Imagine you’ve developed a new iPhone game and you need it translated from English into Spanish, or Russian, or German. What do you do?
Like taking a coat to a drycleaner, you take your source code, send it to a translation agency along with a fee, wait a few days, then get your code back in whichever language you need, hopefully grammatically correct and comprehensible.
So what’s wrong with this approach? For starters, language isn’t laundry. While you can see with your eyes that a drycleaner got a spot out of your coat, without knowing another language, you’ll never know for sure that your text has been translated accurately.
What many may not know is that there is another contender out there, Ackuna, hoping to “break the chains” and make translation by humans simpler, faster, and more accountable. But before we get to Ackuna, let’s talk about why the current model just doesn’t work.
The current state of translation
There are infinite, subtle nuances to language that must be accounted for, which is precisely why accurate machine translation is still just a pipe dream. Machines work on logic; Google Translate can give you a word-for-word translation of your text, but it can’t comprehend emotion, symbolism, or underlying meaning behind those words. It can tell you that “alcornoque” means “cork oak,” but without having a human put it in context, you’d never know someone was calling you a “blockhead!”
So why, then, is the translation industry still running on a 20th-century business model, despite the need for translated, localized content—on the web, in apps, and everywhere else—being more urgent than ever?
The fact is, translation agencies haven’t changed or adapted in decades because they haven’t had to; they’re the gatekeepers. They know the translators, and the translators know the languages, and if you need something translated you just have to play by their rules. Until that holy grail of accurate machine translation can be reached, people have no choice but to put their trust in someone else and hope for the best.
Why is app translation even important?
English-speaking app developers are focusing more and more on foreign-language markets lately for the simple reason that the English-speaking market has flatlined; the biggest, fastest growth can now be found in markets that primarily speak something other than English.
By having an app available only in English, you are shutting out about 74% of your potential users. Meanwhile, by having your app available in just the ten most-spoken languages on the internet, you could triple its visibility and reach over 80% of all internet users. In today’s competitive, world-wide marketplace, you can’t afford to shut that many people out! And besides, if there was an easy way to make your app available to more people, why wouldn’t you? If you make most of your sales in American dollars, for instance, why not also start raking in some Euros, pesos, and yen, too?
But what about this “Ackuna” thing?
What if there was a way to democratize translation? What if we could get opinions on translations from other translators, view other translations they’ve done, and judge for ourselves if something is accurate without having to speak a word of another language?
This concept, and the principles behind it, are already alive and well at Ackuna. Since launching in March of this year, Ackuna has already amassed nearly 3,000 translators who have helped translate around 500 apps for various platforms.
Taking a little of the best of both systems, Ackuna irons out the kinks in the translation agency and machine translation models and offers up something unique; like machine translation, Ackuna is fast and automated, and like an agency, Ackuna is powered entirely by human translators.
But what makes Ackuna better than the sum of its parts? First, Ackuna gives its users power. Users can vote and comment on anything and everything. If something is inaccurate, they can vote it down. If there’s a typo, they can suggest a correction. And every action awards users a sort of “translation karma,” a public ranking that can be used to gauge a translator’s skill and accuracy.
On top of that, the biggest benefit of Ackuna is for developers. The system was designed with developers in mind, and is able to parse the text out of nearly any format one might use for a project (be it Android XML, iOS strings, Asp.net RESX format, or whatever the case may be), allow each segment of text to be translated independently, and then reassembled into the same format it was submitted in. Take that game you’re developing for the iPhone; getting it translated could be as simple as uploading a single file from the source code.
Forget price quotes, forget emailing salespeople, forget faxing work orders; it’s the 21st century, and translation is not a monopoly. Thanks to the internet, the world is at our collective doorstep. Say “hello” (in every language) with Ackuna!
More: MobileBeat 2016 is focused on the paradigm shift from apps to AI, messaging, and chatbots. Don't miss this opportunity: July 12 and 13 in San Francisco.