Twitter gets lost in translation - El Taller del Traductor
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Twitter gets lost in translation

Twitter gets lost in translation

As Spanish is my mother tongue, I always write in Spanish here, but today deserves the right to change the rule. Why? Twitter has launched its Spanish version. Ok, what’s wrong with that?Twitter fail

A while ago Twitter announced they were going to localise their site into different languages using «crowdsourcing«. For those who are not familiar with the concept, crowdsourcing is, according to Wikipedia «the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to a group (crowd) of people or community in the form of an open call.»

As it happened with Facebook and Linkedin, translators around the world discussed about this issue. Many of us have worked for NGOs for free, but what is the point of working for a company making profit of translators’ work? If they pay their lawyers, accountants, etc., why they are not going to pay for translations? The UI of Twitter is not flooded with text, so the point of using the crowdsourcing model for saving money does not make much sense. So, why then? Twitter may say that users/fans of a product create a better translation. That could be true in some cases, but definitely that is not the case.

I invite all Spanish readers to have a look that the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy of Twitter in Spanish. You will find examples of literal translations, Spanglish, mistranslations… I wonder if there is any twitter user with no legal or legal translation background who could translate those parts of the Website without making mistakes. I am a Sworn translator and even in that case, the lawyers I work with want to see the texts I translate before delivering them. Only because I am not a lawyer.  Will Twitter’s lawyers let outsiders write the ToS and Privacy Policy and publish them with no further review?

I have sent a «tweet» to the Spanish Twitter account asking them how they have selected their translators as apparently not everyone can translate for free for them, but I have not received any answer yet.

21 Comentarios
  • Olli
    Hora: 17:21h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Totally agree with you but, sadly, tomorrow will be another day and, in a week, Twitter will have a new translation provided by their ‘pro’ users. It happened the same with Facebook. At the beginning, it was a disaster. Now, it is more or less legible and nobody cares anymore.
    At the end, the translator is the last element in the long chain of the localization process and no one cares about quality. It seems like industry is moving in that direction and, while we angrily complain about the situation, the crowdsourcing strategies for translation go on wildly. The only case where industry seemed to stop was LinkedIn, though I am not sure if they will try again…

    What a depresing panorama 🙁

  • hunting_bears
    Hora: 17:22h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Lei el primer parrafo y la verdad… eso no es digno ni de un estudiante de primer año de traducción. Este tipo de cosas no hacen más que degradar la profesión y, de paso, hacer que la gente que no tiene acceso al texto en español se confunda.

    Saludos desde Argentina.

  • Fer
    Hora: 18:15h, 04 noviembre Responder

    "If they pay their lawyers, accountants, etc., why they are not going to pay for translations?" Yes, that's a good point. Salu2 😉

  • Marisa Pavan
    Hora: 18:23h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Hi, Elizabeth,

    You're right in your approach. It's an old repeated situation that affects our profession.



  • Damián Santil
    Hora: 18:34h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Pienso que muchos usuarios de Twitter son traductores profesionales y, en este caso, no hay dudas de que este sitio web debería ser localizado por alguien que entienda el funcionamiento de esta red social.

    Pero si ese alguien que "entiende" el funcionamiento no es ni por casualidad un traductor (y se nota en las traducciones que hicieron), entonces el resultado es catastrófico. De todos modos, incluso las empresas que pagan sus traducciones tienen problemas, como es el caso de Mozilla (creo que pagan) que en su menú tiene la opción "Agregados" que su página web se llama "Complementos" (por los addons) y otros tantos errores.

    Saludos y gracias por el trabajo de este blog tan interesante.

  • Nico
    Hora: 19:10h, 04 noviembre Responder

    #6 Damián, no se si Mozilla pagará por sus traducciones, pero en algunos de sus proyectos he estado de voluntario colaborando y traduciendo gratis, así como testeando (de esto último aún estoy en ello). Por lo tanto de cobrar nada. Lo que ocurre que tal vez la revisión sí se la encomienden a alguna empresa o similar "profesional", ahí ya no llego.


  • The Localization Girls
    Hora: 19:20h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Why not just fix it for them?

  • Elizabeth
    Hora: 19:28h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Hi Localization Girls. The problem is that they have not used a crowdsourcing approach like Facebook, i.e. everyone can comment others’s translations. Here we find a closed system where they select you to translate for them. I registered a while ago and I never got an invitation to do some work for free, so where is the crowdsourcing thing? I don’t see the collaboration here. Where is the link to provide feedback?

  • Elizabeth
    Hora: 19:39h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Olli, we have to fight every day. I know some cases on which users would kill for translate the products they really enjoy but some industries knows that the results would be a disaster (or are afraid of losing control of their contents). Today I have learnt that crowdsourcing must be well planned and that it could be good for small pieces of texts, but a good testing is still needed. Did Twitter test the Spanish version? I dont think so.

    Furthermore, a Website like Twitter is not only made up of small texts like «followers» or «lists» (even Twitter also fails in many instances with the translation of those easy texts). Those sites seeming to be very easy, also have very complex and specialised texts (almost every site has today a ToS and/or a privacy policy statement), so the argument that crowdsourcing is for easy and small texts does not work here.

  • Pablo Muñoz
    Hora: 21:48h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Right. Many gamers would even pay (or kill!) to translate their favourite video games and I'm sure they will feel really passionate about it, but that doesn't mean they will deliver a good translation. That's why video game publishers like Nintendo won't allow such a thing. Instead, they select carefully professional translators who like to play and hire testers with good language skills for the quality assessment.

  • Marshmallow
    Hora: 22:07h, 04 noviembre Responder

    If they pay their lawyers, accountants, etc., why they are not going to pay for translations?

    Esta frase desmonta a cualquiera que pueda venir a decirte que es que Twitter es un servicio gratuíto para ti y para mí, y que gracias a él hemos ganado tanto que ¿por qué no ofrecer nuestra ayuda? Pues por eso…¿qué denosta tanto la profesión de traductor frente a otras? ¿Qué coño nos hace tan distintos?

    Si todos los traductores del mundo nos pusieramos de acuerdo para dejar de hacer nuestro trabajo, me preguntó cómo reaccionaría la gente. Somos tan necesarios como invisibles…

  • Marshmallow
    Hora: 22:09h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Tsk, aunque a mí deberían madarme al paredón ya directamente, porque en unas líneas he usado un verbo que no tocara y me he colado acentuando cosas x'DDD Kill me!

  • Jose J Kaz Casimiro
    Hora: 22:59h, 04 noviembre Responder


    Me parecen adecuados y muy atinados tus comentarios, considero que particularmente para la parte más delicada, la de términos legales, sería muy útil que Twitter hubiera invitado a traductores profesionales. En mi caso particular mi trabajo implica traducir muchos textos técnicos, pero considero que un traductor profesional (como tú), sería muy valioso en el proyecto de traducción de Twitter.

    Te envié un correito con los datos de la coordinadora del proyecto, espero que en cuanto tengas oportunidad puedas ponerte en contacto con ella, sería ideal tener traductores profesionales como moderadores 🙂

    Muchas gracias por todos tus comentarios!

    Un abrazo! 🙂

  • Diana Díaz Mo
    Hora: 23:29h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Elizabeth, I agree with your post. When I found out that Twitter was opting for crowdsourcing to localize their site, I got furious, but also got curious.

    I went to the page where they explained how they were approaching the task and it sounded like they were sort of "hand picking" collaborators. I had a look at the list of volunteers, and clicked on a bunch of names, expecting to read in the user profiles things such as "I am a translator, I am a linguist, I love languages" or at least some hint that would lead to the conclusion that that user might actually be able to provide a good translation… Of course, I was wrong!

    So my next move was to sign up as a volunteer, though they said in the page that they already had a lot of collaborators, and indeed the list was long. To my surprise, I got an email the very next day with the instructions to get started. And so I got hands on.

    The system allows you to enter a translation from scratch or to pick one of the existing translations, if the string has already been localized. There is also a Comment field, where I carefully explained why I thought my suggestion was better than others. I translated a few strings, to check what other people where translating, and I also had a quick look at a couple of posts in the forum they set up for translators to discuss things.

    One post caught my attention: the string "Direct Messages" had been translated as "Mensajes Directos". A few people argued that "Directos" should not be capitalized (I agree), while a bunch of users said that it was ok to leave it capitalized because it was a "design thing", if it is "capitalized in English, then we should leave it as it is in Spanish". So even those short strings that seem so easy to translate can be tricky. If you want to do things well, of course. So, with examples like that… what can you expect?

    I don't even dare to read the Terms and Conditions and the rest of legal stuff. I might suffer a heart attack.

    So in response to the Localization Girls: believe me, I tried to fix the translations (for free, remember!?) adding comments directly into their tool and in the forum. And you guessed it right: you can still read "Mensajes Directos" on the site. Will that ever get fixed? Well, I doubt it, unless they receive a ton of emails from angry translators. I think it's sad that we, professional translators, have to spend our free time bugging Twitter to fix something that could have been done right the first time around.

    Again, I agree: if the site designer got paid, if the programmer got paid, if their lawyer got paid, how come they don't pay for translations? I still don't get it, believe me.

    And I also agree with Pablo's post: I am not 100% against crowdsourcing and fan translation. But I think that good crowdsourcing also calls for some organization… and for now Twitter is a mess.

    I feel a bit bad because I gave away my work for free, but it had to be done, so that now I can get even madder at Twitter for launching such a crappy site in Spanish.

  • Eve Bodeux
    Hora: 23:31h, 04 noviembre Responder

    I can kind of see the approach working for software strings, where people end up voting. But, am surprised they'd actually think translating terms of service and legal text was legit this way. According to R Beninatto's presentation at the recent ATA Conference, even Facebook had these items translated proessionally. Scary for them, I'd say….

  • Gawed
    Hora: 23:54h, 04 noviembre Responder

    Hola, yo soy traductor oficial de Twitter como pueden ver en mi perfil:

    La verdad no, no soy traductor oficial pero me precio de tener un algo grado de inglés y de pensamiento lógico para haberme atrevido a aceptar el honor de traducir el sitio de un servicio que me encanta.

    Dicho esto acepto plenamente al ver las traducciones que han salido que están pésimas en muchas instancias.

    Si me permiten explicar como funciona el asunto: Twitter te presenta las palabras, textos o párrafos a traducir y tu puedes ya sea poner tu propia traducción o elegir una traducción ya hecha por alguien más como la más apropiada. Esto me indica que al final las traducciones con mayor "votación" son las que se ponen como oficiales, lo cual me da una tristeza al ver las cosas que han "ganado".

    Además se tiene un foro de discusiones para palabras difíciles o confusas o para decidir si se dejaban términos en inglés o no como Tweet o Twittear.

    No sé cómo nos escogió Twitter pero por amor al lenguaje inglés que amo y mi natal español que amo aun más: me ofrezco para que, los traductores profesionales que deseen, me envíen sus notas sobre errores en el TOS y Privacy Policy y, al menos yo, pondré sus correcciones en mi versión de la traducción y trataré de abrir canales de comunicación en el foro para avisar de que estos cambios son necesarios.

    Creo que es lo mas eficiente que se puede hacer para que estos cambios se puedan ver reflejados en la realidad, aunque no prometo resultados.


  • Marshmallow
    Hora: 01:44h, 05 noviembre Responder

    Y yo me pregunto ¿qué ocurre si los TOS/Privacy Policy se traducen de tal forma que se cree un vacío legal donde en el idioma original no lo había? Son cosas que veo muy delicadas para dejarlas en manos de nadie en particular….

  • Gawed
    Hora: 17:35h, 05 noviembre Responder

    Saludos. Tengo ya el mail de la persona oficial de twitter encargada de la traducción. Se discute ya en los foros de traducción los errores mencionados por ustedes los traductores profesionales.

    Se nos ha indicado que con gusto les proporcionemos el mail de esta persona a los traductores que deseen cooperar con el esfuerzo.

    Quien quiera esta dirección comuníquese conmigo: sectorgawed at gmail dot com


  • céline
    Hora: 10:38h, 06 noviembre Responder

    This confirms what I suspected: crowdsourcing could be an exciting and new take on the translation process, but it MUST have professional translators at its heart. Hopefully this model will mature into a tool that will deliver a fulfilling way of working for translators and better, faster results for clients.

  • FrandeA
    Hora: 14:49h, 06 noviembre Responder

    Personnally, I couldn't be happier: perhaps this way they will finally realize all the potential legal nightmares and trouble they can get themselves in by resorting to crowdsourcing without the appropriate control or monitoring tools.

    Oh, BTW, I just came up with a great idea: why don't we suggest them to resort to crowdsourcing for their coporate decisions? Clearly, it wouldn't make much of a difference quality wise and it would be a huge money saving strategy…

  • Argentine Translator
    Hora: 20:00h, 30 junio Responder

    Sucede algo similar con la traducción al español de una conocida empresa de pagos en línea. Es casi incomprensible. Resulta increíble que empresas de esta envergadura no elijan traductores competentes.

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