Fanlation is a term that I’ve come across very recently, and I came across it again when I received Jost Zetzsche’s Tool Kit newsletter:

I had just suggested that we use a new term for the kind of crowdsourced translation that the likes of Twitter and Facebook do when they engage hordes of enthused users to translate their products: fanlation.

When I wrote my post about crowdsourcing, this is exactly the process I had in mind, but actually, it’s not necessarily how crowdsourcing work. What I was talking about was “fanlation”, only this term didn’t exist yet. These new translation concepts are evolving all the time, with language playing catch-up, so I thought it’d be useful to compile a short glossary of these terms as I understand them.
Translation done by enthused users ready to donate their time for a product.
Crowdsourcing is a neologistic compound of Crowd and a short for Outsourcing, for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an “open call” to a large group of people (a crowd) asking for contributions.
Word coined by Jeff Howe, a Wired Magazine writer, in 2006. Definition from Wikipedia.
Collaborative translation
Emerging approach to translation in which companies use the elements of crowdsourcing in a controlled environment for working on large corporate projects in short periods of time.
Definition taken from Common Sense Advisory.
CT3 mixes community, crowdsourced and collaborative translation to offer a translation which is quick, good quality and in tune with users’ experience. It can involve professional translators or not.
Coined by Global Watchtower.
So will fanlation have an impact on my work? One of the criticisms of fanlation is that the quality is likely to be inferior to the output of professional translators, but nowadays, some markets are driven by speed and usability rather than quality. A translation that is “good enough”, quick and cheap may well be sufficient to satisfy some clients. Personally, I don’t currently see fanlation as a threat to my work, the bulk of which requires specialist knowledge and strong writing skills. I can’t imagine that there are enough people out there combining free time, passion for the subject, language skills and in-depth knowledge to create a community able to take on the kind of translation that I do.
As for collaborative/crowdsourced translation, I think that, as long as projects are well-managed and use people with sufficient skills, these processes, by making more information more widely available, will be hugely positive: any improvement to global communication is to be welcome. By opening new markets, the surge in material translated brought about by collaborative processes could even provide us professional translators with work opportunities, with companies increasingly seeing it as compulsory to communicate with their potential clients in their own languages. I would also be interested in participating in a crowdsourced translation, to see how it works from the inside: with web-based tools being created all the time, working as part of a multinational team of translators is a very exciting prospect. Maybe that should have been in my objectives for 2010!