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Machine Translation Post-Editing

Correct errors in machine translation output

Are you keen on leveraging technology to reduce costs? Then you have definitely considered using machine translation. Since 1950s MT engines have made great progress, and in some cases they may produce a decent output. Still, being too literal, unable to properly interpret complex structures, and dependent on the previous material used for engine learning, in many areas and for many language pairs they are far from perfect.

The time when machines learn to translate as good as professional linguists is expedited by artificial neural networks but is not expected to come in foreseeable future. So when you need speed and cost efficiency without compromising quality, the solution is post-editing.

The Difference Between Post-Editing and Regular Editing/Proofreading

First, let’s sort out the terminology. Post-editing refers to correcting a machine translation, while editing means correcting the translation produced by a human linguist.

While on the surface these two processes may seem very similar, in fact there is a substantial difference between them. In addition to correcting mistakes, the editor of a machine translation has to be aware of the typical MT engine behaviors, have training in determining whether an MT segment needs editing, and produce the target text of the agreed upon quality.

Our Expertise in Post-Editing of Machine Translation

We provide post-editing services according to the highest industry standards. Furthermore, with us you are not limited to light or full post-editing. For each project we can offer a tailored solution that meets all your needs concerning time, quality and cost.

Our experienced editors receive special internal training and have all the skills it takes to make the post-editing ultimately efficient.

Using state-of-the-art technologies, rigorous workflows and industry best practices, we are committed to deliver on your highest expectations.

Types of Post-Editing Services

Post-editing comes in two types: light and full.

Light post-editing is a strategy of achieving ‘good enough’ quality, or, according to ISO 18587 2017, a ‘merely comprehensible text without any attempt to produce a product comparable to a product obtained by human translation’. It is used when you do not need perfect quality and it is okay if the translation seems unnatural, has stylistic flaws and imperfect grammar, and generally feels ‘robotic’. While the description sounds not too very exciting, this approach makes sense when you need to translate large volumes of content for internal use, just for information or for other purposes where fluency is not a priority.

This process is very time- and cost-effective, but it implies that the linguist is required to use as much of the MT engine output as reasonably possible. The resulting translation is accurate, but not fluent.

Full post-editing is used to obtain ‘a product comparable to a product obtained by human translation’. It takes much more corrections and thought on the part of the editor. There is no room for grammatical errors or stylistic deviations. The tone and register are consistent with those of the source text, and basic cultural adjustments are made.

The final quality is high in every aspect, but the process takes longer and costs more. The MT engine output may be used only to a limited extent.

When to Use Machine Translation and Post-Editing

This approach makes the most sense with technical documents and other scientific texts. Basically, to qualify the text should meet the following criteria:

  • the number of meanings words and phrases can have is limited
  • the sentence structure is simple and straightforward, there are no ambiguities (ideally, the text was written according to certain guidelines with future MT in mind)
  • there are no spelling mistakes or typos

Another factor in favor of MT with post-editing is having an extensive translation memories and term bases for the relevant topic or product. It may drastically improve the output of the MT engine.

Finally, always take into account the purpose of your text and your target audience. Obviously, things like marketing communications and other content that may need rephrasing to convey the meaning, or texts highly sensitive to tone and requiring deep adaptation are not good candidates for this approach. In this case, consider our marketing translation or transcreation services.

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