Post-editing of machine translations

If you have used a translation machine to translate your texts, it is wise to consider the following question: Is the translation fine as it is or does it require post-editing by a human translator? This depends on the desired quality and the purpose of the text. If you decide that post-editing is required, you have two options: review (light post-editing) or full post-editing.

What is post-editing?

In order to translate a large amount of text quickly and inexpensively, you can opt for machine translation. Within machine translation there are two main options: Generic machine translation, which involves the use of an existing translation machine such as Google Translate or Microsoft Translator; or customised machine translation, in which a translation machine is built exclusively for your company.

No matter which option you choose, a translation machine will not produce a flawless translation. Error-free output should therefore not be a requirement for machine translation. If it does need to be error-free, you can choose to have the machine translation edited by a professional translator or proofreader. This is called post-editing. You basically have three options after machine translation: no post-editing, review or full post-editing.

No post-editing

Extensive post-editing might not be necessary, especially in the case of small, unambiguous texts such as product specifications. When choosing this option you must be sure it is no problem that the text contains errors after translation.

Review (light post-editing)

A review means that a professional translator or reviser corrects the translated texts. This is also called light post-editing, which comprises the following:

  • Proofreading the machine translation
  • Correcting spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Rewriting unclear sentences
  • Bringing the translation in line with the source text content-wise
  • Ensuring consistent use of terminology

The aim of reviewing a machine translation is to make it understandable to the reader rather than turning it into a perfect text.

Full post-editing

Full post-editing goes one step further than a review. It means that the translated texts will be rewritten based on their intended purpose. This will result in flawless texts that read well and perfectly fit the tone of voice of your company. The process includes the same elements as a review, but also several additional steps:

  • Researching correct terminology and incorporating it into the text
  • Ensuring a consistent writing style
  • Rewriting sentences to fit the intended style and quality
  • Ensuring that the translation fits its intended purpose
  • Localising the translation by adding idioms and examples that fit the target language and culture

The goal of full post-editing is to edit the machine translation in such a way that its quality is on the same level as a human translation. This does require you to define what your company considers a good text, so that the requirements for the texts are clear to the language professional. Prior to the process we can jointly draw up a style guide to determine your preferred style and quality.

What are the advantages of post-editing machine translations?

Opting for machine translation post-editing provides two major advantages compared to human translation: it is generally faster and cheaper.

If you need a translation quickly, machine translation is a good option to shorten the lead time. A translation machine is quite a bit faster than a human translator. By way of illustration, a human translator translates 1,500 to 2,000 words a day on average, while a translation machine translates this volume of words in just a few seconds. By having the machine translation post-edited by a professional, we ensure that the translation meets the desired quality but then with a much shorter lead time.

Of course, the work of professional translators is still essential when post-editing machine translations. Despite this, machine translation combined with post-editing is far less expensive than a full human translation, since post-editing costs the professional far less time.

This means that when you choose machine translation, with or without post-editing, you will always save time and costs.

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