Airbnb breaks down Translation Engine progress

Earlier this month, hospitality and homestay company Airbnb rolled out the expansion of its Translation Engine to support the platform’s reviews feature. It’s the latest expansion in the ambitious translation project, announced last year, that aids communication between guests and hosts across more than 60 languages. First applied to the platform’s messaging feature, Translation Engine will eventually be used for all user-generated content, according to Airbnb officials. We caught up with the Airbnb team to learn just how work has progressed and what comes next.

What lessons did you learn from implementing the translation feature into messages that applied to reviews? In what ways was this a similar challenge, and in what ways was it different? 

The main challenge we faced with implementing Translation Engine on messaging was to ensure best-in-class latency, in order to create a seamless user experience. Our second challenge was to maintain the highest level of translation quality. We were able to satisfactorily solve both challenges. The solutions and learnings from messaging were applied to reviews, making it an even better product experience.

Reviews are an important tool for users to research their options and set appropriate expectations. But are there any other less obvious benefits this expansion represents? 

Reviews are, together with photos and pricing, one of the most critical factors that determine the completion of a booking. In this sense Translation Engine is also a business driver, as it helps convert potential guests into booked guests. This benefits Airbnb’s Hosts worldwide by removing language barriers. And as international travel continues to pick up, Translation Engine is particularly helpful in helping guests read and learn from reviews.

Are there any ways that translation for reviews requires different considerations than the Messages app? 

The main challenge with applying Translation Engine to Reviews was the amount of content that needed to be translated. More than 550 million reviews have been written to date, and they are all now available for our users in their preferred language.

With this achievement accomplished, what features are next for the Translation Engine? 

We will continue to roll out Translation Engine across all Airbnb product surfaces that contain user generated content. In parallel we continue focusing on improving translation quality.

Anything you’d like to add?

We are excited to have launched an innovative solution that is helping connect millions of hosts and guests globally. Guests can find their perfect stay or experience by being able to read all descriptions and reviews in their preferred language; hosts can reach more guests and increase their bookings; last but not least, hosts and guests can seamlessly communicate with each other.

Cameron Rasmusson
Cameron Rasmusson is a writer and journalist. His first job out of the University of Montana School of Journalism took him to Sandpoint, Idaho as a staff writer for the Bonner County Daily Bee. Since 2010, he's honed his skills as a writer and reporter, joining the MultiLingual staff in 2021.


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