01.31.2012 by Peter Argondizzo

An example of a crowdsourced translation error

A recent post on the Digital Spy blog discusses how the popular game Minecraft ended up containing a racial slur for users who switched the language preference to Afrikaans (spoken in South Africa).

According to the article the game has very little text but what little text that is contained in the user interface is translated by the user community. This is a huge risk of crowd sourcing. I have written about the risks of crowdsourcing translation in a previous post.

I understand why some nonprofit organizations would pursue a crowdsourcing strategy but companies that earn revenue off of the asset being translated are simply foolish for pursuing the strategy. It diminishes the importance of the users in other countries and compromises the quality of their product. Would you allow the user base to write your marketing content? How about the legal aspects like the warranty, EULA or privacy policy? Would you allow your users to write the interface for the application?

If it is important enough to show your users then it is important enough to have translated by professional linguists. I just can’t believe the risks that companies take with their content.

I also thought it was very interesting that the company is enjoying incredible success with Minecraft. The article says that over four million copies of the game have been sold and 14 million users are registered. I would imagine they could have budgeted a few dollars for translation and saved themselves the aggravation and embarrassment caused by this incident.