Taking “Stepes” to Mobilize Translation

Nov 30, 2016

“The translation industry is overdue for a major disruption to catch up to the 21st century,” according to Marisa Bowers, senior director, global account management at CSOFT. Like everything else related to the mobile web, speed is paramount when it comes to translation, and CSOFT is trying to address that concern with its Stepes product. And Bowers—along with James Davidson, senior business developer at CSOFT—talked to audiences at the Gilbane Digital Content Conference about how this product is aiming to push translation into the 21st century.

According to Bowers, old translation models are too slow, and the technology is too technical, inaccessible, and expensive. But Stepes is offering live human translation on-demand via your mobile device. Think Uber for translation. You open the app, enter your (relatively small) amount of text into a box for translation—choose the languages you’re translating from and to—click a button and wait. Within a few minutes or seconds, your translated content should be returned. The translators are rated, and you can see who they are via their profiles. Bowers says Stepes is especially well-suited to social media or other user-generated content.

If you need to translate a tweet, or a user review it may not make sense to invest in more comprehensive translation software. But Stepes is betting that paying a person $10 via PayPal isn’t too much to cover those smaller translation needs. Bowers also says that convenience of mobile allows bilingual people who aren’t professional translators—like doctors, lawyers, and engineers—lend their expertise to the process. Those kinds of translators may be able to address more niche topics or terminology.

The quality control is a bit more nebulous, and largely incumbent upon the user. Translators are rated, so you can see how other users feel about them. But beyond that you’ll probably need to conduct at least a cursory in-house review of the content to verify accuracy.

Stepes is hoping to shake up the way companies think about translation, and Davidson and Bowers say they are planning on trying to translate an entire Harry Potter novel using this crowd-sourced version of translation. They expect it will take about half an hour.