Listen to Post
by Dimitra Kalantzi, Linguist at Commit Global
Maybe your business or translation agency is toying with the idea of experimenting with Machine Translation (MT) and post-editing. Or maybe, after careful thought and planning, you’ve developed your own in-house MT system or built a custom engine with the help of an MT provider and are now ready to assign your first post-editing tasks. However simple or daunting that endeavor might seem, here are some things you should bear in mind:
- Make sure the translators/post-editors you involve are already specialized in the particular field, familiar with your business or your end-client’s business and its texts, and willing to work on post-editing tasks. Involving people with no specialization in the specific field and no familiarity with your/your client’s texts, language style and terminology is bound to adversely affect your post-editing efforts. Ideally, the post-editors you rely on will be the same people you already work with, trust and appreciate for their good work.
- Forget any assumptions you might have about the suitability of texts for MT post-editing. For example, IT and consumer electronics are often among the verticals for which custom MT engines are built, and it’s usually taken for granted that software texts are suitable for post-editing purposes. However, this might not hold true for all your software texts or even for none at all, and should be judged on a case-by-case basis. For instance, some software texts contain many user interface (UI) strings that consist of a limited number of words (in some cases only 1 word) and are notoriously difficult to translate even for professional translators, especially when the target language is morphologically richer than the source language and there’s no context as is often the case, leading to a multitude of queries. It would seem that such texts are hardly suitable for post-editing or should, at the very least, be not prioritized for post-editing purposes.
- Define your MT and post-editing strategy. If your overall goal is to get the gist of your texts and you’re not concerned with style and grammar, then light post-editing might be right for you (but you’ll always need to clearly specify what constitutes an error to be post-edited and what falls outside the scope of post-editing, which might be tricky). If, on the other hand, you’re after high-quality translation and/or the output of your MT system is (still) poor, then full post-editing might be best for you. Also bear in mind that post-editing the MT output is not your only choice. In fact, instead of giving translators/post-editors the machine translated text, you can provide the source text as usual in the CAT tool of your choice and set the MT system to show a suggestion each time the translator opens a new segment for translation.
- Offer fair prices for post-editing. As a matter of fact, the issue of fair compensation and how post-editors should be remunerated for their work is still hotly debated. Some argue for a per-hour rate, others for a per-word rate. Some believe that post-editing always involves a reduced rate, for others it means a normal, or even increased translation rate. It all depends on the type of post-editing used (light vs full, normal post-editing vs translation suggestions), the quality of the MT output and its post-editability, the suitability of a particular text for post-editing, the language pair involved, etc. And, of course, translators/post-editors should be paid extra for providing further services, such as giving detailed feedback for a post-editing task.
- Last but not least, if you’re a translation agency, you should always have the approval of your end-client before using MT and post-editing to translate their texts. It also goes without saying that if you’ve signed an agreement with a client which forbids the use of any kind of MT or if the use of MT is expressly forbidden in the purchase order accompanying a job you receive from a client, you should comply with the terms and conditions you’ve accepted and should not make use of MT.
Post-editing MT output is by no means a straightforward endeavor and this post has barely touched the tip of the iceberg. Let go of our assumptions, find out as much as you can, involve everyone in the new workflow and ask for their honest feedback, be ready to experiment and change your plans accordingly, and let the adventure begin!