Friday, July 6, 2012

My myGengo Experiments (2)

This is the second myGengo experiment. The first was reported in the previous post.

In the second experiment, still disguised electronically, I took myGengo's recruitment test. There's no fee for it. I submitted translations of two short texts from Spanish to English. I deliberately didn't spend much time on them, because it was the Standard (low-paid) rank that interested me. It wasn't the correct way to set up the experiment; I ought to have taken more time and sought translations by a real Native Translator. But here, for what it's worth, is the result.

The verdict took a long time coming: five weeks. I contented myself in the meantime with thinking that at least they were taking care over it! Ultimately, to my relief, it was accepted. But what was most interesting was the comment that came with the evaluation from the myGengo staff:
"You did a very good job of coming up with phrasing that sounds fluid and natural to convey the same meaning in English. You are still a bit close to the text but the word choice was quite good. Remember to just cut out words that are not necessary in English, as Spanish tends to use a lot more words."
A bit close to the text? Quite likely. Most of the professional work I've done recently has been of legal documents, and for those – as one client instructed me categorically – "your translations must be as literal as possible." Translators form habits and can fall into a rut. The last sentence too, about cutting out words, is sound advice – I used to give it to my students – and it convinced me that the writer was experienced and serious.

I'd like at this point to be able to say that you get what you pay for at myGengo and that the public will soon learn when it's appropriate to use it and when they should pay more. It's true for some knowledgeable users, individual or corporate; but it's also true that the general public is still woefully ignorant about translation and unable to judge it at Expert level. An indication of this comes from the now widespread misuse of machine translation. For example, I recently heard of a Spanish lawyer who used Google Translate to produce the English version of an international insurance policy. Very dangerous. Yet there is no legal disclaimer on the Google Translate site, whereas some Professional Translators limit their liability on their invoices and a few even carry professional liability insurance (see the article referenced below).

There's already a field in which crowdsourcing of translating is impacting on Professional Translators. It's the subtitling and fansubbing by "ces passionnés qui traduisent des séries pour que les nuls en anglais puissent en profiter [the enthusiasts who translate TV series for the benefit of people with no English at all]." A recent article (see References) is quite vitriolic about them, or rather about the industry that exploits them.

Liability insurance for translators. Translation Journal, January 16, 2007. The text is here.

Nora Bouazzouni. Internet a-t-il tué le sous-titrage pro des séries? [Has the internet killed professional subtitling for series?]. In French. Francetvinfo, June 17, 2012. Click here.


  1. As I see it a shame that not a single translator would comment to your valuable posts, let me react at least to this you wrote: "they should pay more. It's true for some knowledgeable users, individual or corporate". Things are not that simple. Here in Japan for instance, many municipalities would set up English versions of city web sites using machine translation. And they don't hide the fact but warn that as a result, expression may be at times not exactly appropriate. In one recent case, Akita prefecture used machine translation for tourism promotion. The word Akita has an homonym that means something like (I) got bored. And of course, what was due to happen happened. Should have they used MyGengo?

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  2. One more comment. myGengo is set in an economic age of precarity. The usually young people behind all those initiatives were born with precarity as a matter of fact, and they are applying exploitation of others as a matter of fact too, without an ounce of political consciousness. The rare ones that get noticed by investors may end up zooming up the ladder and exploit on a grand scale. For after all, myGengo model is nothing but fastfood, and you and I would not like to flip patties. In that sense, tasting the goods from myGengo is unconsciously supporting the model. I try and avoid fastfood as possible. Some people translating for peanuts through that scheme may deserve more, but have to also feed the system to individually survive, and by doing so perpetuate a dynamic where precarity rules.

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  4. I doubt very much whether a myGengo translator would make that kind of mistake over the name Akita. However, official tourist guides are prestige publications that help create an image of the place. As such, they should not be marred by information that's hard to understand nor by poor English style – or worse still, by translations that are laughable. Such publications should be entrusted to Expert Translators, whatever the price, or at very least REVISED by native English speakers who have some acquaintance with the country.

    I took a look at the Akita Comprehensive Tourism Guide ( An obvious mistake of English in the very first line of the first screen: "Full of tourism information in Akita!" ought to read, "...information ABOUT Akita!" Still, definitely not 'raw' MT,and on the whole the information given does a good job of making me wish I could visit the region. Indeed the mistakes are just enough to make me feel it's a Japanese person painting the picture.

  5. A a myGengo translator would not make the mistake, but his competence would be paid peanuts enough to sustain precarity. That is my point. As for the Akita regional administration, they don't know English so they don't know myGengo. And even if they knew ....

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