Is Post-editing MT the new scam?
Thread poster: Alina Barrow

Alina Barrow
France
Local time: 09:53
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Jun 21, 2010

Hi everyone,
There is a new twist on the machine translation 'proofreading' gambit.

A Proz registered translation agency is contacting Proz members and asking if they can do an RU>EN post-editing test of less than 250 words as they have a lot of work. I agreed to do a 'test' (which is the 8th request this week from agencies already). The agency then sent a 'test' for a 1,000 words!

The document had been fed through online machine translation software ( I checked, it was 100% word for word).

It was a 10 day old confidential document (3rd June 2010) that looked very much to me like a document that required translation. So it looks as though the agency is now trying to get cheap or free translations.

I have refused the job, as the machine translation was poor and would take longer to do than translate the document from scratch. Plus, I do not want to translate a contract for a proofreading rate.

Has anyone else had the same request?

If so, we can compare notes to check i.e. same document, different pages.

What does everyone think about this type of work - 'post-editing' machine translations?



Best regards,

Alina

[Edited at 2010-06-21 18:11 GMT]


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Gabriel Guzovsky  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:53
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
These agencies are worms Jun 21, 2010

Hi Alina,

I never got any proposal like that before.
I would simply deny doing the job, stating it´s a machine translation and that the overal quality of the document is unacceptable for a review job.

Our attitude as translators towards MT should be - reviewing MT is translating from a very bad fuzzy, not reviewing.

We should charge translation fees for what they will be tempted to call review.
Quality translators won´t accept this kind of work for peanuts.

Best,
Gabriel


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:53
Romanian to English
+ ...
They even post it on the job boards! Jun 22, 2010

I've seen such a job posting in one of my language pairs - not sure about the place, though, but it did involve "post-editing" of MT of travel or marketing materials.
Personally, I think translators should simply refuse handling machine translations. How would a lawyer react if I looked up some legal references on my own and contacted him for handling my case at a discounted rate (as requiring only 'review')? Simply offensive.


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:53
English to Czech
+ ...
One of the new "trends" Jun 22, 2010

It is quite clear that both companies and translation agencies are searching for new ways of buying cheaper (in the wrong sense of the word) translation services.

In short, the most recent developments are:
1. Crowdsourcing (translations made by the crowd for the crowd; e.g. different social-networking sites)
2. Pooling linguistic data: in other words, sharing TMs (see e.g. TAUS)
3. Machine Translation

Numbers 2 and 3 obviously requiring post-editing by translation professionals. The best defence against them is not to reply to such "job" offers at all. I don't think translators are as desperate about jobs as to downgrade their level of expertise to become poorly-paid editors.



[Upraveno: 2010-06-22 10:00 GMT]


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Cecilia Di Vita  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:53
English to Italian
+ ...
why is editing a downgrading from translating? Jun 22, 2010

I don't think translators are as desperate about jobs as to downgrade their level of expertise to become poorly-paid editors.



[Upraveno: 2010-06-22 10:00 GMT]


Sorry, but I don't agree on that at all. I've never done post-editing for machine translated material (but it's quite easy to see how we'll have to deal with this very soon and more often than we expect to, whether we like it or not), but I work as an editor and I can guarantee you it's a completely different set of skills from translation skills. I don't see why editing should be regarded as a downgrading from translating at all. It is an altogether different task. I consider myself a translator AND an editor, but actually I have acquired so many more skills by being an editor, which will undoubtedly enhance my translating capabilities, if I ever go back to translating. Translators (and as I said I do consider myself a translator) need to realise that sometimes (not always, but in some cases) their work is not the ultimate version that goes straight to the client. Sometimes their work goes through the hands of 2/3/4 different people, before being delivered to the client. So in what ways is editing supposed to be inferior to translating?

Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but rather than reacting in such a snotty and snappy way, why don't we think instead of the opportunities we have to develop, learn new skills, and offer diversified services to our customers, as well as enriching ourselves as individuals and as professionals?


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:53
French to German
+ ...
With all due respect... Jun 22, 2010

ceciliadv wrote:
Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but rather than reacting in such a snotty and snappy way, why don't we think instead of the opportunities we have to develop, learn new skills, and offer diversified services to our customers, as well as enriching ourselves as individuals and as professionals?


With all due respect, why should be working more/harder at a lower rate represent a business opportunity?

I have begun taking on more editing/PR etc. jobs, but only because the quality delivered by the translators can be deemed as acceptable to good.

This to the contrary, my first editing job some years ago was the purest nightmare. As per today, I still am unable to decide whether the translation in question was of human origin (then *** forbid!) or not. I was under the impression that the agency in question MT'ed the source text and presented it as an actual translation.

Hint: it was a patent translation and the editing part was paid 0.06 €/word. Not a coincidence, IMHO.

So I dare to think that some agencies have thrown their inhibitions over board in the 3 last years, now shamelessly and explicitly offering MT post-editing.

We had it coming.

[Edited at 2010-06-22 17:07 GMT]


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Irene Schlotter, Dipl.-Übers.
Spain
Local time: 09:53
English to German
+ ...
Yes and no Jun 22, 2010

I have been asked quite a few times over the past years whether I'd be available for proofreading (not post-editing) translations. After accepting once without having had a very, very close look at the quality I tend to decline because apparently many companies call 'proofreading' what should actually be named 'post-editing'. And the term 'post-editing' is frequently just a nicer way of saying that in the end you have to re-write and re-word the entire document from start to finish.

I know from my own experience that the market has changed quite a lot lately and continues to change at an increased pace. That applies even more to IT related material. I have gained some experience with MT and have to say that it's not always as horrid as it seems but then again professional MT is based on a wealth of good translation memories and only renders acceptable to good quality in very specific and limited areas with similar/and or repetitive wording and sentence structures.

Google translator and the like cannot be called MT. The so-called 'translation' functionality is simply a joke and was originally only intended to serve as an auxiliary tool when viewing contents in languages that the reader did not dominate. Unfortunately everyone seems to be using those tools and no-one complains when the results are actually used in real life.

I think that we translators must not give up easily. Of course companies and/or individual people will try to minimize their expenses while maximizing their earnings, taking advantage of free tools. Social networking sites are not even the best example - if you have a closer look at this very website hosting this forum then you'll realize: translation is being done for free (and is sometimes less than perfect) AND the site has quite a few serious issues with localizability which should have been addressed a long, long time ago, especially since it addresses the language and localization industry. And still: you and me and many others are using this not-quite-perfect platform as professionals.

I see it as a part of our job to view the potential client and his material critically. If I get offered an MT text without being told BEFOREHAND I feel free to cancel my commitment. I tend to point that out in my communication. If the client wants to pay extremely low prices for the translation of material I simply don't accept. You can't expect to get a Ferrari at the price of a FIAT. I think post-editing is quite a demanding job but most of the time I am simply not enjoying it. If we accept post-editing jobs of bad material at dumping rates we are contributing to the downfall of our own profession - and that of full-time post-editors. Personally I am not willing to spend 8 hours doing something I most likely don't enjoy at all only to be paid half or less of what I could have earned translating.

As to the following comment:
I don't think translators are as desperate about jobs as to downgrade their level of expertise to become poorly-paid editors.
I don't think that an editor's type of work has much to do with reviewing and post-editing translated material. I'd rather say that the requirements for an editor's work are simply very different - and no less demanding! Editing is (at least in my point of view) not the same as post-editing. It's like horse-riding - even though you're sitting on a horse in both cases you can't compare the Spanish style to the English one.

I think we have to get used to MT as part of a new, modified and not necessarily better reality. For me, it does not come as a surprise; this development was rather to be expected sooner or later. However, no-one forces us to accept post-editing machine-translated material. So just say no (and pray that many others do, too).
And here's just a little something to think about: Are we complaining about the linguistic and/or technical shortcomings of this present website (translated for free - but not for free as such unless you accept limited permissions)? In the end we are already part of and directly or indirectly contributing to a 'service-for-(almost)-free' trend.


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Alina Barrow
France
Local time: 09:53
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It is a scam when the agency hides the truth Jun 22, 2010

Thank you all for your interesting replies.

To give you a bit more information, the 'translation' was fed through the Prompt online translator. The document is a legal contract between two major blue-chip companies.

Anyone who has tried this translator in EN>RU and RU>En knows that a 'gist' can be obtained but not a translation.

Post-editing a document that has just been fed through the Prompt online MT by a seemingly reputable translation agency is nothing short of trying to get a good translation done for less than half price. the agency had dressed it up by copying and pasting the source text next to the Mt text, with a column for 'any amendments as necessary.'

Here is the actual instruction from the agency:
The test you are about to start is designed to evaluate your post-edition skills. As you probably already know, a post-edition project implies Machine Translation. The attached document has therefore been processed using a MT engine. Your job, as post-editor, is to review this machine-translated text and amend it where necessary. For information, the average productivity on this type of project is around 5,000 words per day.
Please post-edit the machine-translated text in the attached word file. You will also see the original English text for reference in the file. You need to add your post-edited text in the “post-edited text” column.

· Please deliver the post-edited file in the same format as the source text.

We understand that 1,000 words might seem rather a lot for a test but, on a post-edition evaluation, we need at least 1,000 words to make a proper assessment of the work of a post-editor.

So, the agency is not only trying to get a cheap translation, but thinks that by feeding a document through Prompt is going to somehow make my job easier and I can then up my translation rate from 3000 words per day to 5000 !

My colleague said that he would do the test just as soon as he had exchanged his brain for a cauliflower:-)

Thank you all for your input.

Kind regards,
Alina


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Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:53
Italian to English
+ ...
machine translation proofreading Jun 22, 2010

I have had a couple of requests recently to proofread files which have already been "translated" but it's obvious after reading a few lines that the translation was done by a machine translator online.

As translators of the more successful translation pairs in MT, I think we need to start thinking about how to deal with these requests as they are clearly not proofreading, but I believe that over the next few years, the translation quality may be acceptable enough to work from without having to completely retranslate the document. I don't think hourly proofreading rates should apply to these document, but rather a slightly discounted translation rate should be applied.

This is just something I have been thinking about recently so I thought I'd share it with you.

[Edited at 2010-06-22 19:05 GMT]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:53
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Machine translated document has no more value to the editor than an untranslated document Jun 23, 2010

I can use Wordfast to machine translate the document myself. Therefore, the value of their translation = zero and I would charge my full rate for translation.

Besides, I avoid all these issues by never providing proofreading or editing services.



[Edited at 2010-06-23 03:34 GMT]


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Niraja Nanjundan  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:23
German to English
Two points worth noting Jun 23, 2010

ceciliadv wrote:
I work as an editor and I can guarantee you it's a completely different set of skills from translation skills


Why don't we think instead of the opportunities we have to develop, learn new skills, and offer diversified services to our customers, as well as enriching ourselves as individuals and as professionals?


Post-editing of machine translations will not just be offered to and done by translators, but also by people who work as qualified editors and specialists in other fields - that's what it looks like to me, at the moment.


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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 09:53
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
Check the quality first - then decide Jun 23, 2010

I don't really care too much whether the translation was machine translated or translated by a living person, I would treat them the same:

Check the overall quality of the text

1- if it's okay, (I have not yet seen a machine translation that was up to scratch in my specific fields, but I am sure that it will come in time), I will go ahead and do the proofing/editing whatever I agreed to do

2- if the quality sucks for some reason (it may or may not be machine), I decline the job flat out telling the client that the whole thing needs redoing from scratch

On a couple of occasions lately I have then been asked to redo the whole thing, then, which of course is nice. Especially because it saved me a lot of aggrevations going over a nonsensical text trying to make heads and tails of it all.


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Colin Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:53
Italian to English
+ ...
Happened to me too, with a regular client Jun 23, 2010

I had a regular, private client for years. One day they sent me a translation for review. I'd been translating their stuff for so long that I never even looked at the job before accepting it. When I got around to actually doing the job, it turned out to be clearly MT. So I fired off an email, basically telling the client (politely) not to insult my intelligence like that again. He got the message.

Looking back, I think I can piece together what "really" happened. Somebody, somewhere, was talking about business down the pub, and heard a "tip" from a friend on how to save money on translations. "What you do is run the text through Babelfish and then get a correction done instead of a translation! It's much cheaper!"

Over a pint of beer, to someone who has no clue about how the translation industry works, this probably sounds like a great idea. It's a bit like a university student plagiarising for an essay, forgetting that the tutor has such greater knowledge of the subject area that he or she will immediately recognise text that has been lifted from somewhere else (probably because the tutor has read that very text at some time in the past). I used to teach English, and whenever a student turned in an excellent piece of writing the first thing I always did was search for it on Wikipedia. Usually I found it there

I have never been worried by the "threat" posed by MT. The kinds of texts that MT gets used for - translating an email for gist, or browsing a forum or whatever - are the kinds of texts that no-one was ever going to pay to get translated anyway. How can that be a threat to the translation industry?

In the case described by Alina Barrow (thread author), it might have been fun to play with the agency a bit. She could have "accepted" the test and then stalled until they started furiously calling her every five minutes (because the client wanted their translation). Then she could have made up something like, "Oh, I couldn't read the MT and the only way I could even make sense of it was to translate the original from scratch. And that took me ages, of course. And since I'm obviously not good enough to understand your MT, I didn't even return the test. I emailed you saying I couldn't do it. Didn't you get my email? No? Must have got lost in your spam folder, then. Sorry. ...What? You want my from-scratch translation? But that's not what you asked for! You want it anyway? Well, I'll have to charge my rate... payment in advance, of course, since you want it RIGHT AWAY..."

[Modifié le 2010-06-23 07:50 GMT]


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Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 09:53
English to Czech
+ ...
Further explanation Jun 23, 2010


Sorry if this is slightly off-topic, but rather than reacting in such a snotty and snappy way, why don't we think instead of the opportunities we have to develop, learn new skills, and offer diversified services to our customers, as well as enriching ourselves as individuals and as professionals?


Hi Cecilia,
I apologize if I've hurt your feelings. However, if you are a translator and an editor, you should be really good at reading. If you are, you have probably noticed that my post was about post-editing machine translations, not about editing human ones.

While machine translation can work to a certain degree for some languages, for my language pairs it is absolutely unusable since Czech is a highly flective and prescriptive language.

Thus, post-editing MT in Czech is all about re-wording the entire pretranslation and ALWAYS requires much more work than human translation from scratch. All that for lower pay. If you call this "developing opportunities" and "learning new skills", sorry but I'm not interested. Regardless whether you call this remark snappy, snotty, arrogant or whatever.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:53
Member (2004)
English to Italian
we may call it a scam... Jun 23, 2010

but, as Stanislav put it, it's just a new way of buying translations cheaply, leveraging the big pool of inexperienced and/or desperate wannabe translators that seem to flood the market these days...

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