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How reliable are Machine translations in general nowadays?
Thread poster: Elke Fehling

Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:08
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Jul 18

Hello everybody,

The last time I really worked with MT was probably 5 years ago. I do, of course, know Google translate, and I sometimes use the MT SDL Trados Studio 2017 has to offer. What I see doesn't convince me, but I haven't really looked into machine translations thorougly.

I now encountered a potenial client who offers to send me machine translations for matches below 85 %. They want to pay for these matches by the hour, i.e. a certain percentage of the hourly rate based on what the think a translator could proofread by the hour.

This is the first time I see this, but I haven't worked with new clients for quite a while. Is that common practice? What do you think about it? To me it doesn't look very attractive. I usually type new translations much faster than I can correcting existing faulty translations, besides that bad translations also influence the quality of my translations.

What do you think? What is your experience?

Thanks for your input!

Elke


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:08
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
No, editing MT is not "proofreading" Jul 18

Elke Fehling wrote:
I now encountered a potenial client who offers to send me machine translations for matches below 85 %. They want to pay for these matches by the hour, i.e. a certain percentage of the hourly rate based on what the think a translator could proofread by the hour.


I also had one client who did something similar, and expected discounts for the machine translated segments because "it would take less time to translate them".

Clients seem to think that editing machine translations is like fixing a faulty human translation, but it isn't like that. Editing a machine translation does take me less time than typing a new translation from scratch, but it takes longer than editing a translation that was created by a human translator. And if you do mimimal edits to a machine translation, the result will be of a different quality than if you had translated from scratch.

Besides, the client isn't adding any value by providing a machine translation, since machine translation services are free or ultra cheap. No, the client should just pay full rate for sub-85% matches.


Elke Fehling
Robert Rietvelt
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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 02:08
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Zero Jul 18

Machine translations can be very good, very accurate and totally unreliable at the same time.

In my opinion, the greatest barrier that MT faces is this: even if it translates 99 sentences correctly in a row, you can have zero confidence that the next sentence is going to be correct. Even the most powerful MT engine lacks the ability to make final judgment; it's incapable of knowing for sure if its translations are right or wrong and can only try to be as likely correct as possible.

Which doesn't really have anything to do with your question, but I think Samuel has covered all the important bases. I do have clients that MT files before sending them, but they are paid at translation rates. The benefit that they do provide is that if they are built using existing translations, they will populate segments with the same wording and phrasing as existing translations, thereby improving consistency. So the most concrete benefit of using MT is that they can make translations better - but not necessarily faster, and certainly not on its own.


Elke Fehling
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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:08
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Never accept a rate per hour if you're not allowed to invoice how much time you've spent Jul 18

Dear Elke,

I welcome being payed per hour, but I would never accept hourly lump sums calculated by a client. Invoicing per word for PEMT, editing and proofreading is already very hard and often not very lucrative.

Your client could state that it’s possible to PEMT their texts at a speed of either 500, 1000 or 3000 words per hour. You could accept a PEMT rate of 40 euro to process 3000 words per hour and could later find out that it’s already hard to PEMT 1500 words per hour. In that case you would be earning half of what you expected for doing a horrible job.

Hourly rates are meant to protect us from miscalculations. If we can’t invoice the hours we’ve actually spent on a job, hourly rates are even less useful than rates per word etc.

Clients derive their hourly rates from rates per word most of the time, so redo their math – does their PEMT rate amount to 0.5 euro per word or to 0.05 euro per word?

And, yes, standard MT has improved tremendously in the last two years.

Cheers,
Gerard


Elke Fehling
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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:08
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Standard MT has become more readable... whether it has improved its a completely different thing Jul 18

Gerard de Noord wrote:

And, yes, standard MT has improved tremendously in the last two years.

Cheers,
Gerard



If by "improved" you mean it has become more readable and that it flows better, I would have to agree. But I'm not at all sure that the quality of the translation has improved at all regarding adherence to the source text's meaning.

And the fact that it now reads better actually makes it more dangerous, because it makes it more plausible even when it is dead wrong. Since it reads "better" it is easier for us to miss the errors it contains.


Elke Fehling
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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:08
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Calculations Jul 18

Gerard de Noord wrote:
Clients derive their hourly rates from rates per word most of the time, so redo their math – does their PEMT rate amount to 0.5 euro per word or to 0.05 euro per word?


Yes, I just did the calculation. They would pay me 20 % less per word.

They offered to machine translate a text for me tomorrow - and I will send them one of the test translations I did I while ago. Let's see how it works out.

Thanks for your input. It acutally has been a while since I negotiated prices with new clients, I was really doubting my experience...


 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 20:08
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Extremely Jul 18

You can trust MT blindly. Example:

a47ojfkct2jt8ovbhbma.jpg


 

Anthony Teixeira
Japan
Local time: 03:08
Member (2011)
English to French
+ ...
None Jul 18

And please, stop with those post-editing discounts. If it did any good, I would pre-translate texts through MT myself for every project at my usual rate. Why do you think I don't?

Elke Fehling
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Elke Fehling  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:08
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good point Jul 18

Anthony Teixeira wrote:

And please, stop with those post-editing discounts. If it did any good, I would pre-translate texts through MT myself for every project at my usual rate. Why do you think I don't?


Good pointicon_smile.gif


Michele Fauble
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:08
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
It may not be up to you Jul 19

Anthony Teixeira wrote:
And please, stop with those post-editing discounts. If it did any good, I would pre-translate texts through MT myself for every project at my usual rate. Why do you think I don't?

In my case, because my clients won't allow me to use MT. I had an email from one client reminding me of that fact just a couple of days ago. I don't use MT, but the reason I don't experiment with it is that clients seem to have serious concerns about confidentiality, and thus don't want anything to do with it.

Regards,
Dan


 

Enrico C - ECLC  Identity Verified
Taiwan
Local time: 02:08
Member (2011)
English to Italian
+ ...
I refuse MT editing Jul 19

Mostly because experience teaches me they pay low and often it is about rewriting whole sentences from scratch.

The last one showed me a sample a few weeks ago and it was obvious the whole job had to be retranslated, yet they wanted to pass it as a simple editing. The next step would have been coming back to me claiming the job was unsatisfactory and looking for yet more reductions.

Reality is, maybe for some repetitive tasks MT is fine. But when specific styles, terms and constructs need to be done, it is not a good way to translate.


José Henrique Lamensdorf
 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Useful in the right hands Jul 19

MT is as reliable as the person leveraging it. No more. It is not a panacea and can't turn any old non-native amateur into a translator, even if they are university educated.

Jorge Payan
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:08
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
KudoZ! Jul 19

... and for all other cases, where you (as in many times) don´t get the sense of the source (here: the assembled MT content), you may as usual use KudoZ and reward only the usual bunch of buddy-answerers (or none of them, although you implement their answers, as can be seen by a simple internet search). Of course I don´t mean you in person, just a general thought (coughing)...

[Bearbeitet am 2018-07-19 15:13 GMT]


 

Hans Lenting  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Member (2006)
German to Dutch
Not for isolated words Jul 19

Daniel Frisano wrote:

You can trust MT blindly. Example:

a47ojfkct2jt8ovbhbma.jpg


And here are the results for the Netherlands:

wxjymyp1z7bpnhjo0h7i.png

(Bogus too)

It's obvious, that English is being used by DeepL (and other MT systems) as the interlingo for all language pairs.

It's also obvious that you cannot simply enter a range of (related) isolated words. However, when translating common (marketing, commercial, technical, legal etc.) phrases, DeepL (and the other MT systems) can actually give you inspiration (and save some typing).

It's in your hands and responsibility to carefully scrutinise these suggestions. They can send you in the right direction, or in the wrong. You're the pro, these MT systems are 'just another tool'.

Better see the 'MT' as Mining Terminology than as Machine Translation. Don't use MT systems to translate segments, don't use it to translate complete texts. Pick what's useful for you.

Edit: After posting the above, I found this wise posting from LinkedIn in my Notes app:

hs4ujjo0bc57g1vpufgd.png

[Edited at 2018-07-19 09:31 GMT]


 

Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:08
Member (2004)
English to Italian
amazed... Jul 19

as professional translators, we should know by now what MT can and cannot do. When to trust it, how to use it, when not to use it. Some stuff I read about it really amazes me. Putting single words in the engine? Of course the result is going to be comical. What's the point of it? I don't offer post-editing, but MT is useful as terminology mining tool, as Hans was saying. You are free to ignore it, not to use it, and ridicule it, but at least do it in an intelligent way.

Elke Fehling
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