The drive to improve efficiency without sacrificing quality has led to new methodologies in the ever-evolving world of language and translation.

At the forefront of this innovation is Machine Translation (MT). Leveraging advanced algorithms and vast linguistic databases, MT can rapidly translate large amounts of text across multiple language pairs. However, while it excels in speed, it sometimes fails to grasp the intricate subtleties and cultural nuances inherent in languages. This is where the Machine Translation Post Editing (MTPE) hybrid process comes into play. This method, which marries the computational prowess of these automated tools with the nuanced expertise of human linguists, offers a glimpse into the future of translation. 

What is Machine Translation, and Why Is It Not Enough? 

Machine Translation (MT) automatically translates text from one language to another using computer algorithms. This technology has evolved significantly, with advancements like neural machine translation providing better, more human-like translations. Popular examples of MT include Google Translate and DeepL, which are widely used by individuals and businesses alike for quick and general translations across various language pairs.

One notable feature of MT is its consistency; without deeper consideration of the context of specific content, it produces identical outcomes each time. Such characteristics make MT ideal for recurring phrases on websites or materials that don’t necessitate distinct stylistic flair. Additionally, it proves useful for ancillary translation tasks, such as first-draft translations, to understand the potential impact of text expansion on the user’s translation experience (UX). 

However, MT has its limitations. First, it can often produce translations that, while technically accurate, sound unnatural or awkward in the target language. Second, it might need to be more precise to understand cultural nuances and idiomatic expressions, which can lead to misunderstandings or even offend target audiences. 

Machine Translation: The Initial Step in the Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) Process 

Machine Translation Post-Editing, or MTPE for short, is an integrated translation approach that combines machines’ computational power with the nuanced understanding of human translators. 

The process is initiated with machine translation (MT) engines, like Google Translate, known for its vast language coverage and accessibility, or DeepL, which has garnered attention for its impressive accuracy for many essential language combinations. 

The first phase involves having the source text undergo a preliminary translation by these MT tools. While the engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they might still produce grammatically correct translations that need more cultural or contextual appropriateness. 

Following this automated translation, human translators step into the process. Their role is to meticulously review, edit, and polish the machine-generated content, rectifying errors, inconsistencies, or awkward phrasings. This ensures the final output adheres to grammatical and syntactical rules, feels authentic, and resonates with the target audience. 

The ultimate goal of MTPE is to capture the efficiency and speed of machine translation and supplement it with the precision, context, and cultural sensitivity that only human expertise can bring to the table. 

Types of MTPE 

There are generally two types of MTPE based on the requirements: full post-editing (FPE) and light post-editing (LPE). LPE quickly scans the document for apparent errors, such as typos or misused terms, offering a quicker completion time. FPE goes deeper, which ensures a meticulous review for tone, brand alignment, and uniformity. 

The decision to go for FPE or LPE hinges on the quality of the machine translation in the given language combination and the specific purpose for which the translation is intended. 

Benefits of MTPE 
  • Efficiency and Speed: Machine translation can quickly process large volumes of text, allowing businesses to handle more significant projects within tight deadlines. 
  • Cost-Efficiency: While MTPE may not always replace human translation, it can lead to cost savings, especially for larger projects. 
  • Consistency: MT engines integrated with a Translation Management System (TMS) can maintain consistent terminology throughout a project, ensuring uniformity, especially in technical or specialized translations. 
When to Use MTPE

Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) offers many benefits, but it’s crucial to recognize the types of projects for which it’s best suited. Here’s a detailed guide on when to consider leveraging MTPE: 

  • Repetitive Content: Certain projects are characterized by recurring phrases, terminology, or standard industry jargon. In such instances, MT engines integrated with a Translation Memory managed by a Translation Management System can be highly beneficial, ensuring consistency and reducing the manual translation of these repetitive elements. 
  • Large Volume Projects: There are times when the sheer volume of content needing translation is overwhelming, especially within tight deadlines. For such high-volume tasks, MTPE can emerge as a game-changer, streamlining the process and ensuring timely delivery without compromising too much on quality. 
  • Draft or Internal Documents: Only some documents demand pristine translation quality. For preliminary drafts or internal communications where the primary objective is to convey the basic essence rather than produce a polished final product, MTPE proves invaluable. Its efficiency and speed can help teams understand the core message without getting bogged down by linguistic intricacies. 

Moreover, MTPE’s scalability and adaptability make it a favorite among businesses looking to balance quality, speed, and cost. While it doesn’t replace the nuanced touch of a human translator for more specialized content, it fills a significant gap in the translation workflow for many projects. 

The Human Touch in MTPE 

Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE) is a blend of technological prowess and human finesse. There are several reasons underscoring the significance of the human touch in this process: 

  • Cultural Nuances: Machines, despite their advanced algorithms, can often miss subtle cultural references, idioms, or humor that are second nature to human linguists. 
  • Contextual Understanding: While machines are adept at translating words verbatim, humans bring the ability to understand the overarching context and make necessary adjustments to the translation. 
  • Quality Assurance: To ensure a translation is not only correct but also polished, fluent, and free from errors, human intervention remains unmatched. 
  • Authentic Resonance: A skilled linguist crafts translations that feel as if they were initially written in the target language, embodying the local audience’s preferences and nuances. 
  • Cultural Insights: Professional translators, especially native speakers, infuse translations with cultural insights and expertise, which machines might overlook. 
  • Specialized Expertise: Human translators offer specialized knowledge in areas like global SEO, making them invaluable assets in the localization process. 

While MTPE can refine translation accuracy, the intricate, nuanced, or sensitive nature of content often demands the expertise of professional translators. They ensure translations are accurate and genuinely resonate in the intended language. 

Best Practices for post-editors of machine-translated output 

  • Understand the original intent: Before diving into post-editing, grasp the original message’s intent. This understanding will guide the post-editing process, ensuring the translated content retains the source’s primary message and tone. 
  • Prioritize clarity over literalness: While machine translations might be technically accurate, they may only sometimes sound natural in the target language. Ensure the translated content is clear and fluent, even if it means moving away from a strictly literal translation. 
  • Maintain consistency: Use consistent terminology throughout the content, especially for recurring phrases or industry-specific jargon. This will help ensure the translated content sounds professional and coherent. 

Challenges and The Future of MTPE 

While promising, MTPE has challenges. For example, there’s a risk that translators might lean too heavily on the initial machine output, leading to lower-quality final translations. Also, not all MT engines are created equal, and their quality can vary based on the language pair and content type. 

In TextUnited, Machine Translation Post Editing represents the harmonious convergence of technology and human expertise. We offer an all-in-one solution tailored to all your translation requirements. Whether you need human translation, machine translation, post-editing, or a combination, we’ve got you covered. Our fusion of machine speed and human finesse offers a perfect balance that caters to the modern-day demand for quick yet quality translations.