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Poll: Are translators who do PEMT paving the way for the demise of the profession?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 16:35
SITE STAFF
Sep 10

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Are translators who do PEMT paving the way for the demise of the profession?".

This poll was originally submitted by Alan Corbo, CT. View the poll results »



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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 01:35
French to English
+ ...
No, but... Sep 10

PEMT itself is probably the first step in the demise of translating as a profession but it is not a direct step, it's more of an evolutionary dead end. Translation will go away if/when true AI is developed for the simple reason that machines will do it cheaper and probably do it better. Currently, MT is not better because the algorithms doing the translating do not understand what they are translating, which is why it requires true AI before it can be better. If that barrier is crossed then good MT will inevitably follow and PEMT will go away as well.

None of this is the "fault" of translators currently doing PEMT. PEMT will never replace human translators, true MT (if it ever happens) will.

The real question is whether true AI will ever be developed and, if so, when? It requires a conceptual leap from where it is now; it is not just a question of improving current AI. I no longer expect this leap to take place in my lifetime and certainly not in my working lifetime. We do not have an adequate understanding of what intelligence/consciousness actually is to be able to emulate it and I do not believe that true AI is possible without that basic understanding.


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Mario Freitas  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:35
Member (2014)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
PEMT is still scam right tnow Sep 10

Several agencies around the world are trying to use the so-called PEMT to pay less to the translators. PEMT is certainly a trend, but for the future, when TMs and MTs are a bit more decent than they are today. Right now, PE takes longer and harder work than translation. So if we are smart as professionals, we should refuse this kind of job or charge the same rate as that of translation. Otherwise, it's scam (Right now. I know it won't be in the future).

[Edited at 2017-09-10 09:13 GMT]


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:35
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
No Sep 10

I sometimes do MT post-editing, but my client pays better than the agencies do. I find the work stressful and I'd rather not do it, but the money is good. The systems aren't improving very much and sometimes I just translate straight from the original.

I have watched this MT system develop for more than 30 years and it hasn't improved a lot. I don't see MT post-editing ever becoming a big trend.

As long as my client pays more than the agencies, I don't think I'm contributing to the demise of the profession. The trend that is running the profession into the ground is people willing to work for peanuts and agreeing to lower their rate for fuzzy matches.


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airmailrpl  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:35
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
From my standard job request answer letter Sep 10

Charges for Brief Edit (of translations done by Human beings), meaning replacement of un-translated words only, and Full Edit
(of translations done by Human beings), which involves a high degree of revision....


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:35
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Perhaps in certain fields Sep 10

The results of PEMT are stored to be reused for future projects. Therefore, in certain fields, e. g. parts lists, storage inventories, etc., the data base might one day reach high quality standards - or what the customers consider as such.

Other fields are most probably not being jeopardized by PEMT, e. g. poetry, literature, subtitles, etc.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 00:35
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No Sep 10

I’ve never done PEMT. I do prefer translating to editing because often editing takes more time than translating, so it goes without saying that PEMT isn’t my cup of tea… Like Muriel I don't see PEMT ever becoming a big trend. The continuing downward trend in rates seems much more scary and severe compared to PEMT.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:35
English to Portuguese
+ ...
They are paving the way for THEIR own redundancy Sep 10

Translation is a field-specialized profession. Each translator has an array of specialty areas, and SHOULD have identified areas about which they don't know enough to service.

A keen PEMTer will gradually transfer his/her knowledge to the MT engine database and, as PEMT clients gradually lower the bar on writing quality to the software-based spelling-and-grammar checkers alone level, such PEMTers will become unnecessary as such: computer-checked MT output will be deemed "enough".

IMO the demand for high quality translation will continue unchanged.

I expected the evolution of free online MT to wipe out low-quality translators and bottom-feeding agencies from the marketplace. This failed to happen.

Bottom-feeding translation agencies still demand a human being to BLAME for slipshod translation, and they are willing to pay for it, as long as it is really cheap.

Now they are bored from complaints on that poor quality, so they want more skilled translations to blame, and think PEMT is the way to get higher grade scapegoats for the same low price. Some translators are jumping into this trap.

The point is: If a skilled translator considers PEMT an efficient m.o. (and I happen to know a few who do), what prevents him/her from using the same MT contrivance and charge their usual rate for translation? (... which is what those I know actually do, for increased productivity on the plain-vanilla parts of their translation work).


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
At least the author didn't use the word apocalypse Sep 10

…or other apocalypse-related words, such as snowcalypse or translatorlypse.

Sorry, I haven't had my cup of coffee yet.



Seriously, I frown at extremist views of any kind, and the view hinted at on the poll's question is unwarrantedly alarmist and, even to myself, a skeptic, pessimistic.

MT feeds, no matter the MT engine, haven't improved much, as Muriel says. I remember a contact in the oil & gas industry telling me in 2015 that their MT system, customized and maintained by one of the recognizable names in the field (it's not SDL or Welocalize, ha!) was doing 75% accuracy at best. In other words, this wasn't Google Translate but an expensive MT system.

I also worked doing PEMT but not the gloom-and-doom version that most people with little or zero experience in MT lament about. For 10 months, I worked as part of a team of translators with a Lingotek-administered MT system, customized to the needs of a Silicon Valley software company. Sure, at sentence or short paragraph level the MT could hit 90%-95%, but overall it wouldn't do better than a high school grad with average knowledge of a foreign language.

The likes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google keep pouring millions of dollars into their MT systems and the bloggers keep abuzz with the latest technologies, which they report on with rosy-colored glasses. It's all in the name of speed, in my opinion. Those millions of dollars would serve humanity better if a long-term view were prevalent: use the money to fund face-to-face language teaching and translation programs at university level.


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Spud Murphy
Germany
Local time: 01:35
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...


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PEMT Sep 10

I would have to agree with most of the peer comments. Utilising MT for repetitive text content, with only slight terminology variations, is a cost-effective method with numerous advantages for a client. Trumpeting it as the future for all fields and applications overlooks the importance of human-base input for creating a satisfactory result. Most MTPE assignments I have received provided a poor, sometimes abysmal, level of linguistic accuracy and the client's proposed rate for post editing came nowhere near to covering the effort involved. If this is really the future which we can expect to be confronted with then, I for one, will concentrate on projects where a translator's skills, nuance and understanding still set the precedent.

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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:35
Member (2006)
German to English
Other Sep 10

I fell into this once last year and when I relaised what it was (I thought it was a "normal" review job), I gave it back because these are more hassel than money can pay for. And to get 20 million words done within 6 weeks is simply not possible without getting rubbish results.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:35
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Such a risible name Sep 10

The very term "PEMT" (POST-editing machine translation) is ridiculous. All editing is, ipso facto, "post". What would "pre-editing" consist of? How can something be edited before it has been written?
If this burdensome procedure has to exist and be given a name and acronym, at best it should surely be called "PMTE" - post machine-translation editing.
I accept such work only if paid by the hour at a rate which makes it worth the time it takes to do the job - much longer than straightforward translation into decent English from scratch. Otherwise, to the bin with it!


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Alan Corbo, CT  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 20:35
Member
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very creative, Mario Sep 10

Mario Chavez wrote:

…or other apocalypse-related words, such as snowcalypse or translatorlypse.

Sorry, I haven't had my cup of coffee yet.



Thanks, Mario! I tried to keep it as "unapocalyptical" as possible. "Translatorlypse" is certainly a creative way of putting it

My take is that MT wouldn't be much of a "threat" (BTW, I don't believe it will ever be for professional translators who can really stand out from the crowd) if translators didn't contribute their input to polish MT output. Though slowly, machine translation has definitelly improved over time. True, I may not see it in my lifetime (though at 36 I expect to be around for quite a long time still), but if translators (especially "good" ones, whatever that is) keep "feeding" MT engines with their edits, well, the thing will keep improving and becoming better and better, with which "generalist" translators (those who are not specialized) may well end up making their living on correcting MT output, something I am, as a matter of fundamental principle, completely opposed to. I do use technology, I do believe we have to embrace it, but I don't believe we should be "helping" it improve. Just imagine: not only PEMT is paid considerably less than actual translation, but we are also contributing our edits to engines that use them to improve a system that is, IMHO, further commoditizing our services.

[Edited at 2017-09-10 19:09 GMT]


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Peter Newton-Evans  Identity Verified
Ecuador
Local time: 18:35
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
PEMT and self-editing Sep 10

I only do PEMT when it is on my own work, using MT as just another tool in my translator's toolbox. I never accept editing jobs when the original is a machine translation, as I could have used MT to do the job myself, and only review the work of other professional translators, whether they used MT or not as part of their process. I do believe that anyone who accepts to edit MTs is damaging not only their own market, but also that of all translators, ultimately.

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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
Further PEMT thoughts Sep 10

Most companies peddling their wares for MT and PEMT services like to emphasize two so-called advantages:

a) Repetitive text
b) Terminology

Better minds have written about how the problem often lies in the original text (that is, poorly written English in most cases). Just take an average PowerPoint or e-learning slide and notice the lack of connectors. In Spanish (which is one of my languages), the use of connectors to show a relationship or establish causality or consequence (among many other functions, of course) is expected in well-written instructions and expository texts. Alas, these connectors are lacking in many of the English texts I have to translate.

Sure, this deficiency lends a certain crispness to instructions and users, pressed for time, react to these snappy directions, good grammar be damned.

I agree that feeding a MT system good translations as equivalents to badly written source texts is not useful and it's a waste of time and energy. Intuitively, most good and excellent translators balk at working with MT for that same reason. However, if a translator is given enough leeway to work with the authors to get well-written texts as source, and the freedom to override the MT feeds into properly written translations, then there's a useful niche for PEMT.

Many times the repetitive text is a heading and a descriptive statement in a paragraph later on. In that case, using the same translation may be counterproductive and render an inaccurate meaning. As for terminology, I don't need to state the obvious but I'll do it: the same term may be a phrase that appears rearranged later on in the document (lack of discipline on the author causes the TM to have multiple translations for the same concept and term). Also, an otherwise standard term (hardly the case in many technical translations unless one works in a highly disciplined industry or company) is and will be influenced by its cotext (the surrounding expressions), which in the target language we may best render it as a somewhat different term, no matter what the “standard” glossary says.


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