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Client's request to switch to Machine Translation - URGENT
Thread poster: Claire Fumoleau-Itani

Claire Fumoleau-Itani  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
English to French
+ ...
Feb 21, 2014

Hi there,

I'd like to have your opinion/advice on the following:
My best client (+/- 15,000 words/month) is looking to reduce costs. We've collaborated for over three years now, I translate real estate adverts for them.
These adverts are quite repetitive and I have been using SDL Trados to translate these ads for one year. After translating the adverts with SDL Trados, I then have to "polish up" the files manually - put word in right order, etc. The files are very short (+/- 60 words) and I have to repeat the pretranslation process every time I receive a new file (I don't get them in bunches but as and when they receive them from their clients).

I could have applied the usual 10-25% discount on the 100% strings a while ago but I have not because I have been building up the TM slowly and there is still the "polish-up" task to perform anyway. As things stand, I have 30% NEW text and 70% pretranslated text (not 100% match though) but the percentages are likely to narrow down to 20% & 80% as I keep translating.

He knows I have been using this TM software -and didn't ask any questions- but now wants me to come up with a Machine-Translation solution, whom text I would then edit manually.
I don't want to do this but I need to come up with a couple of FREE Machine-Translation software names anyway, which according to him will reduce drastically the translation cost... and my income.

SO, this is were you come in:
1)what solid FREE Machine-Translation software could I look at
2)would you say it would save him money -but then it's got to save me time!- in view of the percentages repetition above?
Bearing in mind that I can't have my income divided in 2... I am considering giving him a discount on the pretranslated text instead...

Oh, and of course, he came up with this this morning and wants a proposal by Monday morning...

Many thanks in advance!


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:09
Russian to English
+ ...
Don't. Feb 21, 2014

This is my only advice. Translators don't use MT. They may use CAT tools but MT is something that is inaccurat and that most professional translators have ben against--often total gibberish.


Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Agree: Don't Feb 21, 2014

I agree with Lilian. I'd explain to my client why this is not a good idea.

The kind of work you've been doing for this client sounds as if a substantial discount for repetitions (or even for fuzzy matches) might be justified. Check carefully.

If he insists on using MT, I'd politely tell him to go somewhere else. Or you could offer him an MT solution, but make sure it is visibly more expensive than working with a TM. Explain why this is the case, namely that MT is actually not going to help you, but means extra work.

[Bearbeitet am 2014-02-21 11:04 GMT]


Local time: 21:09
Italian to English
Solid free Machine-Translation software? Feb 21, 2014

I would have said that it was fairly obvious that this didn’t exist. Otherwise everyone would be using it, wouldn’t they?


Andrzej Mierzejewski  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
Polish to English
+ ...
an idea Feb 21, 2014

An idea for a support for your efforts: find a short text from your client's business area and in your target language. Have this text translated using MT to the client's language. Then, ask your client to make necessary corrections in order to have a really well-written text.
Hopefully he'll understand.


Jitka Komarkova (Mgr.)  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:09
Member (2013)
English to Czech
+ ...
Absolutely. Don't. Feb 21, 2014

I would never accept the proposal of editing Machine Translation. The first reason is me, a human being, earning money using my experience, skills, education... not wasting time checking doubtful outcomes of MT.
You can offer the client to set up a translation memory from now on and offer some discounts for true repetitions and 100% matches and fuzzy matches according to your liking. As the client did not request TM so far, it is justifiable that you will set up a new (empty) one for the client and will apply discounts only on new projects based on new strings.
I have also been subject to being forced into editing MT and I refused without any reservations. MT will never bring any benefits to yourself - you will be wasting your time for less money. The only subject to earn is the agency because you are a responsible person as I am I believe and you would not let rubbish go from you..
Good Luck!


Claire Fumoleau-Itani  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
English to French
+ ...
THANK YOU! Feb 21, 2014

Dear All,

Thank you for your prompt replies. What a relief to see that I was strongly resisting to the MT for good reasons!
Thank you for your input, you've given me plenty of arguments to put forward to him and I will have him do the small test you recommend Andrzejicon_smile.gif

And, yes, I will give him a discount based on the repetitions and matches.

Thanks again, have a nice week-end!

Kind regards,


Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:09
German to English
+ ...
how about... Feb 21, 2014

also starting to quietly look for better customers.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Hang on... Feb 21, 2014

This guy wants YOU to research ways of slashing your income?

If he told you to shoot yourself in the foot would you be looking into the best gun for the job?


Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
English to French
Consulting value Feb 21, 2014

You are the translation expert, they trust you and your advice is valued. If you say that using MT for advertising is like using a spanner to drive in a nail, they have no reason not to believe you. As Andrzej suggested, a MT sample with past translations (your past work and the MT engine output side by side) is indeed a nice way to strengthen your case.

However to show goodwill, you could offer highly discounted context matches (same segments above and below, so no need to amend them most of the time) and another discount for single 100% matches. As it looks fairly repetitive, this should already substantially decrease the bill. Depending on reusability of fuzzies, you could offer discounts on them too.

Or you could start from the other end: how much overall discount you're prepared to offer them given the time saved with the CAT tool, and work out a sensible discount grid from there.

As they didn't ask you bluntly to decrease your fees, maybe you should also find a way to wrap up your discount offer: they may feel weird about getting something suddenly cheaper than what they were used to paying. For instance, you could explain that substantial discounts are now possible because you can leverage a repository that has become substantially large, allowing extensive reuse of past translations. A precaution to make sure they don't feel they have been cheated all this time.

As regards free machine translation software that could help us translating advertising material, I'm afraid we'll have to wait another few centuries.



United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
It depends what kind of advertising you're doing Feb 21, 2014

If it's just long, factual lists of numbers of bedrooms and prices, I would have thought MT was eminently suitable. If it's finely crafted marketing copy, no way.


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I did it, and published it Feb 21, 2014

Andrzej Mierzejewski wrote:

An idea for a support for your efforts: find a short text from your client's business area and in your target language. Have this text translated using MT to the client's language. Then, ask your client to make necessary corrections in order to have a really well-written text.
Hopefully he'll understand.


I have included this page in my web site, and I provide the link every time a prospect (my clients would never think of it) considers using machine translation.

My message is clear: If MT is good enough for you, you don't need me at all. What's the point of hiring an experienced professional translator for copy&paste work?

If they want me to 'fix' it, my rates are the same for translation as for fixing 'bad' translation, regardless of the latter being human or automatic.

Be my guest to use anything you find there, including the smashed VW. It was actually a sharp picture of an accident with a red car, which I found on the web and 'doctored' a bit.


Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Do, but.... Feb 21, 2014

ask a price per hour, that is what I do. My word price is based on what I "could" earn per hour. It sounds to me as a lot of corrections, so TIME, and time = money.

If the client doesn't agree, I (of course) agree with all the "don't do's".


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:09
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If the files are very short... does your rate pay time-wise? Feb 21, 2014

If you get a lot of very short, fidly files, evne if they are repetitive, then you should allow for the time it takes to set them up in Trados (even with a project template) and whatever else you have to do - noting them, invoicing etc. etc.

Or can you open a series of them at a time as a continual view in Studio? (Merge files, but in fact they are kept separate.)

Because if you are fiddling about with 60-word files one or two at a time, you should charge at a minimum rate or for your time.

I have a long-standing client who sends a lot of small files individually, and he pays quite well, but we don't talk discounts until we come up around 500 words.
Often there are no repeats in the slightly 'larger' files, around 200-300 words or so, and we have never set an exact limit. Some of the files are repeats from the TM, but small, like mandatory safety sentences. I don't discount those. Larger files may be instructions for a series of similar products with repetitions, and then of course I do give him a discount.

Just a thought!
Don't start working for free if the word rate for very small files does not cover the time actually spent!


Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Yeah, I was wondering about that Feb 21, 2014

Philippe Etienne wrote:
As they didn't ask you bluntly to decrease your fees, maybe you should also find a way to wrap up your discount offer: they may feel weird about getting something suddenly cheaper than what they were used to paying.

As Philippe says, you'll have to find a diplomatic way to phrase the new CAT discounts so that it doesn't sound like you've been ripping them off.
Translator: My services cost $250.
Client: I'd rather use MT.
Translator: Oh, uh, no, uh, did I say $250? I meant $50, heh heh.
You'd sound like a fraud.

It might be nicer to phrase it closer to this: "I understand your desire to keep costs down but MT won't work because X, Y, Z. However I would be happy to help you reduce costs. Do you have any other solutions in mind?" Then you can take it from there all subtle-like.

I wouldn't offer a very big discount though, otherwise it sounds like you were cheating them all long.

[Edited at 2014-02-22 00:00 GMT]

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