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Offering post-editing services: yes or no?
Thread poster: Elisa Fernández Vic

Elisa Fernández Vic  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:53
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 26, 2015

I have recently been contacted by an agency for post-editing services and, while I refused, this has left me thinking about why should or should not one offer this service.
Please note I do not have relevant experience in this field, so I am asking out of curiosity, not trying to make a point in one direction or the other.
On one hand, I find that usually the stated objective of post-editing is to have a "good enough" text, i.e. it doesn't have to be good style-wise, nor even read naturally. I think I prefer to offer high quality services, and charge good rates for them. Also, as I have never tried this line of work, I am not sure of how much time is really saved, if any at all, and how much does it compromise quality.
On the other hand, I want to use technology in my favor and keep up with the times, rather than being a Luddite. Machine translation is here to stay and, even if it can never replace a human translator, it will get increasingly better over time - so maybe post-editing is just a reality we have to face, and sooner rather than later.
What are your thoughts on this subject? An also, how much should you charge for it (comparing to your standard translation rates)?

[Edited at 2015-08-26 12:41 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:53
Member (2008)
French to English
Good enough isn't good enough Aug 26, 2015

My thoughts:

Like you, I don't accept "post-editing" jobs. The little I have tried them, it's more work than translating from scratch.

Your reputation, and hence your income, will grow as you become known for being an excellent and high-quality translator.

Targeting a market where "good enough" is good enough would not appear to be a path to gaining an in-demand reputation.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 06:53
Member
Italian to English
Do what you want, not what you feel you should Aug 26, 2015

To me, one of the major perks of being a freelancer is doing what I want, what I love and what fulfils me, not what I should be doing. I don't have any experience of PEMT, however to me it seems like the linguistic equiavalent of a MASH field hospital. I prefer to spend my time translating, not patching up other people's (machines') disasters.

But that's me. If PEMT appeals to you, and you think it's economically viable, why not?

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:

maybe post-editing is just a reality we have to face, and sooner rather than later


You could say the same about the dumbing down of the English language and the rising popularity of "text speak". Maybe so, but that doesn't mean we have to start using it when we communicate. The fact that PEMT is a "reality" is only part of the "translation reality", just as bottom feeders are only part of the picture. Just as there are agencies and direct clients still able to recognise (and willing to pay for) quality, I believe there are still areas of translation where PEMT is not viable or desirable.

I would advise you against doing something "because you feel you should" - IMHO it's a soul-destroying and ultimately unsatisfactory path to take.





[Edited at 2015-08-26 13:01 GMT]


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:53
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Charge your normal rate - you'll have to redo most of it Aug 26, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:
What are your thoughts on this subject? An also, how much should you charge for it (comparing to your standard translation rates)?

My first ever job as a freelancer was PEMT, but at the time I didn't realise that's what it was. I just thought they'd pre-filled the file with stuff from these "translation memories" I had heard about.

However, when I took the job the rate I bid at wasn't that much lower than the rate I charge today. They only accepted my rate - high by their standards - because it was a big job in a specialised field at short notice over the weekend.

And that's just as well, because with the exception of some numerical data I had to translate the whole lot from scratch - it was rubbish. Fine for getting a feel for the text, but not usable as it was. So unless you can charge a standard translation rate I wouldn't bother.

I too am interested in leveraging MT as a tool to help the human translator, rather than replace him.

Regards
Dan


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Patrick Porter
United States
Local time: 00:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
not a binary choice Aug 26, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:

...On one hand, I find that usually the stated objective of post-editing is to have a "good enough" text, i.e. it doesn't have to be good style-wise, nor even read naturally. I think I prefer to offer high quality services, and charge good rates for them....

...On the other hand, I want to use technology in my favor and keep up with the times, rather than being a Luddite...


I also prefer to produce high-quality work, and so far have not accepted any so-called "post-editing" jobs where ostensibly "good enough" was good enough. I think it would be hard for me to get used to working that way. Also, I may be wrong, but I don't think it would take any less skill or qualification to be able to produce even a "good enough" translation from MT output.

However, in my opinion, it is possible to use "machine translation" as an aid in translation work, without compromising quality, provided it is being used by a skilled translator. In my case, it increases productivity by automating some things I would do otherwise. Take concordance searching, for example. I use my translation memories to train small MT models, which I then use in my work as a sort of terminology resource. The results appear in my editor, and although they are often incomprehensible as translations, I can see patterns of terminology that I've used before, and it helps me to stay consistent. All of this gets done automatically without requiring any manual action on my part as I work. It speeds things up a bit and I can spend more time actually translating.

With the public MT engines like G... or M..., I tend to avoid them except as a terminology aid, via the web interface. Sometimes when I need to research a term I will start on one of these translator web pages to get some ideas. The reason is that the subsequent time-consuming steps of searching the internet manually for reliable bilingual resources are often already reflected in the MT service of the search engine. Of course, the MT results can never be the final authority, and I will still have to track down those resources to confirm. But the results can point me in directions I hadn't thought of, or otherwise help me pin down what to look for more specifically.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 06:53
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You can't always control the quality of the end-product Aug 26, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:
On one hand, I find that usually the stated objective of post-editing is to have a "good enough" text, i.e. it doesn't have to be good style-wise, nor even read naturally. I think I prefer to offer high quality services...


I don't think I've ever done PEMT, but I often have jobs in which there are very strict restrictions on the text, which necessarily means that the final product will not reflect what I would consider something I'd proudly put my name to. Being forced by the type of job to deliver a substandard quality of work (though the clients usually don't agree that the end-product is substandard because it passes all their QC checks) is not limited to PEMT.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:53
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Tell us more Aug 26, 2015

Patrick Porter wrote:
However, in my opinion, it is possible to use "machine translation" as an aid in translation work, without compromising quality, provided it is being used by a skilled translator. In my case, it increases productivity by automating some things I would do otherwise.

Ah, I was hoping you'd pop up - nearly mentioned you in my post above.

Any more detail of what you've done that is different to what SDL et alia offer? It seems to be your own proprietary system, or sub-system?

Dan


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:53
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Certainly reject monolingual editing! Aug 26, 2015

Among the silliest jobs that potential clients have come up with - and there have been lots - there has been a sprinkling of raw MT texts for me to "polish". Not the bilingual output; just the English target. Totally impossible! When a non-native speaker writes "I not never want nobody..." it's likely that they meant "I never want(ed) anybody". If MT comes up with similar garble it could mean anything at all. If you know the source language you can sometimes see where the rubbish came from but otherwise the program seems to have picked words at random. I'm using it quite a lot at the moment to understand things around me as I struggle to learn Spanish. It's helpful as a starting point but it very often totally misses a negative and says precisely the opposite.

With the bilingual output, I'm sure it's feasible to polish the target. But is it worthwhile use of your time? If the client only wants intelligible and nothing more, he's not going to pay for quality. So either you deliver sub-standard work (although I agree with Fiona when she says, "IMHO it's a soul-destroying and ultimately unsatisfactory path to take"), or you earn a pittance per hour.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:53
Member
English to French
Been there Aug 26, 2015

and expressed my views here for the past 6 years:

http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/127850-thats_the_end_fight_against_machine_translation.html#1057958
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/215371-rates_for_post_editing_machine_translation_texts-page2.html#1868950
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/215371-rates_for_post_editing_machine_translation_texts.html#1868266
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/241918-article_about_fair_rate_for_post_editing.html#2084932
http://www.proz.com/forum/machine_translation_mt/232904-how_long_will_human_translation_last.html#2016827
http://www.proz.com/forum/machine_translation_mt/245609-what_do_you_charge_for_mt-page2.html#2303768

My resulting feeling:
MTPE doesn't necessarily mean low income. Between a week at 40/hour doing standard translation and a week at 50/hour doing MTPE, which one is the most appealing?
There are more interesting things to do as a translator, but if ever standard work dries out or if I can no longer fit in the "high-quality translation niche", I know what to look for when looking at PEMT jobs.

Philippe


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:53
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
You're right about non-PEMT problems Aug 26, 2015

Samuel Murray wrote:
I don't think I've ever done PEMT, but I often have jobs in which there are very strict restrictions on the text, which necessarily means that the final product will not reflect what I would consider something I'd proudly put my name to.

Most Japanese clients will go through a text with typical attention to detail, and some expect to see a one-on-one correspondence between their Japanese and my English.

Or they expect absolute "consistency" in the English, even if that means repeating the same English word three times in a paragraph, usually creating a horrible rhythm. Or even if there are in fact differences in nuance in the Japanese that justify slightly different phrasings in the English.

I shouldn't tar them all with the same brush because some clients are more enlightened than others. But as you say, PEMT is not the only client-imposed restriction that leads to sub-standard output. We've been living with others for as long as translation itself.

Dan


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:53
English to German
+ ...
Should you do post-editing MT (machine translations)? Aug 26, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:

Offering post-editing services: yes or no?


My answer: No, you should not! Especially because most outsourcers asking for that are simply out to have you work for much less than what would be adequate for such an outrageous job if it really were editing. But also because it is a complete misnomer. This has nothing to do with editing translations.

Here is much more food for thought:
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/282023-post_editing_machine_translations_is_a_misnomer_but_there_are_now_training_sessions_for_it.html

HTH


[Edited at 2015-08-26 15:13 GMT]


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 12:53
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Future career educational purposes Aug 26, 2015

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

My answer: No, you should not! Especially because most outsourcers asking for that are simply out to have you work for much less than what would be adequate for such an outrageous job if it really were editing. But also because it is a complete misnomer. This has nothing to do with editing translations.



I support to do post-edit.
The reason is that MT is moving strongly as the main translation domain in the near future. Your exposure to it will contribute to your translation profession largely. Now we have [draft] quality standard for MT and more movements.
Why not direct yourself in the industrial main stream and earn more?

Soonthon L.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 13:53
Chinese to English
PEMT is not the future Aug 26, 2015

Elisa Fernández Vic wrote:

On the other hand, I want to use technology in my favor and keep up with the times, rather than being a Luddite. Machine translation is here to stay...

You're right that MT is here to stay, but what will happen is that people will learn to live with MT output - until it becomes perfect and the machines take over.

PEMT just doesn't make any sense. They want to take some bad output, and do some work on it to make it into another kind of bad output? Why?!

I'm afraid there is an answer to my question: the reason is that they want to pass off (PE)MT work as real translation. IMO, 90% of PEMT work is an attempt to cheat someone, either the client or the translator.

Don't worry about keeping up with the times. If you're a translator, you're probably already doing it naturally. Use Wikipedia obsessively? Possess Google-fu that leaves your friends in awe? Work remotely, sometimes mobile? You're already on the cutting edge.


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:53
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Do it, but on your terms only (so not very often) Aug 27, 2015

If you can find an agency that will pay you per hour at your normal hourly rate based upon your actual time worked (and not some time estimate they have you make before beginning the job), then why not try PEMT? However, my feeling is that these sorts of agencies/jobs are few and far between, and that most will be trying to get you to agree to a substantial cut in your hourly earnings.

Please note that I have zero experience with PEMT. In my language pair, the cost saving option for agencies seems to be to try to use a native source language speaker to do the initial translation (because of the exchange rate discrepancy this can be quite cheap, especially if this initial translator is only average in their command of the English language), and then have a native target speaking translator (i.e. me) perform the proofreading. Many agencies try to finagle a time estimate out of the native proofer, usually at the proofreader's expense, and in this way can offer their client a native looking result at low cost.

At least as far as I understand things, the problem with PEMT is a similar one: agencies that try PEMT are often looking to cut costs in a big way. In theory, PEMT COULD be a very good way for an agency to save the end client 5%-10% off the cost of a job. However, most agencies interested in saving money want to save 30-50%, not 5%, meaning that quality usually takes a back seat to cost cutting. In a way this is a good thing for all of us (I think everyone here would agree that proofing is less fun than translating), as the prevalence of cut rate PEMT companies ensures a low willingness on the part of good customers to pay for PEMT services. It only takes poor translations from 5 out of every 10 agencies offering PEMT services to give PEMT a black eye in the industry.

This is why I often think that we've got it all wrong here: rather than complaining about cut rate agencies and low rate-poor quality translators, we should be thanking them for their lack of professionalism. There are actually plenty of ways to preserve translation quality at lower costs (i.e. less money for translators), but human nature dictates that at least half of the people trying to do so will do so out of unthinking greed, in turn sullying the reputation of any one else trying to use these methods.

So I won't be too worried about us all turning into proofreaders until either MT is (nearly) perfected or all agency owners turn into saints.


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Elisa Fernández Vic  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:53
Member (2015)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Free Proz seminar on machine translation Aug 27, 2015

I have just received an invitation for Translation Day free seminars at Proz and violà! There is one about "The beauty of machine translation": http://www.proz.com/virtual-conferences/668/program/10523
It does seem like it will have a "pro-machine" slant, but it can be a good opportunity to learn more about this subject, so I think I will attend and see how it goes. At the very least, I will have a clearer idea about how PEMT works.


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