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Machine Translation opinions
Thread poster: Lidia Morejudo

Lidia Morejudo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
Mar 12, 2012

I am writing my dissertation on Machine Translation, and I would like to hear your opinion regarding.

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?
- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?
- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?
- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?
- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:20
Hebrew to English
To answer your questions.... Mar 12, 2012

Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?


No, I don't accept post-editing. Machine translation in my language pair is quite atrocious and can often obscure/confuse the meaning more than anything else, I'm a translator, not a telepath.

- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?


No, if anything it takes longer.

- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?


They can't handle Hebrew abbreviations and acronyms (and Hebrew relishes any opportunity to litter its texts with them), they often translate negative clauses as positive ones, transliterated words, even with the most basic of texts/simple sentences etc MT still manages to mangle them beyond belief. More often than not MT spews out utter gibberish - random letters, missing words. How am I supposed to "edit" that? (without going back to the original and re-translating).

- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?


God knows, they don't send them to me. I'd imagine the usual culprits though. *Cough* Google Translate *Cough*

- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


Help, probably. Replace, not in my lifetime (I hope), if ever.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:20
Member (2008)
French to English
Some more answers Mar 13, 2012

Here are my answers to your questions.

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?


No, I don't "Post-edit" (as they seem to call it) machine translated texts.

- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time?


No, it doesn't save time. Not only does it not save time but sometimes it gets the meaning completely wrong. This can be extremely dangerous in some contexts.

If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?


This is moot since it doesn't save time, but it's usually faster to translate from scratch without the machine translated version.

- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?


The trouble with machine translated text is that not only does it introduce erroneous meanings but it tends to inject meanings into your thinking which may not belong but are hard to get out of your head once put there. This is especially noticeable when there is a nuance of meaning that the MT doesn't recognize. It can have the effect both of favouring a wrong translation and making it difficult to clear your mind to see how the sentence really should be translated. This is especially bad when the client doesn't even give the translator the source text, which happens.

- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?


I can't answer this question, although I suspect Google Translate is used a lot, if you mean what machine translation software is used.

- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


I think it's inevitable that it will help translators but only indirectly in translation. It might find (is finding) use as a sort of sophisticated dictionary.

My belief is that it will actually INCREASE the amount of human translation needed and INCREASE the skill level needed by translators. The reason I think this is that the one big benefit from machine translation is that it has broken the language divide. Where cultures used to have absolutely no idea what was going on on the other side of a language divide, people now have a tool to find out. This will lead (is already leading) to more cross-culture business and other serious interchanges. Those interchanges require skilled human translation, for example for contracts, legal documents, etc., which cannot be, and never will be, entrusted to machine translation.

[Edited at 2012-03-13 12:10 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:20
Chinese to English
Down with this sort of thing! (Careful now) Mar 13, 2012

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?

No.


- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?

1) Please be careful with your terminology. Pre-translated does not mean what you think it means. It has a specific meaning relating to the use of TMs and CAT tools. If you don't know the terminology and how real translators work, your theoretical musings are going to be of little interest.

2) Post-editing machine-translated texts takes longer than translating from scratch for me. The calculation is simple: typing is a negligible part of my translation time (less than 5%). Reading and understanding the text takes the most time. When I have a machine-translated text and a source, I have two texts to read. (This is also true of proofreading/reviewing human translations, but when the first translator is a competent human you can *trust* their judgment in many places, and that's what saves you time. You can never trust the machine's judgment - it doesn't have any.)


- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?

1) The number of academics who don't know much about translation but seem determined to foist their opinions on those of us who do.

2) See terminology comment.

3) Not only does the reading and understanding take longer in post-editing, the actual typing itself takes longer. Typing a sentence is pretty quick, even for a rough touch typist like me. Clicking around a sentence, selecting a word, moving it, changing the ending - it takes me longer than just typing.


- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?

1) Terminology! I get sent pre-translated texts frequently. They are produced by an agency putting a text into Trados and applying 100% matches from an existing, trusted TM. This reduces the word count to be translated by me, and in theory improves efficiency. This is not the same as "machine translation".


- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?

But here I'd like to consider a broader conception of machine translation. A dictionary is a machine (whether it's electronic or on paper). Google is a machine. Trados (and other CAT tools) are machines.
Translators already use machines extensively for word translation. We use machine translations for fixed phrases, when texts are "pre-translated" (as the term is actually used in the industry, not as you are using it).
The machine translation you are talking about is the use of machines to suggest translations of sentences, passages and whole texts. This is a radical extension, and there are several major problems: 1) computers can't write. 2) computers can't do semantics. 3) computers lack sufficient data about human interactions to get context.
1) means that the suggestions computers make will not be well-formed. We have to do proofreading for sense and grammar. Takes time, reduces efficiency.
2) means that computers have no way of piecing together different possible meanings of sentences/passages and then ranking them in order of likelihood. They just spit out possibilities ordered by lexicostatistical processes.
3) means that computers find it very hard to get what a text is about. What mood it's in. What its perlocutionary objectives are.

1) Could potentially be solved fairly soon.
2) I can't see happening for a long long time.
3) could be solved for a significant subset of texts.

It'll take a long time before machine translation is a significantly useful addition to the human translation process. But it's already being used for lots of non-critical texts, and I'm sure that will continue, and that the quality will slowly improve.

[Edited at 2012-03-13 05:28 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
My two cents Mar 13, 2012

Lidia Morejudo wrote:
- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?

Nope.
Lidia Morejudo wrote:
- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?

Not at all. The few times I was so foolish to accept to edit pre-translated texts it took me approximately twice as long as I would have needed to translate the texts from scratch.

Edited to add this: as another colleague has described, editing machine translations you have to fight wrong meanings and untwist twisted sentences, so instead of shaping a new block of clay you are trying to work with clay that is half-hardened already. Exhausting and pretty useless, at least in technical translation.
Lidia Morejudo wrote:
- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?

In technical translation, knowing about what you are translating about is critical since terminology is very varied indeed in my target language but not so varied in my source languages. To me, until you can teach MT software how machines work, technical translation by MT software will be pretty useless. On top of that, MT software currently creates sentences that are too ambiguous and thus risky. MT software does not detect or care about this ambiguity a translator can easily detect.
Lidia Morejudo wrote:
- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?

N/A
Lidia Morejudo wrote:
- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?

I don't know about the future, but I have heard of a lot of translators who have cheerfully embraced this technology and thus are already producing mechanical, inaccurate, ambiguous texts. If our customers get accustomed to receiving that kind of stuff, I reckon MT software will continue to be used. In my case, I do not have any plans to use it since I have other aids (CAT tools, voice recognition, good glossaries) that keep me very productive.

[Edited at 2012-03-13 06:23 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:20
Spanish to English
+ ...
For what it's worth Mar 13, 2012

Lidia Morejudo wrote:

I am writing my dissertation on Machine Translation, and I would like to hear your opinion regarding.

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit? NOT IF I CAN HELP IT. NO.
- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? NOT REALLY.... FOR WHOM? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable? EDITING MT TEXTS (ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE BADLY DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE, BY SOMEONE INEXPERIENCED) OFTEN TAKES AS LONG AS TRANSLATING FROM SCRATCH, OR MORE. IT DEPENDS.
- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts? THE RESENTMENT I FEEL BECAUSE THE ORIGINAL CLIENT DIDN'T JUST SEND THE TEXT TO A REAL, PROPER TRANSLATOR IN THE FIRST PLACE, BUT WHAT I REFER TO AS "AN INFINITE NUMBER OF MONKEYS WITH A TYPEWRITER".
- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use? I DON'T KNOW BECAUSE I TRY TO REJECT ALL SUCH OFFERS, AS I BELIEVE NON-PROFESSIONAL MT SHOULD NOT BE ENCOURAGED. MT DOES NOT MEAN THAT "ANYONE" CAN BECOME A TRANSLATOR.
- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future? - YES. BUT A TOOL IS ONLY THAT, A TOOL, AND NO MATTER HOW MANY SPANNERS YOU GIVE ME I STILL CAN'T BUILD A MOTORBIKE MYSELF, EVEN WITH A MILLION TYPEWRITING MONKEYS TO HELP OUT.


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Nadezhda & Vatslav Yehurnovy  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 08:20
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
Just another 2 cents Mar 13, 2012


- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?

Turned down a couple of them. Actually there were texts for translation from English into Russian. But the English "original" was a machine translation. It was quite a queer experience - English words, almost in right order, but the meaning often quite out of context with the rest of the document.
- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?

While translating from English into Russian/Ukrainian - MT is still mostly worth only as a source of a good laugh. But if translating from Russian into Ukrainian and vice versa - MT saves around 60-80% of routine work. Still, these languages are very close to each other, both Cyrillic, similar grammar, etc. Moreover, there are almost no jobs in this pair...
- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?

1. Completely wrong meaning due homonyms scattered through the text. You read the result and just laugh first, and then see that MT really did its best, but only "thought" it was another homonym.
That's also why MT from English into Russian/Ukrainian is mostly useless - almost every word has 2 pages of meanings
2. Idiomatic expressions.
3. Blunt word-for word copying the structures from the source language, while they should be translated in not so direct way.
- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?

Well, it is already a tool to "save money for replacing the translator"

As for us - CAT tools, dictionaries and search engines are almost all we need.


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Steve Booth  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:20
Member (2007)
English to Arabic
+ ...
answers Mar 13, 2012



- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?


No I have had agencies send me texts to proofread in the past and when I have looked at them they were either translated or translated by someone with only a basic grasp of both languages. In this case I tell them the translation is so bad it needs retranslating from scratch and so far every time I have done this they have accepted without question.

- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?


I have never done it but I can't see it would save me time judging by the state of the ones I have been sent.

- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?


They don't make any sense, they are basically rubbish with all the word order jumbled up, the grammar wrong and sometimes completely the wrong translation for words.

- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?


No idea I would guess the easiest one out there is the well known search engine one.

- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


Yes it will help to prove that there is no substitute for a real person working on the translation


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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
ditto Mar 14, 2012

Lidia, you don't like even free online quizing, do you?

Ok, regarding the topic--
- I DO NOT work with those who could send me machine translated texts to edit.

- WITHOUT the source text any MT is but an abstract guesswork, not translation.

- I DO NOT know what the main problems one might encounter while working with those pre-translated collection of MT garbage.

- A few times some clients did try to save several cents 'for editing' while the text obviously was MT: GT, PROMPT, PRAGMA and so on.

- Sure, when MT is not abused it is quite useful tool, why?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:20
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Distinguish between free and non-free MT Mar 15, 2012

Lidia Morejudo wrote:
I am writing my dissertation on Machine Translation, and I would like to hear your opinion regarding...


There is a world of difference between free online MT and paid MT in which the client has full control over the vocabulary.

If a translator were to be paid the same rate for MT editing as for normal translation, would he be more likely simply re-translate the text? Would he be allowed to do that, or would the client expect him to make as few changes as possible?

I would not accept post-editing of free online MT unless the job pays my usual translation rate, and I have the freedom to depart from the machine translation's style as much as I like. However, if I do accept such a job, then the client would have to be aware that the translation is likely going to be rather literal (even if correct).

The problem with editing free MT is that you have to proofread your translation twice, because you are more likely to miss left-over words from incomplete editing.

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?


No, but some agencies who prohibit the use of online MT send me texts to proofread which have obviously been translated with MT assistance.

- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?


If I'm in control of the process (i.e. I'm not editing an MT but instead I'm using MT during my translation work), then it saves typing time. Using free online MT can be up to 40% faster than translating from scratch.

- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


Yes, in the same way that Trados discounts had a future when it was introduced...


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Alison Sparks  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:20
French to English
+ ...
It depends Mar 15, 2012

But I am really 100% in agreement with John Fossey.

I'm currently working on just such a project and it is easier to translate from the original than the scrambled English. In particular as the wrong words in the wrong sequence cloud your thinking.

However the company I'm doing this for have accepted that it's such a mess that they're paying the full rate for translation.

I don't know what TM they used but if they paid for it then they've been had!

However, I have also done some work which really was just proofreading and all I had to do was check for typos.

I honestly think the human brain far outstrips any machine translation and I do hope that this will continue to be the case.


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kchansen
Local time: 07:20
English to Danish
Answers Mar 15, 2012

Lidia Morejudo wrote:

I am writing my dissertation on Machine Translation, and I would like to hear your opinion regarding.

- Do you work with agencies that send you machine translated texts for you to edit?


At the moment no, though I have done a very limited amount of post-editing. I find post-editing boring, and clients will claim that since I can post-edit more words than I can translate from scratch, my price should be reduced accordingly.

In other words, I would be paid the same (at best! seeing that the clients may just claim a bigger advantage than there really is) for boring work. Any advantage would be used to compete more effectively, and thus be passed on to the end client.

- Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time? If it does is the difference between translating the full thing from scratch and using a machine pre-translated version noticeable?


This depends on the source text in question. If the source text is highly structured, uses a minimum of idioms, and sentences are kept as short as possible, then machine translation can be quite accurate (but it is still obvious that it is machine translation). On more complex texts MT can be more of a hindrance than a help.

- What are the main problems you have encountered while working with these pre-translated texts?


I like to say that post-editing corresponds to proofreading the work of a very poor translator who remembers to run the spellchecker. You will find no spelling mistakes but plenty of grammatical errors, inversions of meaning ("not" left out or added), too-literal translations, misunderstandings of the source text, and wrong translations of words with several meanings.

- When agencies/customers send you these type of machine pre-translated texts, what software do they use?


Not applicable at the moment.

- Do you think machine translation as a tool to help the human translator has a future?


It might have but not in the near future.


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George Trail  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:20
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
On post-editing Mar 15, 2012

Am I right in thinking that this "post-editing" I keep hearing so much about in translation job offers in ProZ and TranslatorsCafe is just something that follows people running a whole document through a machine translator wothout giving a toss about the content of the document until after it's all done? Good Lord!

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Lidia Morejudo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:20
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
post-editing Mar 20, 2012

George Trail wrote:

Am I right in thinking that this "post-editing" I keep hearing so much about in translation job offers in ProZ and TranslatorsCafe is just something that follows people running a whole document through a machine translator wothout giving a toss about the content of the document until after it's all done? Good Lord!


Yes. Well, the ones I've seen are run through a tool like Trados or Wordfast. But some of the comments above are right, generally the end product is so meaningless that you really have to type the whole thing from scratch.


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:20
Member (2008)
English to French
Confused now Mar 21, 2012

Hi Lidia,

Neither Trados nor Wordfast offer MT, they link (or rather linked) to Google Translate API. However due to abuse, GT will no longer allow that type of program to interface with it unless they purchase a licence so as of now, the point is moot since no self-respecting translator would spring for it. (Trados can also interface with other MT programs but again, a separate license is needed).

I used to see regular offers on Proz for post-MT editing work but they seem to have dried up lately, probably for the exact same reason - the type of agencies who would try to palm off MT as a translator time-saver in order to squeeze a few pennies aren't the type who would pay a licensing fee...

In-house MT systems do have their place, the classical case being weather forecasting, but this is due to rigid rules applied to the source text and not any miracle of innovation as to the MT software itself.

MT has a place in the world of translation but it's already taken it - it is not an aid to translators but rather a tool used in cases where, in the absence of MT, there would have been no translation at all. For example, I use GT almost daily for English & Chinese but being aware of its shortcomings, I always write my source as close to simple English as possible - subject, verb, object - to maximize GT's chances of producing something akin to what I was trying to write.

Personally, I think a much more interesting subject would be maximization of GT's ability based upon restrictions of the grammar and style of the source.

One last thing - I noticed that one of your questions was " Do you find that editing these pre-translated texts saves time?" - You've allowed an assumption to colour your hypothesis, also you haven't defined "saves time" - in context we assume you mean compared to a straight up translation but hypotheses should be able to stand on their own, without context from the paper itself. Perhaps "Have you noticed a time differential between translating a text from scratch and editing a similar text that has gone through a round of statistical machine translation."

To answer your original questions; no, I do not edit post-MT text, on the rare occasions I unwittingly received and identified a text as such I sent it right back to the agency in frustration as it was a time hog (in my opinion more so than creating an original opinion). I rarely use MT myself - an example of use would be when I have a list of 40-50 countries to translate in a list - even then it takes a certain amount of editing as GT will insert articles or not in front of country names, seemingly at random.

The main problem with MT is that it's bit like asking an artist to draw something specific, say, a man crossing the street and wearing a top hat and then give that artist a page with a stick figure walking across a dozen lines (crosswalk) with a rectangle and a brim perched on his round head and tell the artist - here - I've started it for you - sure anyone looking at the sketch would get the picture, but would they frame it and hang it on their wall? Or use it on their corporate website? Of course not. Now the artist has to make something seemingly realistic and easy on the eyes from this hot mess - rather than save time, it restricts the artist who must now think of workarounds to incorporate the crude stick figure into something he wouldn't be ashamed to put his name on. When I think of post-edited MT I always think of this: http://thereifixedit.failblog.org/

[Edited at 2012-03-21 02:30 GMT]


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