Coach for Success

lingo24 - Coach - New Translation Platform

The Telegraph article from this week featured Christian Arno, the founder of the online translation company Lingo24, and his new crowdsourcing translation platform Coach.

For translators, the most interesting part of the article is perhaps this one:

“[Coach] allows Lingo24 to break down translation jobs into smaller component parts, allowing the high-level, high-cost work to be sectioned off, leaving the bulk of the routine work for less skilled (and so less expensive) translators.”

For those who are well aware of the Big Divide in the translation market (for simplicity’s sake, I’d prefer to use bulk vs. premium in the terminology of Chris Durban, once again), the new platform might seem an attempt to bridge the gap between quality and cost.

Christian Arno claims this is going to be a “win-win” model. However, I fail to see anyone benefiting from Coach, apart from Mr. Arno himself. Neither translators, nor clients, nor even his private equity investors. Splitting a job among several translators is a recipe for disaster par excellence.

The article implies that the new tool might be welcomed by language students (and probably “social translators” of all kinds) ready to earn some quick cash. I, for one, have doubts that any serious professionals would fall for something claimed to become “Ebay for translators”.

But maybe I am wrong…

  1. Kevin Lossner (@GermanENTrans)’s avatar

    Mr. Arno is a premium example of those bulk Linguistic Sausage Producers (aka LSPs) who feel that by grinding the source material into small enough bits and extruding it through a redefined “quality process” they can produce a uniform mass which the suckers who hire their services may find palatable.

    While I can understand that some may find the need to wander supermarket aisles in search of the cheapest dog for or some other nutritional ersatz for their own consumption, I find it more than a little odd that any of the many so-called businessmen in the world believe that their enterprises can draw real sustenance from the sausage Mr. Arno and his band serve up on their re-used paper plates. But let them enjoy the “feast” as other, wiser business people engage competent service providers and eat Mr. Arno’s lunch.


  2. Steffen Walter’s avatar

    As I commented on FB, the Telegraph got its headline wrong: it should actually read “The language of greed”. This “translation” business has grown too big to be caring about real quality, so exploiting their gullible slave workers – and raising funds from unsuspecting outside investors – appears to be the only way forward now. Disgusting, at any rate…


  3. Alina Cincan’s avatar

    “[…] break down translation jobs into smaller component parts […] – and there goes consistency and quality, down the drain. Add this to “[…] leaving the bulk of the routine work for less skilled (and so less expensive) translators” and you have the recipe for disaster. Even if they ask a qualified experienced translator/editor to proofread/edit and try to make everything as uniform as possible, such a job would probably cost more than a translation well-done from the beginning. Yet, there will be people to buy it, those who don’t know very well what a translation process involves and who care more about price than quality. Very sad.


  4. Shai Nave’s avatar

    I agree with all the comments. It seems as if every couple of days a new crowdsourcing or other manipulative “clever” platform is (mis)conceived and introduced.

    These platforms are pretty much all the same, different only in their overly contrived marketing copy, and have only one true aim in mind: squeezing as much money for themselves and the hell with any professional responsibility, ethics, and integrity. Let’s invest a lot in a “smart” convincing marketing copy rather than on offering a true, reliable and honest service. These unscrupulous initiatives should be condemned by all professionals or those who even remotely respect their profession and line of work.

    If find the contrived rationale behind their claims and business model very amusing. It is comparable to the idea of hiring enough sixth graders to solve complex mathematical calculations or challenges. After-all, it would be cheaper because one is [“]leaving the bulk of the routine work for less skilled (and so less expensive) mathematicians[“].

    The actual translation work is sometimes just a part of a translation project, but it is its foundation, and we all know what eventually happens to things built on weak and unstable foundations.

    I have a little saying that I like to use in this general context. The translation work might not be the only type of work involved in a translation/localization project, but it all starts with a good translation (and translator)…


    1. ValerijTomarenko’s avatar

      I fully agree, Shai. Whereas cost reduction is definitely something that matters for each profession and industry, today’s translation business abounds in all kinds of “unscrupulous initiatives” and translation brokers purporting to be translation companies. More and more attempts are made to dupe the public into believing that technology is the future of translation, either to promote the interests of the “industry” or a particular market player, like in this case.
      As regards the idea of Coach, Kevin Hendzel found a very appropriate simile: “The lunatic idea of dividing up a text to send to multiple translators based on difficulty reminds me of the drawbacks of dissecting a frog to learn about the secret of life.”
      And yes, your “little saying” is so true indeed: “The translation work might not be the only type of work involved in a translation/localization project, but it all starts with a good translation (and translator)“ Worth repeating (and remembering) again and again.


    2. Shai Nave’s avatar

      Thank you for your comment Valerij.
      I agree that cost is a factor for every business, and I also acknowledge that business, in general, would like to reduce their costs in order to increase their profit. But a serious and viable business seeks value not just an arbitraty cost reduction.

      But the (not so recent) talk about reducing translation costs has become quite absurd. There are many ways to streamline (or any other business buzzword of one’s choice) processes for reducing costs throughout the (non-)value chain, but instead, some LSPs (again, in the sense of the term coined by Kevin Lossner in the first comment above, as well as in his blog), who on the surface represent our profession, choose to reduce the costs by removing the core competency for their sole benefit. The reason behind it is quite clear and has nothing to do with a new ingenious process that enables cost reduction while maintain quality or with transltors charging too much (whatever that is). Instead, these entities who provide the envelope services for the translation project or simply act as a broker in the most basic and valueless sense of the word don’t want to compromise their cut and position so they choose to roll the “savings” onto someone else, and complement it with a nice copy to sell their alchemy to naïve and unsuspected clients that don’t understand that most of their investment is used to fund those brokers instead of buying them the value they seek.

      The perception about the translation profession is a bit fragile as it is (for several historic reasons), but when people that are supposed to represent the profession and to know something about it send these type of messages – what do we expect the end clients to think?



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