The Internet Era has completely changed the model of consumption, most obviously from traditional offline formats to online formats. This transformation means that from the acquisition of information to the evaluation of goods and services and final decision-making, every step of consumer behavior is full of data interaction, with one of the most representative steps in this process being consumer reviews. In addition to helping us understand the quality of products and services, consumer reviews also provide information about the seller and the user experience of other buyers. Just taking a few minutes to quickly browse through reviews and comments can help us avoid pitfalls and identify red flags, even if they can't help us find the ideal product right away.
What is UGC?
One cannot talk about user reviews without mentioning user-generated content (UGC), which refers to online content such as pictures, videos, blogs, comments, and Q&As generated by users around a certain topic. UGC can be a derivative of many different kinds of online activities, along with the foundation of many products. As such, though we may not be uploaders on Xiaohongshu or Bilibili, each of us can become a creator, user, or influencer of UGC at any time in our daily lives.
More than just a part of our daily lives, UGC is also a necessary element to the continued functioning of many Internet services. For instance, consumers make the decision of which hotel to book almost entirely based on the reviews left by other users, especially the more recent ones. Even if a hotel had a high average rating, we would probably choose another if we saw that recent reviews had mentioned that construction nearby was causing significant noise and dust pollution.
Translation is a Key Element of UGC
According to data from YouTube, two-thirds of the watch time a creator generates comes from outside of their region. As such, the creators, users, and influencers of UGC in many fields may not share the same language. Though we could simply just copy and paste the UGC content that we wish to translate into an online translation tool, this process is time-consuming and cannot adapt to all types of platforms and content.
UGC translation has become a key area of competition for many global platforms in recent years. From the review translations of Airbnb to the video subtitle translations of YouTube, we found that UGC translation is rapidly closing the gap between creators and audiences, becoming more valuable in the process of global dissemination.
The Challenges of UGC Translation
As it differs completely from conventional technical content and marketing copies, translation of UGC content faces a variety of challenges.
- Real-Time: One of the most significant features of UGC is that it is produced in a continuous stream, lacking the systematic or scheduled iteration of most technical content that is synchronized with products and services.
- Large-Scale: UGC is produced not by an internal R&D or documentation team, but by user groups with thousands of people. This means that once formed, UGC channels are characterized by high volume and rapid growth.
- Timeliness and Relevance are King: Consumers of UGC are mostly concerned with content that is recent, trending, or popular, with other content quickly falling to the wayside.
- Significant Variety in User Preferences: Though users in Nordic countries may be happy with not only consuming but even producing English-language content, most other regions prefer content in their own language, even if they may also speak English.
- High Variance in Quality Requirements: Though a quick skim of a machine-translated review will probably get the job done if we want simply want to book a hotel, the accuracy and level of detail required by travel plans and comparing notes with other tourists is difficult to realize through automated translation.
As such, UGC translation must consider many technical challenges rarely encountered in conventional language services to find a balance of cost, timeliness, and quality.
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The strategy for UGC translation differs significantly from the highly matured service model of the traditional language services industry. The real-time, large-scale, and recency-biased nature of UGC makes the use of fully manual translations difficult in terms of both timeliness and cost. This has led LSPs in the UGC sector to focus on technologies such as machine translation, with a large number of best practices created over time.
Though the content type of UGC and the traditional language services industry have clear differences and its best practices are difficult to directly replicate, the deployment and success of UGC translation show the importance of language technologies in the development of the language services industry. The content type represented by UGC can be processed and translated in a more flexible and efficient manner, thereby delivering a better user experience at lower costs and greater speeds.