Translating for Medium

Why do I do it for free?

As you all Medium registered users probably did, a couple of weeks ago, I received an email related to their experimental translation program.

Since I’ve already participated in Hootsuite’s translator project, I thought I’d jump in to learn more and contacted yourfriends@medium.com (awesome email handle, by the way).

A week later, I received a friendly response from Luke Esterkyn (I’m guessing @lukester) who gave me all the highlights in a short but clear email. This is what I took from it (not literal):

Hey Martin, you’ve been granted with a “translate” button that will allow you to work on a draft for your selected language so we can later revise and, maybe, it will be published.

Fanboy spotted

I have to be honest with you: I’m a big fan of the Medium platform. Why? Quick list:

  • Design
  • Content (big reason)
  • Technology
  • Holacracy
  • Ev (He also gave me Twitter from which I fell in love with since day one)
  • and many more reasons, but I’d like to keep it short.

Not so fans

I searched for opinions, just to see what other people thought about this program. I found one detractor post (at least on Medium’s search) and I totally respect the author’s opinion (he seems to be a professional translator). After reading his post, I think I fall into the category of Medium fan as a reason (I honestly made that clear a few lines above).

Getting to the point

You are reading this because you want to know why I jumped on board or why do I work for a big company for free.

As I mentioned before, I love Medium and its content. I like to share stories on my social media channels, recommend them, share by email, send specific posts to someone in need for words, you name it. But, I encountered an issue: not all my followers or Facebook friends can read in English as I do. That’s a shame, because I find so much value in this posts and I can’t bear the feeling of not being able to share the author’s thoughts.

Sometimes I even feel that the author is putting my own thoughts into words. When that happens, I really really want to spread the word as I would do if I write something that I think will add value or inspire people.

Before the translation program, I wondered: What can I do with these posts that I enjoy so much and want to share so badly? Do I translate the posts and credit the author in my blog? (I actually thought about this one). Then, Medium comes up with this program and I feel that it truly fits what I wanted to do, but better: same platform, not having to replicate information and thus creating what we may call internet garbage.

Let’s be honest again: I don’t consider myself a professional translator. And I totally respect the fact that there are professional translators out there who make a living out of it. But Medium isn’t asking me for scheduled work or deadlines, nor for perfection. I can do it as a hobby, in my freetime, when I really like a story. This will naturally extend the story’s reach, way beyond the language barrier.

This has to be great for the authors. And Medium is not saying that they will publish my translation. They will revise it, and then, if my work meets their standards, I would have contributed with this amazing community. And that will make me feel good.

Bottom line, I would have translated posts and shared them anyway. I think these amazing authors deserve to reach more people as I do too. If I write a story, I would love to have it translated to every language possible, like we see each day with famous people’s quotes (lame example, I know, but bare with me).

In my humble opinion, this is not like paper books anymore. This is online publishing, crowdsourcing, community, helping each other, spreading the word, love, experiences and the most important: spreading knowledge.


Can Medium pay professional translators? Of course they can. But they are experimenting with a crowdsourcing feature, and they clearly state that my translation would be put under revision. It’s not that I can write whatever I want and it’s out there. This makes me be careful, thoughtful, capture the author’s tone and pass it to my fellow Spanish speaking peers. It’s not only about correcting the Google automatic translation (most of the times, you end up changing the whole thing) but also spreading knowledge.

So those are my reasons. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can reach me at Twitter or use the cool in-line comments feature that we all came to love.

Thank you for reading and have a good one.

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