Image Credit: PR, Screenshot/ OneHourTranslation

Uber for translators: One Hour Translation introduces app localization platform

One Hour Translation now offers a feature that lets you localize your app quickly and on the cheap. Yet more proof that it's better to be an app developer than a translator

Need a document translated fast? Just go to the web site of One Hour Translation and they will tap into their workforce of 15,000 translators in over 100 countries to do it for you, day or night.

Founded in 2008, the Israel-based company is a major player on the translation scene, processing over 100,000 translations a month and boasting half of the Fortune 500 companies as their clients. One Hour Translation isn’t the dregs of the translation business: they pay a minimum of 5.4 cents per word, require that their translators be “certified,” and make them pass a translation test. The company raised $10 million in Series A funding in January 2014. It does not disclose its sales and revenue figures.

But in the age of the Internet, it’s not just documents that need translating. In June 2013, the company launched its WeST tool, which consists of several lines of code inserted into any web site. Any time the web site is updated, the new text automatically gets sent to human translators for localization and the web site is automatically updated in several languages. This saves web site developers the headache of manually retranslating their site and also guarantees ongoing revenue for One Hour Translation.

Now the company has come up with another ingenious idea: Lingui – a translation platform for web apps. Studies show that smartphone users overwhelmingly prefer apps in their own language.

“Having spent a lot of time and effort developing their application, one of the biggest challenges facing developers is how to make their applications accessible and engaging for users around the world,” says Ofer Shoshan, CEO of One Hour Translation. “Lingui by OHT-Mobile allows developers to cut-out the time consuming and expensive process of localizing applications for multiple audiences.”

Lingui by OHT-Mobile simplifies the development process by inserting a few lines of code into the application that detects text in the UI and allows you to translate in a number of ways: automatic translation, professional human translation or crowd sourced translation. Once the translation process is complete, the update goes live instantly and everywhere allowing all app users to choose from all active languages.

Sic transit gloria mundi

When I stated out in the journalism profession, I worked as a translator for Israel’s preeminent serious newspaper. The pay was good, and my colleagues were sophisticated. They dressed with panache, carried copies of Borges in the original Spanish, and could speak about  politics, poetry and psychology with great eloquence.

I don’t know where my former colleagues are today, but if they stayed in the translation profession, some of them might plausibly be working for an outfit like One Hour Translation. Similar to other sharing economy web sites like Fiverr, the site has helped to drive down the rates for high-quality translations from 15 cents per word to less than half that. Depending on how fast a person translates, they can earn $10 to $25 per hour. Those rates aren’t terrible, but they won’t land you in the middle class.

Meanwhile, the young men in T-shirts who spoke to Geektime, both top executives at One Hour Translation (and barely out of their 20s?), are probably working for more than that. In the lottery of skills, tech and math know-how now go a lot further than linguistic ability.

It’s not One Hour Translation’s fault.  They clearly just seized on an opportunity that was present in the market. But it makes you think about how power has shifted in society. Software is eating the world, and many of my brilliant and right-brained former colleagues are struggling to pay their rent. I used to think translation was an art, but now it’s become Uberized and TaskRabbited. On the bright side, you can get an app translation really cheap.

Photo courtesy: WikiMedia Commons


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