“Instant” translation service?

I recently came across an intriguing model for translation services called ICanLocalize. It's similar to what a lot of translation agencies do, but with a couple of twists:

  • An "instant" translation service with 15-minute (!) turnaround
  • Website translation with built-in translation memory.
    Translators work from a Web browser using a tool that the service provides.

Good idea for small businesses? How about translators?

The service sounds like it can be valuable for small businesses that simply want their websites and documentation localized cheaply and quickly, but there are a couple of issues with this service from the translator's perspective.

My first issue is with the service not charging for repeated translations. I blogged elsewhere about why you should charge for 100% matches (albeit perhaps with a discount).

My other issue is with the picture of a hapless translator, sitting around and waiting for that $20 job to come rolling in. Somehow this doesn't match very well with the image of career building…

I may be a little sheltered in my niche of Japanese-to-English translation; I understand that translation between the major European languages can be a lot more cutthroat. But I personally don't feel a lot of motivation to work in such a scheme. That said, I've contacted the owner of the service directly, and he says that he plans to add quality metrics for choosing translators (maybe he already has some in place?).

So while this service is probably not that interesting to the established translator, it might be worth looking into for someone just getting a start. And for the beginning translator, it might even be a better proposition than one of those fly-by-night agencies that pays a tiny fraction of market rates.

Like instant noodles, instant translation probably has a big potential market. And if you later find that meal a bit difficult to digest, at least you know that you got it quick and cheap. 🙂

2 comments to “Instant” translation service?

  • Being the founder of the interesting service, I want to ask any translator, who has ideas on how to improve it (from either the translator’s or client’s point of view) contact me. You can use the contact form on our website to leave a message.

    I do believe in keeping everyone happy, along with making a decent living myself. We charge a 20% fee from completed projects. That also includes all money transfer fees (translators get exactly 80% deposited to their PayPal account).

    The instant translation work is primary translation of customer support communication (back and forth between my clients and their visitors in foreign languages). If it doesn’t get translated really fast, it’s no good. So, we built a desktop client, which pops up an alert when there’s a message to translate. Translation itself is done within this client, which spell checks and sends back the translation. I don’t see this becoming a career for anyone, but it can make a nice addition – and helps make the entire service much more appealing.

    Since the infrastructure is already there, clients can also post small text projects and get them done in 15 minutes. It works pretty nice actually 🙂

    The bulk of the work is website translation. It’s not instant work. For this, translators bid on projects, show their CVs and chat with clients.

    These two pieces make it attractive for small businesses, where you can get your website translated by a pro and then, communicate with your visitors (in real time) in their language. IBM can set up an office anywhere. Small businesses have to operate at a much more modest budget.


  • Thanks for commenting, Amir!

    I think that for a lot of small businesses, the choice is to use your service or not localize. So in that sense it can be good for the industry as a whole by increasing the market size. That idea of translator-as-interpreter — serving as an intermediary in support emails and such — is also very intriguing. I’ve worked through agencies on such “correspondence” jobs before, and I must say they tend to be somewhat unsatisfactory for all parties. Maybe your service could change that.

    Good luck with it!

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