More tech anger at translation attempts

In a situation that almost mirrors the story I wrote last week about Steam and it’s crowd sourced translations, the French authors of a Debian manual have asked the community for money to professionally translate the book, only to have their request shouted down. More than one commentator suggested something along the lines of frostypiss:

I’m not really understanding why it’s going to take 15,000 euro.

It’s a translation, not a new work. Why not piecemeal it out to like-minded French / English speakers, and then self publish or simply post a torrent of the file (free as in…FREE)?

You know, “community effort”?

By the way, 15,000 euro is (today) about 20,000 $.

I understand this critique – it’s one I use all the time – not just that the community could do it, but they can and will do it! Luckily, commentator cp.tar makes the opposite case well:

Do you have any idea how hard it can be for one translator to remain consistent throughout the translation?
Do you have the slightest clue how difficult it would be to actually organize a group translation of such a book?
It is a rather large book, it is highly technical and therefore sensitive to the slightest nuance, and since professional translators are very seldom also highly technically competent, the translation will require frequent consultation with the authors.
All in all, donating money towards the translation is actually more efficient than donating an equivalent amount of your time. Because you are likely not a professional translator. Because you likely do not have the required mastery in both French and English. Because even if the work were divided up and group-translated, it would still have to be reviewed and corrected for grammar, style, and consistency. And trust me, it is often easier to simply trash the whole thing and redo it right, from scratch.

Now, community translation projects can and do function. But they are ongoing projects, often with mistranslated and untranslated parts that keep for ages because nobody had touched or noticed them, and they are often fairly bad.
If you’ve got a big language, such as English or German or Spanish or Chinese (i.e., a language with a large number of well-educated speakers), it’s not all that bad. But in the case of small languages, such as my native Croatian, what you get is crap. And I mean a metric fuckton of crap.
I don’t intend to berate anyone’s work, really. But the problem is that we are a small population (a bit over 4 million), with a lousy percentage of highly educated people, of which few can afford to work for free because our economy is dead, buried, and digging deeper. I’m actually doing some corpus analyses for my thesis (that I’ve been writing, on and off, for over two years) that will help such projects immensely, but I have to get round to it. And when I finally do, I still have to beg my translator friends for a bit of their time, which is at a premium.

I think the important points to note are the large, technical nature of the book (450 pages) and it’s timeliness – computer texts have notoriously short half lives. This is not an interface, nor a subtitling job – lots of small segments that can be easily divided up and wont change much after production of the translation/localisation. Still, I was interested to see the reaction to two gents being honest about wanting to be able to do it, and to be paid to do it. I remember when I spent more time in the activist world, and that the person doing sound at the benefit gig would always be paid. The bands are getting exposure. The fans are paying the cash. The cause is getting some kudos, community and a bump in its funding. The person making sure it sounds great is at their job – they aren’t a charity, and it’s hard, specialised, work that not everyone can do.