Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

  • Coursera didn’t want to build their own tool to support multiple languages.
  • The Coursera team wanted a platform that would be flexible enough to support both present and future localization needs.
  • With the help of Transifex and their translation community, Coursera has increased their reach to 75% of the global internet population.

We sat down with Sebastien Kuo, Program Manager for Localization and Eli Bildner, Product Manager for Localization, to understand their experience with Transifex.

Global from the beginning

From its inception, Coursera has been a global platform. The vast majority of our users are from outside the United States – ¾ are non-US and ½ are from countries where English is not the primary language. The goal for Coursera is to be an equalizer, to make content and information accessible to the masses. In order to achieve that mission, it’s not enough for content to be only accessible to the minority of people across the world who speak English.

When we began supporting multiple languages, it didn’t make sense to build our own tools. That’s when we started working with Transifex.

Today we are translating video subtitles from 150+ university lectures as well as our student help center. Translations are done by individuals and partner organizations around the world. We’ve integrated Transifex with our development tools and processes. Transifex is part of a larger localization strategy and allows us to cover all our bases and expand our localization capabilities.

What was your process like before Transifex?

Before Transifex we tried a lot of different approaches to translation – we would approach partners, they would approach us, and they would work with their community to translate courses. This worked well, but we kept getting emails from students and professors with energy and interest in translations. Their interest in helping us outpaced our ability to engage with them. We realized by partnering with only organizations, we were shutting people out.

For video subtitles we also tried crowdsourcing through an organization that allowed anyone to contribute subtitles for a video. This worked well in some ways, but it wasn’t a complete solution and didn’t have any structure. So we knew we needed something that would provide enough structure for us to engage our excited community, and flexibility in meeting our future internationalization needs.

What is your process like using Transifex?

It starts with selecting courses that are eligible for translation. We currently offer over 600 courses and let individual course instructors check if they want their course to be translated. Then we work with them to ensure the course content will not change significantly, and that the course will run at least once again to avoid making any translation work void. Once the courses are marked for translation, the content is sent via the API to Transifex and becomes a project under the Coursera organization.

The translations are done by our Global Translator Community (GTC), which has individual communities formed around each language. The communities have varying degrees of structure based on needs and resources available to organize individual contributors to translate courses. Some communities are self-started while others are led by partners. For example, for Chinese we work with Guokr, a Chinese social network. For Portuguese, we work with The Lemann Foundation, a Brazilian nonprofit. These partners operate under a team infrastructure where they select leaders who are in charge of individual courses. The leaders recruit other translators and project manage the translation process until the course is completely translated. Then the leaders work with us to ensure quality and timely delivery.

Before launching the GTC we had 3 to 4 languages. Today, we have over 100 open projects in Transifex. Transifex increases the draw and accessibility, and allows people to start working right away. As soon as we see momentum or a need to create more infrastructure, Transifex gives us to tools to make this happen. We use the Team function to help coordinate and collaborate. The Dashboard and Reports helps the team leaders track what is done and what is still outstanding. And with the API, once our project are 100% translated and reviewed, the translations are automatically sent back to Coursera and immediately available. The one engineer who supports localization has automated everything, and only spends ~10% of his time on localization/internationalization.

How do you/your team use Transifex on a daily basis?

As administrators/facilitators, we go in Transifex to monitor progress and track the status of specific classes. We use Reports to update the “weekly leaderboard” on our site and let people know their progress versus other translators. Sometimes we get questions from individual translators within the platform, so Transifex serves as an additional channel of support.

And of course, our translators use Transifex every day to do their translation work. The user experience for translators is really impressive. In the translation editor, the contextual clues that you’re able to offer translators makes their work efficient and minimize the number of questions and retranslations. Our translations partners use the role structure in Transifex to project manage the translation work itself. By actively adding and removing team members with specific responsibilities — translators, reviewers — they organically set up their own structure to finish their work.

What impact has Transifex had on your business?

The whole point of why we launched the GTC is to allow our already passionate users to reinvest in the product they’ve already shown so much dedication toward. Enabling them to contribute their multilingual skills has increased the visibility of all Coursera content. We get feedback from individual translators saying, “I had no idea this course existed, I’m going to sign up because I translated it.” This is an immediately obvious impact for us. We’re growing engaged, lifelong users who are becoming evangelists through the translation work they’re doing.

Transifex also helped us increase the number of translations and open up our total number of supported languages. We have managed to increase our reach of the global internet population from 50% to 75%. That’s a big deal, and Transifex helped make it happen.

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