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Agencies wanting discounts for post editing machine translation
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 21, 2012

What is it lately with all these companies wanting discounts for machine translation?

Just had this recent exchange:

From: Company specializing in machine-translated "translation" with website extolling the virtues thereof

Hello. We are looking for someone who would be able to post-edit a machine translation. The volume of words is huge - over 200,000 words, so we are looking for more than one linguist. The purpose of the target files is for internal use only, so it doesn't need to be elegant, but the text should at least be understandable and correct. Can you please let us know what would be your best rate per word or your hourly rate for this?

Dear Company:
Thank you for contacting me... My rate would be .14 per word....

From Company:
Thanks for your response. This is for post-editing. Can you please provide your rate for this kind of job?

Dear Company:
That is my best rate for this kind of job. Machine translation, although helpful at times, is not of enough assistance to me to warrant any significant type of discount. I have spent decades learning the language, so the dictionary work that MT does for me can at times be helpful, but does not significantly reduce the mental effort I must employ to translate a document. In some cases, I would even charge more. I understand that the client is not expecting perfection, but after translating for almost 20 years, it is not possible for me to simply translate incorrectly or in a careless manner on purpose in order to save the client money. They want the translation correct. Does that mean the only errors they will accept will be grammatical ones? How much less should I charge for sloppy grammar? Furthermore, should I wish to use machine translation, I can do so on any job and your providing me with the machine translated projects adds no value to me to justify any kind of discount.

From Company:
You are being just a tad narcissistic there, don't you think? We have several translators who work with post-edited files and we have created our own MT system. Our clients have been more than satisfied with the work we provide.

Dear Company:
...You do not "have" several translators. What you have found is several people who unfortunately have no idea about the value of the service they provide. As mentioned previously, I have been translating for close to 20 years. I am also very familiar with both machine translated output as well as the type of people who would agree to grant you discounts for working on this material. It is my opinion that if they find editing this output easier and thus worthy of a discount, they never knew how to translate to start with because they are obviously missing a number of crucial details that take time in order to get right. If that makes me narcissistic, then so be it.

A lot of agencies are currently sending out revised translator agreements with the express stipulation that MT cannot be used under any circumstance because the hazards are just too great (even though you seem to have an internal system that prevents the HUGE problem of customers' confidential documents being sent straight to Google).

Clients are smarter than you think and you will not be in business for very long using your current business model and you may even find yourself involved in a very costly lawsuit when one of your "inelegant" translators fails to catch a crucial mistake made by the machine. Good luck to you.

[Edited at 2012-12-21 20:14 GMT]


 

Steve Kerry  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:46
German to English
Thanks for being a crusader Dec 21, 2012

Your posts do make me smile Jeff! You often say very much what I think, but - the difference between me and you is that I don't bang my head against the brick walls, I look for the gap in the fence!

I wouldn't touch a machine translation with a bargepole. Nor will I waste my time "editing" the work of inferior translators, when the only sensible option is re-translation. If you want it right, send it to someone who will do it properly in the first place!

Best wishes,

Steve K.


 

XX789 (X)  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:46
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jeff... Dec 21, 2012

You are my hero.

 

liora  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 20:46
English to Hebrew
+ ...
Charge by the hour and not by the word Dec 21, 2012

Imo correcting - sorry - editing machine translation is often like rewiriting and I don`t do that. I am semi retired. But to do that work I would charge by the hour, particularly as it seems to me one is supposed to correct the machine translation on a specialized doc that would enter your corrections (perhaps) into some kind of database, and it is not current flowing translation.
Best regards
Liora


 

juliette_K  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:46
French to Italian
+ ...
Great Dec 21, 2012

Thanks for this wonderful thread, Jeff.
You really made my day : ))

[Modifié le 2012-12-21 14:30 GMT]


 

The Misha
Local time: 13:46
Russian to English
+ ...
You are fighting windmills here Dec 21, 2012

Like you said it yourself, they'll get what is coming to them. You know that, and I know that, and most likely they know it too. Take it easy on yourself, there's definitely better things to spend your time on around the holidays.

 

R Farhat  Identity Verified
Lebanon
Local time: 20:46
Member (2004)
English to Arabic
+ ...
Perfect! Dec 21, 2012

Well put, Jeff!

If they only knew what the theory behind MT is, they wouldn't come anywhere near.
The science of it is impressive but the application, well, what are the odds of having an exact match in context, terminology, idiom and grammar for each paragraph in, say, a 100k document! MT has been in progress for almost 80 years now and still not retrieving one single phrase correct, at least not in my pair.

Thank you, Jeff!

[Edited at 2012-12-21 15:49 GMT]


 

Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:46
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Extra work involved Dec 21, 2012

It can take much more time to unscramble MT-translated text and compare soure and target to decide what is salvagable and what not than doing the translation from scratch.

On top of that, if somebody says it doesn't have to be perfect, just understandable, my main problem becomes: How do I know what exactly might be understandable for a person that doesn't have the source text for comparison, that is not familiar with certain syntactical or semantical quirks of the source language? How do I decide which error is important enough to fix and which I can ignore? How can I be sure that what I can understand of an MT-translated text is exactly the same what somebody else might understand? People differ to some extent in the reading comprehension skills for texts composed in their mother language. How can a post-editor be sure that their target audience will indeed be able to understand enough once their done?

The only way to avoid these kind of problems is to do a translation as perfect as possible. No more, no less.
If the target audience is really just interested in the gist of a text, why not ask a qualified translator to provide a short summary of the main items?

I think the biggest problem with MT is the idea of saving money. People become so obsessed with "saving money" that they don't even care if they end up losing money in the end. Companies offering MT and promise that a little post-editing will work wonders are basically scamming their customers.

Only a company that specializes on particular predictable subjects, has prepared extensive MT dictionaries for these subjects and is fully aware of MT's shortcomings can employ post-editing as a useful step of the translation process. And these preparations are expensive in time and money and are a considerable investment in the future.
Anybody else better be happy with what they get without post-editing.


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:46
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
Post-analysis Dec 21, 2012

I wouldn't touch your potential job with a barge pole. Alarm bells start ringing right from the start:


it doesn't need to be elegant, but the text should at least be understandable and correct


However, post-editing is something that is being discussed and used more and more, and I think as translators we should acknowledge this and not bury our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away, because it won't.

In-house, customised machine translation systems definitely have a place in the market and these systems need real translators to train them. (I'm not talking about Google Translate here.) So, the question is, how should we charge for this work? I've been testing MemSource recently - not for a post-editing job, but for a real human translation - and I was very interested to read about its post-analysis system. This analysis checks how many segments and what percentage of each segment have been edited.

I discussed this briefly in a blog article that compared Studio 2011 and MemSource, and shortly afterwards Jason Hall wrote a guest post called Thoughts on Machine Translation and Post-Editing Analysis. David Canek, the developer of MemSource, pointed out in his comment,

"One of the goals for developing the post-editing analysis has been to provide some objective measure of the post-editing effort instead of an agency saying to a freelancer: It’s been machine pre-translated, we will cut your translation rate by 30%….


... which takes me back to Jeff's potential project, where the company is really asking translators to take a 30% cut in their normal rate to patch up machine translation and deliver poor quality. If that proposition were to arrive in my inbox, my answer would be simple. No.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Scary stuff Dec 21, 2012

Thanks for the links. How utterly ridiculous. Basically, they are proposing discounts based on the degree of difference between the machine-translated segment and the human-translated segment. Putting aside the fact the skill that it takes to recognize that no or few changes need be made to the machine-translated segment, even in those cases where the best translation in the context is the one translated by the program, translators will change it anyway in order to get paid for that particular segment. So much for quality.

I can think of some very easy ways that the cost of translation can be reduced by as much as 40% without any loss of quality (and in fact increasing quality) and without reducing translator morale. Of course, nobody ever asks the translators.


Emma Goldsmith wrote:

I discussed this briefly in a blog article that compared Studio 2011 and MemSource, and shortly afterwards Jason Hall wrote a guest post called Thoughts on Machine Translation and Post-Editing Analysis. David Canek, the developer of MemSource, pointed out in his comment,



[Edited at 2012-12-21 20:13 GMT]


 

Gyula Erdész
Hungary
Local time: 19:46
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
We should acquaint ourself with Post Editing Dec 21, 2012

I am with Iora and Emma.

Some colleagues think that Post Editing equals slavery. But our word is getting faster and faster, companies produce more and more content and run business in more and more countries. There are situations where MT+post-editing combo is the only viable alternative, based on the deadline, the budget and the amount. There are piles of documents that simply do not deserve the highest quality of translation. You can deny it, but machine translation is the future.

Just look back in the history of our business (or practically in the technical history, in general) and give me one valid example where people managed to boycott the technical evolution. Typewriter? PC? CAT tools? These tools used to be the arch enemies of our predecessors/us and became our closest friends.

It think Iora found the one and only solution:

I accept proofreading jobs exclusively on hourly basis and would do the same with PE jobs. In this case, this is not slavery, you simply sell your professional time for your customer.

Best regards,
Gyula Erdész


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:46
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Post-editing Dec 21, 2012

Perhaps, but I do not find post-editing MT faster or easier unless you cut corners. I understand that people want things done faster, but in some cases they would be better off not translating things at all. They do not understand that MT often gets things completely wrong (not just grammar, but the meaning as well) and only the trained and knowledgeable eye will catch these critical errors.

Nothing MT + post editing can produce (when you are required to work at a faster speed and at cheaper rate) can be used for any truly meaningful purpose because you simply cannot rely upon its accuracy. People say that they do not care about quality when they can get something cheaper and faster, but when it comes to translation, they think of reduced quality in terms of style, grammar and polish and not that the source text says "Do not press button B" and the MT says "By all means, do press button B" and the post editor being paid a pittance just skips over that sentence because it sounds good in English. Or the source text that says "An attack on the country may be imminent." and the MT says "heart attack symptoms should not be taken lightly". The general public is not aware of how wrong MT can be, how much skill it requires to tell the difference and how much underpaid "translators" won't take the time to care.

You don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that people are going to get seriously hurt and Google is in for a multimillion if not billion dollar lawsuit and to continue my original metaphor, post-editing translation companies will probably also go down with the ship.

advantages%20of%20post-editing%20machine%20translation.jpg

Gyula Erdész wrote:

Some colleagues think that Post Editing equals slavery. But our word is getting faster and faster, companies produce more and more content and run business in more and more countries. There are situations where MT+post-editing combo is the only viable alternative, based on the deadline, the budget and the amount. There are piles of documents that simply do not deserve the highest quality of translation. You can deny it, but machine translation is the future.


[Edited at 2012-12-22 00:10 GMT]


 

Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:46
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Issues Dec 22, 2012

Gyula Erdész wrote:

There are situations where MT+post-editing combo is the only viable alternative, based on the deadline, the budget and the amount. There are piles of documents that simply do not deserve the highest quality of translation. You can deny it, but machine translation is the future.


Several problems:
- The end customers more often than not can't evaluate the quality of the final MT-translated post-edited text. They just buy into the concept of getting almost all for way less money.
- There is no way to quantify and qualify the process of making an MT-translated text "understandable" or without any "major errors" or whatever other criteria are used to sell the product to the customer.
- The end customer (and maybe also the agencies selling post-edited MT tanslations) believe that because the translation has been touched by a human, it is "acceptable". But it still can contain major flaws. It would be much more honest for everybody involved to say, "This is machine translated text. So be aware that there might be issues with the translation."
- If money is really the issue, a summary translation done by a qualified translator should do fine. However, the end customers want the whole deal without paying for it.
- what texts don't deserve the highest quality of translation? If a text is that unimportant, why bother at all? Do you have any examples of texts that don't deserve the best translation quality? How do you determine the quality level they do deserve? As mentioned before, there are not clear guidelines as to what needs to be corrected during the post edit and what is deemed acceptable. All these decisions are simply dumped on the translator.

I would not be able to decide what problems I could let go and which I needed to fix. Of course, the big glaring issues would be obvious. But there is a large gray zone where it would probably be very difficult to reach a consensus on these issues.

It is possible to evaluate the quality of a human translation relatively objectively. It is possible to evaluate the quality of an MT translation. How do you evaluate the quality of a post-edited MT translation? The only standard that could be applied is the "perfect" human translation. Where does that leave the post-editor? What happens if the end customer is not happy with what they got?

I am not saying that there is no place for MT, quite the contrary. But there is no place for MT in marketing schemes. And this is what we are seeing more and more.

[Edited at 2012-12-22 00:46 GMT]


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:46
Member (2008)
French to English
Use of MT Dec 22, 2012

As you say, MT may have some value as a kind of sophisticated dictionary. I find that it frequently calls to mind a certain turn of phrase in the target language that I might not otherwise have thought of at that moment.

But it's far from correct!! The main problem I find with MT is that when my mind should be clear to capture the meaning and render it faithfully, a MT text tends to circumscribe my thinking and make it difficult to think outside the box it has already presented. Even when the MT translation is completely wrong it sometimes takes a second look at the source text to realize that it's wrong.

I can hardly see where the savings is with MT for serious translation. It's value lies in giving people the "gist" of a document where they would be completely ignorant otherwise. This is a certainly a very major benefit and helps society bridge the language divide. But for accurate translation? Not so useful.

So far I have just refused any PE work and I don't think I've suffered anything from it.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:46
Chinese to English
So true Dec 22, 2012

John Fossey wrote:

...The main problem I find with MT is that when my mind should be clear to capture the meaning and render it faithfully, a MT text tends to circumscribe my thinking and make it difficult to think outside the box it has already presented. Even when the MT translation is completely wrong it sometimes takes a second look at the source text to realize that it's wrong.

I can hardly see where the savings is with MT for serious translation...


So true. There have been a couple of studies done on the use of MT, but they're very limited, and didn't involve professional translators, so far as I can tell. I'd love to see a properly controlled study done, because I honestly believe that MT will make a real translator worse and slower.

If someone does the empirical work, and I'm wrong, then I'll listen. But my personal experience is that it's a hindrance, not a help.

I'm sure that there is a place for MT. But at the moment, the place is not in the workflow of professional translators.


 
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