Hi5 Launching Crowd-sourced Translation Service for Hi5 and Apps

While hi5 already has tremendous reach in South America, Europe, and Asia, apparently 23 languages are not enough. Starting today, hi5 is announcing the launch of its crowd-sourced translation service that will allow users to translate hi5 into any local language. In addition, hi5 will soon be making this service available to developers who want to translate their applications as well.

Since its launch earlier this year, Facebook Translations has spurred on significant international growth for the primarily English-speaking social network. While hi5 has been translating its site for a long time, the company hopes to push further down the long tail of languages around the world.

I sat down with Mukund Bhagavan, hi5’s Director of Strategy & Operations, and Greg Holmes, hi5’s Localization Manager, to discuss the details of the Hi5 translation program.

Mukund and Greg, With hi5 already professionally translated in so many languages, what is your vision for crowd-sourcing more translations of hi5?

Mukund: Our goal is to make hi5 accessible in all languages. Today, hi5 is available in 23 languages, but there is a long tail of languages we haven’t yet started to reach in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.  We also want to expand our offering in Spanish speaking countries – today, we just have Castilian and Argentinian. We really want users to see hi5 as part of their local community.

Greg: For us, it’s all about speed and quality of translations.   As far as quality goes, authenticity and natural voice is important.  For example, addressing all of the regional Spanishes is very important to us.  There’s a lot of pent up demand – we want to remove language as a barrier to hi5 usage.

So will you use a purely crowd-sourced model?

Greg: We’ve been incorporating feedback from our translation partner, Lionbridge, with whom we’ve been working for a long time.  We’ll keep working with them – they handle key parts of the translation, and create the glossary for volunteers.

As far as the volunteer experience goes, we’re using an in-context translation model.  Users can vote on others’ translations, and once translations get enough votes, it goes to the editor for approval.

The hi5 user base is very international, but most developers can’t afford to translate their apps into many languages. How will it work for developers who want to translate their apps on Hi5?

Greg: For developers, there’s a similar in-context interaction model.  The highest quality translations come in context.  We want to make it as seamless as possible.  We’re working with the OpenSocial standards group to develop these particular standards further.  Developers just have to meet the OpenSocial [i18n] spec for internationalizing their apps, and they will then be able to leverage the Hi5 translation community.

Thanks guys. Any last thoughts?

Mukund: The rollout is starting today, and will be live in the next several days.  Our goal is to add 30 more languages this year.  And tools will be available to the developer community soon.

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