It’s no secret that machine translation tools have their limits. Even with the help of artificial intelligence, neural machine translation (NMT) often can’t hold a candle to the results produced by a real live professional translator. In the age of digitalization, however, the amount of text being produced is rapidly increasing – and so is the allure of systems that can translate such content automatically. What can global companies do to satisfy their translation needs without sacrificing comprehensibility?
The answer lies in post-editing. To find out how you can use this process to improve the quality of machine translations and when the combination of MT and post-editing is the right choice, simply read on.
Machine translation uses translation software or an (often free) online translation service to convert text from one language to another. Unfortunately, this fully automated process seldom delivers flawless results. Stilted sentences and improper terminology are quite common, and there’s no way to tailor a text to a particular target audience.
This doesn’t mean you should write off MT tools entirely, though. With a little human assistance, you can turn machine-generated texts into usable content. This is where post-editing by a qualified language expert comes in.
In post-editing, we distinguish between two levels of quality:
Post-editing can therefore be considered a combination of proofreading and translation.
Due to the regularity of updates that need to be made available in multiple languages as quickly as possible, software is one prominent area in which machine translation is now indispensable. It would be logistically impossible to have that much text translated by people on such tight deadlines.
The fully automated translation of software documentation – without any human revision whatsoever – is actually now part of the daily routine in the IT industry. In this context, quantity definitely trumps quality.
Meanwhile, machine translation is gaining importance in other sectors, as well. In combination with post-editing, it offers a balance of quality and affordability:
Is post-editing the right option for your texts? When making this decision, you should keep a number of factors in mind.
The tandem of neural MT and post-editing isn’t always enough to ensure that a text will have the desired effect on its target readership. Marketing and advertising content offers a perfect example: In the vast majority of such cases, revising an automated translation doesn’t save much time at all. Going this route can even be more involved – and thus more expensive – than going with a professional from the beginning!
As a general rule, if you want to get an emotional message across, win people over, or maintain your brand’s good image, machine translation systems simply aren’t up to the task.
Furthermore, the use of online tools raises questions related to data privacy law. These free services store the data users enter on the servers of the respective providers, after all, where it’s typically processed further. Of course, confidential information, personal data, and content under copyright should generally not be put online in the first place.
Have you decided to give machine translation and post-editing a shot? The following recommendations can help you increase the quality of automatically translated texts while reducing the overall costs involved.
1. Memento GIGO
The computer scientists out there will already be familiar with the axiom “garbage in, garbage out”, and the same applies to MT: The better your source texts are, the better your results will be when using automated translation.
This is another reason to make sure that your original content is as flawless and comprehensible as possible. More and more technical documentation is being written in plain language, for example, which offers advantages both to users and in the translation process itself. When you invest more time in your texts, it usually won’t take as long to translate and post-edit them.
2. Don’t lose sight of your text’s purpose and audience
With every translation, it’s important to be aware of the intended readers and how you want them to use the content in question.
3. Choose your post-editing specialists with care
Post-editing isn’t the same as normal proofreading. Since computers make different mistakes than people do, polishing up machine translations requires particular qualifications and training. The keen-eyed specialists in this area are often translators, but not every translator makes a good post-editor. The requirements a sound post-editing process should meet are defined in ISO Standard 18587:2017.
Our translators are experts in their respective fields, which range from finance and technology to marketing and PR. If you’re playing around with the idea of entrusting your translations to a computer, get in touch with us. We know how machine translation can be a key resource on the path to international success, and we’ll be happy to advise you on the different MTPE options out there. Together, we can fine-tune your texts to your target audience in line with your budget and timeline.