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HomeBlog • Is “Don’t be Evil” Google reshaping the translation industry?
Is “Don’t be Evil” Google reshaping the translation industry?
Monday, 06 September 2010 22:12
Google logoOn August 31, 2010 Jennifer Haroon, Manager with Health Initiatives of, posted “Health Speaks begins pilots in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili.” The post goes into the details how Americans have access to the on-line resources related to the healthcare, while those who don’t speak English are missing out. Haroon then proceeds with a request for volunteers to step in and help with translation of the medical articles. We try to analyze the consequences of such move for the professional translators and the market as whole.

The post names three target languages – Arabic, Hindi and Swahili. It also shows that Google will pay donate $0.03 per translated word to the various healthcare organizations or charities. Google promises to donate up to $ 50,000.00 for each target language. At the above rate, it comes to about 1.7 million words for each language. To visualize this volume of text, try to imagine about 8 volumes at 400 pages each. In today’s market value, translation like this, considering volume discounts and complexity of the subject, would probably cost anywhere between $ 975,000.00 to $ 1,500,000.00.

Let’s take a closer look at the financial aspect of this project. Google limits its donations to 60 days only, suggesting that any translation done after that will be done for free. And even if all translations are done or initiated within those 60 days Google will pay only $ 150,000.00.

Haroon mentions, that Google, to further show its commitment to the cause, have funded the professional translation of a small subset of these articles. We don’t know exactly why that information was placed in the post, it may be some bright heads in Google HQ realized that crowdsourcing may backfire.

So, where does this post leaves us today? Professional translators will probably not work on this project. Simple math tells us that those, who care about charitable organizations, would prefer to earn the money and then donate all or part of it. Countries, where the medical articles will be used, will not develop the environment that stimulates the usage of the professional translators. Economically, it is a major blow to translation industries in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili speaking countries. Quality of the content, you ask? Well, professional translators exist for a reason. It is a pilot and we hope Google will change the way its philanthropic arm proceed with this otherwise great project.

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