the United States, overcoming language barriers is a challenging and expensive process.

The cloud, however, has allowed crowdsourcing to emerge as a fast and efficient tool for completing language-related work, enabling businesses to connect with major populations that don’t share a common language.  Lionbridge recognized this promise more than a decade ago, which is why we started crowdsourcing before the actual term was even coined. Our approach has evolved into a form of crowdsourcing we call Business Process Crowdsourcing (BPC).


Here are three ways BPC is playing a vital role in uniting a global community fragmented by language.

Translation: Information conveyed in a foreign language brings relatively little value to someone who doesn’t speak that language. A blog post written in English won’t help with Spanish language SEO. Product reviews for a resort destination in the U.S. won’t attract new visitors from Japan unless available in Japanese.

Online content can help businesses quickly enter new global markets – but it must be understood by the new target audience. Depending on the end use, BPC can scale to match either highly trained professionals or native speakers to accurately deliver culturally-nuanced material.


Interpretation: Even within a given country, many different languages are spoken. One in five people in the U.S. don’t use English as their primary language in the home. This makes it difficult for businesses to provide high levels of service to all customers. It’s often too costly to employ an entire staff of full time interpreters covering a variety of languages. There are also logistical challenges associated with trying to ensure the right people with the proper language skills are in the correct location.

Crowd-based interpretation makes thousands of interpreters available on-demand via telephone, video, and even in-person. Technology has removed geographic restrictions. Someone who is fluent in Arabic, understands cultural nuance, and is trained in medical terminology can interpret a conversation between patient and doctor through a tablet from the other side of the country. The same holds true for a customer service call in Mandarin Chinese.


Testing: Millions – maybe even billions of dollars – could be lost if a product or application fails to perform flawlessly at launch. However, with an endless array of functionality requirements, local network nuance, and foreign transaction payment gateways, it’s difficult to make sure a product works the same around the world as it does around the block.

Crowd-enabled testing helps businesses quickly and reliably ensure the desired functionality and user experience prior to launch – regardless of global location. Working with an experienced partner means the stress and cost of sourcing in-market testers is replaced with an existing pool of specially sourced testers ready to carry out the project to uncover bugs associated with usability, connectivity and other capabilities.


Although technology is making great strides in connecting people, products and services located around the globe, that audience is still largely defined by the language they speak. However, Business Process Crowdsourcing is helping many brands to reach new customers globally. It’s even helping to improve translation technology by grading and teaching machine translation engines to better understand context and nuance. As consumers continue to embrace the so-called “Sharing Economy,” expect crowdsourcing to play an important role in not just sharing content and products across multiple languages, but in truly connecting the world.


What are your translation challenges? Has your organization conducted a crowd-based translation, interpretation or testing project? If so, what was the result? Please let us know the role you think crowdsourcing can play in connecting the global marketplace.

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