Editing Machine Translation
Thread poster: Martin Schefski

Martin Schefski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:51
Member (2012)
English to German
+ ...
Dec 15, 2014

Hello Guys,

there is one thing about which I would like to know your opinion. One of my agency clients approached me today and asked if I could edit about 7.000 words of a machine translation done from English into German. I normally don't do that and I don't have any experience in that field.

However, I looked at the file and found - as was to be expected - that basically no sentence made any sense. A solely mixed up word order was actually a positive example. But most often the used vocabulary was completely wrong and inadequate. In summary, the whole MT was completely useless and I - in my opinion - would have had to completely re-translate the whole thing. So, I also wanted the client to consider this as a normaly translation in term of payment and necessary working hours. I never heard back from him.

What do you guys think? Was my reaction justified? Has any of you ever edited MTs? Am I right/wrong to think that machine translations are completely useless?

I just can't believe that editing a machine translation is supposed to be less work than a translation. Even if there is only the word order to be changed - which is only the case in very very simpel and short sentences - , by the time I have done so I could have as well translated the sentence myself.

To me this almost appears to be a trick or rip-off, because editing is not paid as much as a translation (they wanted to pay me an hourly rate and expected me to edit about (800 words/hour). So, they just tell the translator that there is less work to do, because he/she only has to edit a few things, but it is in fact a normal translation.

What do you think? Is that only my opinion?


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Cheng Peng  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:51
Member (2010)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Yes, it's just a way to rip you off. Dec 15, 2014

Yes, it's just a way to rip you off.

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Paulinho Fonseca  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 09:51
Member (2011)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
You did the right thing. Dec 15, 2014

Hi Martin,


That's not professional from many companies when they do that. Contact us, offer the job and do not even reply saying no to our considerations about their offers.

I had the same experience and my mistake was to accept the job from an old client before checking it. They had never sent me TM jobs.

I have to retranslate all segments.


I do not accept it. Never...



You did the right thing.



Good luck!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:51
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
When it is that bad, offer to translate from scratch or turn down the job Dec 15, 2014

That says it all really.

Many clients do not understand this. Some seem to imagine translation is like a sculpture, where you rough out a shape and gradually cut away a little more to get the details. It is not; it is like a painting, where every stroke has to be precise first time. Every error has to be undone or removed and replaced.

It is no help to start deliberately with a poor job and try to sort out the mistakes. It is always easier to get it right first time.
Tell your client that, and do not agree to edit the machine translation unless you find it useful.

I would not give up out of hand on machine translation, but it is only helpful if you use a dedicated translation engine and controlled input. I have seen experiments that work, but so far the amount of work at the input stage is probably greater than simply using an experienced human translator. It is not commercial, but you can bet the programmers and developers working on it get paid realistic rates for their efforts.
They deserve it!

But so do you, so if you can't educate the client and reach an agreement, move on and work for others!


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JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 14:51
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
It all depends on the purpose of the translation Dec 15, 2014

I've done a few projects where I edited MT output, and I agree that it's often next to useless (even for Swedish-English, at which MT is less awful than with some other language pairs).

However, it does depend on what the translation is being done for. I recently post-edited a large set of documents which were only required for the gist of the meaning. The end client was then going to use the MT/post-edited translation to decide which documents to have properly translated. So in this case all I had to do was replace any remaining Swedish words with English ones.

But - and this is the major issue, I feel - I found that once I'd post-edited a few documents it took me quite some time to get back into translating properly. I'd been infected by the "good enough" and "Swenglish" nature of the post-editing job.

So I'd say that it's probably not worth accepting these jobs, but not for the obvious reason!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:51
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Benefit of the doubt Dec 15, 2014

Martin Schefski wrote:
One of my agency clients approached me today... So I wanted the client to consider this as a normal translation in terms of payment and working hours. I never heard back from him.


How long does this agency normally take to respond when you try to negotiate a different rate or deadline? Could it be possible that they accepted your comments and then wrote back to their client for authorisation to make this a translation job? Is it possible that they were unaware (e.g. if they don't speak German) that the machine translation was so bad and that it would not take less time (but more) to complete the translation?

Was my reaction justified?


Your reaction, i.e. telling the client that the machine translation is so bad that it would be faster and cheaper to simply translate it from scratch, was perfectly reasonable. Agencies appreciate such comments from translators.

Am I right/wrong to think that machine translations are completely useless?


If that is indeed what you think, then you are wrong. You are making a judgement about all machine translations because of what you have seen in one single machine translation job. Do you think that that is fair?

I just can't believe that editing a machine translation is supposed to be less work than a translation.


To edit a good machine translation will take less time, if you're a skilled MT editor, than to translate a text, if you're a skilled translator. A bad machine translation will take longer.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:51
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Christine's title sums it up Dec 15, 2014

It will actually take slightly longer than translating from scratch if it's very poor as you first have to read the MT output and decide whether to fix it or delete it. It can also be a time-wasting distraction (though an amusing one at times) trying to figure out where some of the words have come from. The French noun for alterations to garments (e.g. shortening trousers) is "retouches" - very strange to read about how the trousers are being "touched up again".

You're lucky though. I specialise nowadays in monolingual revision. Normally it's either written by non-native speakers of English directly in English (i.e. no other source) or it's a translation that's already been checked for accuracy and just needs a final QC check of the target. But from time to time I'm sent some MT output (no source, mind) and asked to "proofread" it. Hah!


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:51
English to German
+ ...
Editing a translation - really? Dec 15, 2014

http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/239771-agencies_wanting_discounts_for_post_editing_machine_translation-page3.html#2314436

Certain agencies already use the phrase "post-editing MT" as if it were the most natural task and part of the work process ever. It reminds me a bit of the fuzzy words analysis in CAT tools - I am not a fan.

Up to now, to my knowledge and from my experience, no matter how sophisticated the machine is (algorithms etc.), the result of such process is a "word-mix" that cannot be "edited" without going back to the OT, and if we are talking about text made up of full sentences, the first draft I am talking about is usually awful - you have to go back, compare every word and sentence, replace lots of words (since the machine can't "think" about what word is really correct) and end up having your mind dislodged by just looking at the mess you're dealing with. So, this "editing" ends up being "translating."
--------

See also
http://www.proz.com/forum/proofreading_editing_reviewing/200146-editing_a_high_quality_machine_translation.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/276838-post_editing_mt_whats_next.html
http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/275572-response_to_post_machine_translation_editing_request_at_50_discount_of_standard_rates-page3.html


[Edited at 2014-12-15 15:33 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:51
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Post-editing Dec 15, 2014

Post-editing is a "synonym" for cheap to free translations. MT text is almost always in a "language" few professionals can understand because it's so mediocre.

Approaching a translator with an editing rate while expecting a complete new translation is... well, I leave this up to your.

Translating (because this is what it actually amounts to) 800 words in 1 hour is anything but a professional request. Should you - or anbody - care to do it, then the rate should be: 7.000 x your per word rate / X hours, or the per hour rate: 800 x your per word rate.

My 2 cents is, if someone wants to do post-editing, then they should at least charge their translation rate. Translating the MT text from scratch is less time consuming and a lot less frustrating.

So yes, you did the right thing.


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sazo  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 14:51
Member
German to Croatian
+ ...
@ Dec 16, 2014

I was recently approached by an agency I've been working for years to edit a list of 500 words its client needs for his website. The price was calculated based on my average word price. Usually, it takes my two hours to translate that amount of words, but in this particular case I needed more than 5 hours, because I had to check and re-check each word. As the source language was German the list contained terrible looking compounds which mostly had to be retranslated with several Croatian words. I tried to inform the PM about the difficulties while doing the assignment, she just said, that the price was fair as I was paid by my word price. To make a long story short, I'd rather watch TV or stare at a spot on the wall than do it again.



[Edited at 2014-12-16 23:32 GMT]


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Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:51
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Same as translation Dec 17, 2014

Charge the same rate as translation, and re-translate it from the scratch, assuming the MT is a translation which is not.

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Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:51
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Hourly rate Dec 18, 2014

I would charge him by the hour. You were sent an editing job, not a translation job. If the client, refuses, let him find another translator, next time better luck. (chances are that the end client doesn't accept the correction, and they would come back to you. Happened to me).

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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:51
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Then, Dec 18, 2014

sazo wrote:
Usually, it takes my two hours to translate that amount of words, but in this particular case I needed more than 5 hours, because I had to check and re-check each word.



[Edited at 2014-12-16 23:32 GMT]


Why didn't you translate the file from scratch?


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 10:51
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The rip-off exposed Dec 18, 2014

7,000 words EN > DE @ $0.12/word (Proz Community Rate, PCR) = $840.
It is safe to assume that an average competent proofreader would charge 1/3 of that, i.e. $280.

So, using the traditional 100% human two-step method, this agency would spend $1,120.

What is this agency trying to do with PEMT?

Free online machine translation cost: ZERO
PEMT (under the name of "proofreading", "reviewing", "editing", whatever) by a translator who, in view of his/her extended experience, charges 20% above the PCR, for $280 + 20% = $336 (total cost).

That 20% more expensive translator would charge $840 + 20% = $1,008 to deliver a final translation job, no need for proofreading.

By simply shoveling the material first through FREE MT, and then calling the job PEMT, they are trying to lure a top-flight translator into delivering the same level of work for about one-third of their regular price!

A translation agency operating along this line should make Carlo Ponzi look like a relatively honest guy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ponzi - who, according to Wikipedia, was now and then a translator!

(12¢/word-based figures merely for illustrative purposes. Any starting rate would do here.)


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LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:51
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
Term lists Dec 19, 2014

jyuan_us wrote:

sazo wrote:
Usually, it takes my two hours to translate that amount of words, but in this particular case I needed more than 5 hours, because I had to check and re-check each word.



[Edited at 2014-12-16 23:32 GMT]


Why didn't you translate the file from scratch?


It doesn't sound like (post)editing vs. re-translation was the issue there, but rather that word/term lists, being generally devoid of narrative content/filler, take longer to translate than normal narrative text. Consequently, barring substantial undiscounted repetitions, a "normal" word is usually inadequate.


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