Post-Editing Machine Translation Matters

Machine translation (MT) has gained significant popularity throughout the past years. Service has also improved remarkably to provide more and more reliable results. There are many industries that benefit from MT. It’s an easy way to understand a foreign language requirement or to popularize their business abroad. Machine translation proved to have many benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can get decent translation from both paid and free machine translation tools but, for business purposes, you may need post-editing. 

How has machine translation evolved?

Wikipedia defines machine translation as “a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another.” The idea of MT originates back in the 17th century and has undergone significant changes ever since. Free MT tools are quite popular and many people use them. They can be quite useful to corporate clients too. Sometimes, the translated text can be full of grammar and style errors. In some cases making it difficult for the reader to understand the overall meaning of the text. Relying only on free MT can be dangerous because you may misunderstand the whole idea of the document. 

With technological developments, neural machine translation has evolved so that the software is better trained to work in a certain sphere or with a given language combination. These results are more reliable. This can be combined with the data of a Translation Management System (TMS) that a company uses in order to facilitate the overall translation process. The results with certain content and language combinations are remarkable, but still not the same as the accurate results of human translation. This can be seen in a Case Study on 30 Translation Directions carried out by the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan and the University of Edinburgh. There is still a lot of work to be done to MT before it takes over for humans completely.

Yet, the question of how reliable machine translation is remains. While MT can give you a good foundation to work with, post-editing MT translation is still necessary to make the text clear and coherent with the purpose of the original. 

Why post-editing machine translation is necessary?

You could say that post-editing machine translation is the same as proofreading. There are several similarities and one big difference between the two activities. The overall goal of proofreading and post-editing MT is to provide the highest quality of translation. Translators who are in charge of “editing” the initial translation need to find and correct all spelling, grammar, style, or vocabulary mistakes. They will need to have the original text and be fluent in both the source and the target language. Plus, they should be an expert on the topic. Knowing the company and having access to other translated content of theirs is also quite helpful to achieve consistency. It takes a lot of focus and attention to detail to proofread and post-edit a machine translation.

The biggest difference between proofreading a text translated by a person and post-editing a machine translation lies in how the text was translated. A human can understand style and the nuance and try to render them the same way in the target language. A machine translation may lead to a complete misunderstanding of the idea or context of the text and incorrect translation. It depends on the method used. Statistically MT leads to poorer results, while neural machine translation can yield better accuracy. The language combination is also an essential factor for MT. Some programs are better trained to work with certain languages and can provide a much better translation, when properly trained, compared to other language combinations. In any case, post-editing MT is essential if you want a meaningful, accurate, and coherent translation. 

Who can post-edit machine translation? 

Post-editing MT is a specific service and not every professional in the translation field can or is willing to provide it. It is important to raise this question while selecting your translation provider. Make sure to specify what kind of MT you use – statistical machine translation, neural machine translation, free online machine translation tools, or specialized software. That way, you will get a more accurate quote for post-editing MT from your translation provider. 

What does the future hold for post-editing machine translation?

Machine translation is quite useful and it is here to stay. While it keeps improving, MT is far from perfect. It still needs to be edited by a professional human translator. So, for the time being, for the sake of accuracy, consistency, and upholding your professional reputation, don’t skip the post-editing.

At Argo Translation we have extensive experience with machine translation and we offer proofreading and editing services in an exceptional variety of languages. Our technical knowledge is superb and we are able to fix the discrepancies of a machine translation to a high-quality final copy of the translated text. 

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