E.g., 12/13/2018
E.g., 12/13/2018

Slator 2018: Blockchain and Translation Report

By: Diane Wagner


04 December 2018

Are you translating content about cryptocurrency? Building blockchain-enabled workflows? Paying translators with digital currency? If, not should you be?

Blockchain and Translation Report (US $85), recently published by Zurich-based Slator, offers an insightful look at the emerging universe of blockchain. The report examines the role of blockchain-enabled translation marketplaces, summarizes the work of early adopters in the language industry who are running these platforms today, and considers the cost benefit of investing now in blockchain continuing to use existing capabilities.

“There are scenarios where blockchain can be useful,” says Florian Faes, Slator’s founder and managing director. “It depends on what your use case is.”

First, for the uninitiated, blockchain is a set of technologies that use encryption to store, track, distribute and verify units of digital (or crypto) currencies (such as Bitcoin). Records are kept in a decentralized online ledger—that’s the blockchain. No one person or entity owns the blockchain: blockchains are maintained on a peer-to-peer basis by communities of users.

For the language industry, blockchain has three areas to consider. Blockchain-related translation services are already on offer from many companies—it’s just another terminology specialization alongside fields such as legal, medical or financial services. Language service providers can also opt to take payment via blockchain. Blockchain-enabled workflows, however, are new and may offer long-term potential for distributed global workforces. These workflows includes:

Peer-to-peer payments that eliminate intermediaries such as central banks or local currency exchanges, which may be useful for translators in developing markets where banking systems may be problematic to access.

Blockchain-enabled workflows can automatically trigger instant payments to individual translators upon competition completion of work items, useful as long as the recipients are able to transact using the digital currency used to pay for their services.

Blockchain ledgers record every touch to a piece of data—from transactions to governance—creating a permanent record that supports transparency and accountability.

Blockchain’s private key verification manages access to restricted information, which can reduce the leaks of privileged or restricted data.

Enticing as the technology may be, blockchain adoption faces some significant hurdles, Slator’s report notes.

First, today’s early adopters—companies such as Swiss-based Exfluency and the UK’s Kolin—are creating blockchain-enabled marketplaces funded by ICOs—initial coin offerings. ICOs raise funds by selling proprietary crypto tokens (or coins). ICOs are largely unregulated, however, and based on the premise that these coins will have value (and increase in value) over time.

Second, most near-term use cases are already covered by existing technology. Companies such as SmartCat already manage payments to freelancers and standard industry work processing programs such as Google Docs and Microsoft Word offer audit trails.

So should LSPs be considering near-term investment in blockchain?

“It’s early days,” says Faes. “Blockchain hasn’t gone mainstream yet by any measure.”

Diane Wagner writes about the business of language from Seattle.