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Experience with proofreading machine translations
Thread poster: Prudence Miller

Prudence Miller  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:08
Chinese to English
+ ...
Mar 26, 2013

I recently accepted a proofreading job and gave an estimate of the time needed. Afterward I learned that the text had been machine translated. It was a horrible translation and required that I re translate the entire document. I contacted the company during the process (over weekend) repeatedly to tell them that the job would require more time and therefore more pay for me to complete (paid hourly rate.) I was told to proceed. Then in the end, they wanted to pay for only half the time I spent.
I have never been asked to proofread a machine translation and feel I was "had" on this job. My experience is that proofreading a machine translation takes about half the time to translate from scratch and therefore is not like other proofreading. Does anyone have lots of experience with proofreading machine translations?


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Proofreading or post-editing? Mar 26, 2013

Prudence Miller wrote:
I recently accepted a proofreading job and gave an estimate of the time needed. Afterward I learned that the text had been machine translated.

How did you give an estimate before you found out? Did you estimate the time needed before seeing the text?
I have never been asked to proofread a machine translation and feel I was "had" on this job.

You certainly were.icon_frown.gif
[/quote] My experience is that proofreading a machine translation takes about half the time to translate from sratch [/quote]
Many people would say it takes the same amount of time or even longer in many cases.
Does anyone have lots of experience with proofreading machine translations?

The term is wrong: it's called post-editing. And it can't be done for proofreading rates.

I can only repeat what I and many others keep saying: you cannot give a firm quote for proofreading until you've seen the text. And you really must reserve the right to withdraw your services if you don't like what you see.


 

Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:08
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Competent translator Mar 26, 2013

Sheila Wilson wrote:

I can only repeat what I and many others keep saying: you cannot give a firm quote for proofreading until you've seen the text. And you really must reserve the right to withdraw your services if you don't like what you see.


I always stipulate that my acceptance of a proofreading/editing job is conditioned on the translation having been done by a competent source language>target language translator.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:08
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I refuse post-editing and am getting very fussy about proofreading Mar 26, 2013

I have no doubt that in some language pairs machine translation can be useful, but some countries spend more resources on developing it than others, and some languages pairs are more closely related, i.e. suited to machine translation, than others.

The results in my language pairs can be good, but very often they are horrible.

The English is strictly correct, and may even be fluent, but if so, there are sometimes glaring errors of meaning if you can read the source language.

They may or may not be obvious in the translation. They may be quite illogical, and then the reader has a chance. A tiny 'not' may be missing, (and humans can do that too), or there may be other technically tiny flaws which change the meaning more or less subtly.

Often the syntax is Danish, and while not strictly wrong, it may be ambiguous or just difficult to read because the sentence structure is unexpected in English.

It always takes me at least as long to post-edit as to translate from scratch, so I have stopped accepting post-editing jobs. I tell the client straight away that they would be better off giving me a well-written source text, but with Google 'everyobody can English' - or so they think.

I am also getting cautious about proofreading, because suddenly a paragraph may show unmistakable signs of MT... And I never accept proofreading jobs unless I have seen the text or know the translator well.


 

Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 08:08
Portuguese to English
+ ...
article on dangers of post-editing Mar 27, 2013

IAPTI (the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters) recently posted a good article in their blog, concerning post-editing as yet another way for the translating community to dig its own grave: you can access it here --

http://www.aipti.org/eng/articles/art16-post-editing-a-niche-for-translators_-what-a-glorious-truth.html

Post-editing takes at least as long as retranslating because you're working among 3 texts: the source text, the machine target text, and your own target text. All for a fraction of the cost of translating. Nasty practice!


 

PEDRO ODUBAYO T  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:08
Member (2013)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No head or tail of a bad translation Mar 27, 2013

Be it machine or human, a bad translation is always a bad translation. Hence it is necessary to ask questions and demand for sample of the source text before striking any agreement, more so if it has to do with a post-editing project. However not all translators can stand their ground when it comes to safeguard their interest due to lack of experience and the fear to lose or bother their clients.

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Best avoided Mar 27, 2013

I agree with Michele and Sheila.
This kind of thing is rife nowadays, with clients and agencies all looking for some way to save money and little regard for quality except as an afterthought. Avoid at all costs.


 

Umang Dholabhai  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 17:38
Member
English to Gujarati
+ ...
Do not act God! Mar 27, 2013

..while making a fairy out of a frankenstein.

The MT's in my language pair are truly horrible. The worst that has happened is when I got to proofread a document where the translator had unfathomable faith in machines. The idioms brought tears with them!


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:08
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Post-editing Mar 27, 2013

In general, I no longer accept post-editing assignments unless the client is willing to pay at least 75% of my translation rate.

There are some decent MT texts, and this also depends on the field, but most of the time it will save you time to just hit delete and translate the source text from scratch. Although, some MT's a... quite amusing.icon_wink.gif


 

gad
United States
Local time: 08:08
Member
French to English
I agree that you were had Mar 27, 2013

Prudence Miller wrote:

I have never been asked to proofread a machine translation and feel I was "had" on this job. My experience is that proofreading a machine translation takes about half the time to translate from scratch and therefore is not like other proofreading. Does anyone have lots of experience with proofreading machine translations?


It seems like they were not totally up front with you about what this 'proofreading' assignment really was. I always refuse post-MT editing type jobs, and when I refuse I explain why - because it takes so long and the quality still can't be guaranteed, it might as well be translated from scratch. Also it seems like a cheap way of getting translation work done without paying for actual translation work, and instead trying to pay at a proofreading rate.


 

Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:08
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
Elucidating discussion Mar 27, 2013

Thank you all for the feedback you gave. You confirmed the conclusion I have come to. I am newer; at first I used to give rates that most translators offered, then lowered them, but now realised I am not willing to do work without being paid for my trouble, and I found it is true that proofreading and editing depend on the source text given you. Your comments are further strengthening me to be clear about what I accept and option to withdraw from. I find companies see that you are more professional like that- as you mean business. But I am grateful for your discussion too. Thanks

 

Prudence Miller  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:08
Chinese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for all the input. It was reassuring to hear your experience. Mar 28, 2013

I truly appreciate all these comments. I am a very experienced translator but managed to avoid this experience until now. I actually did look at the text in advance but I did not comprehend that I would end of having to re translate the entire text. The company I worked with is a top 100 language service company globally and from this experience I came to understand that they don't always know what they are doing. They have been fair in paying much more than I had originally quoted so I give them credit for having integrity and being fair. I clearly understand now that in many cases I know much more than the translation company and so part of the task is to educate the them on what is really involved--especially in the case of Chinese!

 

Raghib Akhtar
Member (2017)
English to Urdu
+ ...
Catherine Howard: The article is not there. Feb 17

This has become a common trend to send machine translation for proofreading. Some of the agencies don't even tell that they are sending Machine Translation. Actually, we translators enrich the online CAT database and now they are selling their services to big agencies. We must boycott online CAT services.

 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:08
Member (2008)
French to English
Updated link Feb 17

https://www.iapti.org/articles/art16-post-editing-a-niche-for-translators_-what-a-glorious-truth.html

 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:08
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Exactly my point Feb 18

Michele Fauble wrote:
I always stipulate that my acceptance of a proofreading/editing job is conditioned on the translation having been done by a competent source language>target language translator.


I add "human" to it, and state that otherwise my proofreading/editing rate may rise up to my full translation rate, if redoing it entirely is justified.

Now and then this leads to question what I mean by "competent", which I explain as "about as competent as I am" (though possibly in different specializations/subject areas). In practical terms, someone that wouldn't lead either of us to ever complain if we had to swap our translator/reviewer roles.

My $50 question is:
If PEMT (Post Editing Machine Translation) indeed justified paying anything less than the full translation rate, what is holding ALL translators back from pre-processing ALL their work through MT and then post-editing?

Once I was assigned to translate a bunch of operation manuals for an offshore oil platform. The agency was "nice", and provided me with some previous translations of other manuals for the same facility. It didn't take me long to realize that they had been PEMTed. Some misinterpreted instructions there, if followed, would definitely cause a major disaster! I can only hope that those brave people will know the ropes to do it without those manuals. Otherwise we'll be reading the news on yet another major oil spillage in the sea.

An European translation agency had me evaluate a considerable quantity (~50+) of translation tests sent by applicants through their web site. They asked me to check whether Google Translate had been used, in which case I should fail them on all counts. So I had a chance to compare. Quite frankly, too many of these tests were actually WORSE than GT!


 
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