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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


LESCH, Harold M. Translation practice in the social media: an improved translation text for a virtual community?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2014, vol.54, n.1, pp.129-143. ISSN 2224-7912.

A method increasingly used to provide translation in the computer era is crowdsourcing. This practice is widely exercised in the open-source community and has become quite sophisticated. The "crowd" comes in various forms: customers, brand advocates, domain experts, passionate users and the "unwashed masses". All of these take the form of multilingual communities whose translation work may be integrated with existing translation workflows. However, there are still many misconceptions and myths about the outcomes of crowdsourcing when applied to translation. Three major phenomena in harnessing the power of the crowd for translation purposes have been identified by Rebecca Ray and Nataly Kelly (2011). The first is community translation (or social translation) which is usually performed on voluntary basis by members of a group or by people with common interests. These groups are often cause-focused; interested in obtaining access to information in their own language; or simply people devoted to language. The second is collaborative technology and processes which allow a community to develop around a project and to work on the same content. Community members can verify and rectify one another's work as they go along. The term "collaborative translation" is also used to describe the work of professional translation teams working as a swarm - where multiple translators interact with the same content simultaneously, using advanced translation memory tools. The third, crowdsourcing, opens up a translation project to teams comprising of any mix of volunteer translators, employees, contractors or language service providers. It leverages the power of the swarm to accomplish much more than a single translator or language service provider can do alone. These three methods have supported one another to such an extent that the boundaries between them have faded. However, this paper argues that crowdsourced translation for a virtual community expands on community translation as originally developed for educationally deprived communities, with specifically the linguistically deprived as target readers of translated texts. Multicultural societies, such as those in South Africa, where heterogeneous target audiences require translation, use community translation as a vehicle for effective communication (Lesch 2004; 1999). Otherwise a translation will only be a symbolic gesture, empty of value, and thus not communicating the message intended. This article argues that a functional approach ensures that translations are meaningful acts, and that this approach may serve as a translation paradigm for multilingual countries and global virtual institutions. Different readers and listeners must be addressed in writing (and in speaking) at a level that they can understand. In the multicultural context found in many countries, a plain language approach to translation for communication purposes entails that those who produce texts must consider plain language for effective communication. At the same time it should be borne in mind that there are various degrees of plainness. The communicator and translator can achieve a relative plainness, for instance, a plainer language that is more adequate in the eyes and ears of the audience than the legalese Afrikaans version. In terms of communication it represents an improvement of the original source text language.The concept of plain language is dynamic and varies according to the target audience. Translators can adopt one of two approaches. They either think of a text in terms of plain language before translating, or they transfer a text into plain language during the translation process. The latter approach deals with rephrasing and adaptation as part of the construction of target texts. I am of the opinion that this is the better way to ensure effective intercultural communication across power gaps in a heterogeneous country, and that this also applies to the generic reader on the internet. It goes without saying that this translation strategy is useful for effective understanding of the target text when communicating a message to widely heterogeneous audiences, including some with limited educational backgrounds, and for effective communication across a wide cultural spectrum and power gaps. Consequently, this article draws on norms that have been developed for the community translation practice prior to the evolution of a virtual internet community, and were designed for target readers with a limited educational background. The article raises the question of, and initiates debate on whether the proposed norms are also relevant for translation via crowdsourcing. The underlying principle for these norms is using accessible language in crowdsourced and community translation on the internet.

Keywords : community translation; crowdsourced translation; norms; virtual community.

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