How do you feel about post-editing? (MA Research)
Thread poster: Hannah Williams

Hannah Williams
Local time: 22:45
French to English
+ ...
Sep 5, 2011

Hello everyone! I'm currently writing my Masters dissertation on the subject of post-editing, and trying to examine whether it poses any kind of 'threat' to human translation. Unfortunately, I haven't had much success contacting translation agencies to answer a quick questionnaire, and my supervisor suggested that I try asking on here.

*Edited to add*: Sorry for being a little bit vague in my original post. By 'post-editing' I mean the post-editing of machine translation (taking raw MT output and then editing it to produce a 'translation' which is suitable for the needs of the client).

I'm looking for answers on attitudes towards post-editing from anyone in the industry, but would particularly welcome responses from those who regularly take on post-editing tasks . If you're not happy to answer the questions publicly, please feel free to send me a private message. All of the responses which I use in the dissertation will be kept anonymous.

1) What is your job title? (please specify if you are in-house or freelance)
2) How long have you been working in the translation industry?
3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have?
4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task?
5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry?

If you regularly take on post-editing tasks, there are some further questions I would like to ask:

1) How did you get into post-editing?
2) Did you receive any post-editing training at all? If yes, could you briefly describe the training?
3) Which types of text do you post-edit regularly? (e.g. scientific, financial etc.)
4) Do you have access to the source text when doing post-editing projects?
5) How do you charge for post-editing tasks (e.g. per word, per hour)?
6) Which tools do you use when post-editing?
7) Do you enjoy post-editing jobs?


Thank you very much for your time - I really appreciate your help.

Hannah

[Edited at 2011-09-06 12:44 GMT]


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Allison Wright  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:45
German to English
+ ...
Post-editing forum discussions Sep 5, 2011

There are a few of these on ProZ already. Not sure if you have the ProZ search function as a new user.
I shall certainly be adding my two cents via private e-mail when I get a break in my work.
You have taken on a big subject!


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 19:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Clarification required Sep 6, 2011

Until I reached question 5 (of the first batch), I thought I knew what Hannah was talking about. Then, out of the blue, came this:

Hannah Williams wrote:

...
5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
...


That threw me. How can "post-editing" be an alternative (or, worse still, THE alternative) to 'human translation'?

Question to Hannah: What do you mean/understand by 'post-editing'?

MediaMatrix


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 06:45
Chinese to English
Can't see the point of it Sep 6, 2011

If you are going to add value in the post-edit, you have to go through with a fine tooth comb. Errors can be very subtle. It's as much work as translating it yourself - maybe even more.

I'm not sure if the machine+man model has any value other than marketing.

Here's the current discussion.

http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_project_vendor_management/187009-google_translate:_the_new_plague.html


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:45
Member (2008)
English to French
I don't mind answering publicly Sep 6, 2011

1) What is your job title? (please specify if you are in-house or freelance)
- Freelance translator

2) How long have you been working in the translation industry?
- 8 years

3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have?
- B.A. Specialized in Translation

4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task?
- Not officially but when Wordfast Pro integrated GT I gave it a try.

5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
- The assumption it would be less expensive.

6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry?
- I believe it will die on its own - price wise it cannot compete with pure MT which is free, quality wise it cannot compete with a professional translation, the market targeted by post-edited MT is the so-so/good enough translation market that is usually populated by mediocre translators charging pennies on the dollar so post-edited MT might come out as more expensive than human translation for the same end-quality.



1) How did you get into post-editing?
2) Did you receive any post-editing training at all? If yes, could you briefly describe the training?
3) Which types of text do you post-edit regularly? (e.g. scientific, financial etc.)
4) Do you have access to the source text when doing post-editing projects?
5) How do you charge for post-editing tasks (e.g. per word, per hour)?
6) Which tools do you use when post-editing?
7) Do you enjoy post-editing jobs?
- I have turned down all offers of post-editing as I find it takes longer to "fix" the MT than to translate the source from scratch to bring it up to my standards. And for clients/agencies, paying more per word or per hour for post-edited MT as opposed to a professionally translated text is a non sequitur.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't know if this will be any help Sep 6, 2011

1) Job title: language consultant/freelance translator
2) I have been freelance translating full-time for over a decade
3) No translation-specific qualifications
4) Yes
5) They are cheapskates and think they can save money
6) Depends on the definition. I think it poses a threat to human translation. However, I do think there is a place for it in the translation industry.

Further questions:

1) Am not exactly sure of your definition of post-editing. If it means cleaning up other people's mess, you could say "I was dragged into it kicking and screaming"
2) No
3) I often revise/correct scientific or academic papers written in English by (often groups of) non-native authors.
4) N/A
5) For text revision, I charge an hourly rate
6) Word spellchecker
7) It depends




[Edited at 2011-09-06 12:29 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-09-06 12:30 GMT]


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Hannah Williams
Local time: 22:45
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Clarification Sep 6, 2011

mediamatrix wrote:

Until I reached question 5 (of the first batch), I thought I knew what Hannah was talking about. Then, out of the blue, came this:

Hannah Williams wrote:

...
5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
...


That threw me. How can "post-editing" be an alternative (or, worse still, THE alternative) to 'human translation'?

Question to Hannah: What do you mean/understand by 'post-editing'?

MediaMatrix


Sorry MediaMatrix, I should have clarified that I meant the post-editing of machine translation (editing the raw output of MT to produce a translation which is suitable for the clients needs). I've updated the original post to include a definition of post-editing (although it seems like it may take a while for the revision to be approved). I simply meant, "Why would a client prefer their project to be put through machine translation and edited by a human rather than having a full human translation". The idea of it being an alternative to human translation in that particular question wasn't meant to be ideological, I'm just suggesting that a client would have reasons for choosing one over the other - using both services would be a little pointless.

I hope that helps.

Thank you to everyone else for all of your responses, and for your advice. I'm extremely grateful for your help!


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 23:45
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I usually refuse to do it Sep 6, 2011

The immediate answer is that I usually refuse to do it. I have seen a few (very short) samples of plausible-sounding text, but I have also seen some absolute gibberish that was not worth the effort of sorting out.

I think it depends to a large extent on the language pairs. While my source languages (Scandinavian) are fairly closely related to English, the amount of resources spent on MT research is still relatively small, and the results so far are not reliable except for standard phrases. But people keep trying, and there are interesting projects going on.

Translation between two unusual languages may even be two-step translation - from source to English or another 'major' language, and then into the target language.
While some humans can cope with this, it makes MT even more risky.
__________________________________

1) What is your job title? (please specify if you are in-house or freelance)
Freelance translator

2) How long have you been working in the translation industry?
Thirteen years, the first five in-house

3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have?
(a) A very ancient German to English subsidiary subject as part of a BSc in Information Science (1976)
(b) A one-year postgraduate diploma (Special Language Diploma) (2001) from the University of Southern Denmark, which exempted me from the Dip. Trans.

4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task?
Only very small ones

5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
The hope that it is cheaper.
Possibly misunderstanding. I meet clients who simply do not appreciate that translation cannot be mechanised, or that it is not 'rational' enough to be coded and computerised. That computers are simply not 'intelligent' enough to cope with homonyms in different contexts, or all the other complexities that the human brain manipulates. Because language is easy for humans, it is assumed to be easy for computers.

6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry?

I think there may be uses for it where there is a lot of very standard language, although it will probably work best if it is based on a CAT-like translation memory rather than actual translation from scratch.
I don't see it threatening human translation for a good many years, but in the 70s I had a college lecturer who thought computers had no place in libraries!
They still do not threaten human librarians, although they have completely changed the way libraries and databases work.

If you regularly take on post-editing tasks, there are some further questions I would like to ask:

I dont.

1) How did you get into post-editing?
2) Did you receive any post-editing training at all? If yes, could you briefly describe the training?
3) Which types of text do you post-edit regularly? (e.g. scientific, financial etc.)
4) Do you have access to the source text when doing post-editing projects?
5) How do you charge for post-editing tasks (e.g. per word, per hour)?
6) Which tools do you use when post-editing?
7) Do you enjoy post-editing jobs?

@ 7: I do enjoy what is normally called proofreading well-written translations and texts by competent human translators or writers, either native or non-native.

But the small amounts of post-editing I have done have certainly not been enjoyable.

I would charge by the hour.

Best of luck with your research - it sounds like a difficult subject, so I hope you get some good material to work on!


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Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:45
Member (2009)
English to Polish
+ ...
My answers Sep 6, 2011

1) What is your job title? (please specify if you are in-house or freelance)
Freelance translator and reviewer

2) How long have you been working in the translation industry?
15 years

3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have?
MA and BA in linguistic studies

4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task?
No

5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
Price. It is also tempting to say "ignorance", but I am pretty sure that many clients do not actually care that much about linguistic quality anymore. Few people, for example, will complain that the user manual to a product doesn't read very well and this bad experience will influence their future purchasing decisions, unless the translation is ridiculous.

6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry?

I think that MT+post editing do pose a threat to human translation where text is very simplified, focused on a specific topic and produced on a mass scale. This, however, will not be a dramatic change in fields like user manuals and software localization where translators have been forced to follow client-specific style guides and glossaries for years. Some clients already expect consistency beyond what any reasonable reader could expect, which limits translators' choices.

Two other threats that aren't so often discussed:

Firstly, the quality is bound to be lower in mass production: it is much easier to accept an imperfect but passable machine translation than actively type and leave a translation you are not happy with.

Secondly, depending on the future scope of MT, it will impoverish both source and target languages. Source languages will become more "controlled" to facilitate machine translation. Due to recycling and simplification, target languages will only use certain variants, forms and synonyms, abandoning their perfectly correct counterparts. Again, this is already happening in fields where CAT tools are used extensively.


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Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:45
English to Dutch
+ ...
There's a difference... Sep 6, 2011

...between free MT (e.g. Babelfish, Google Translate) and client-specific pre-programmed MT engines. In any discussion of MT, you'd need to take that difference into account.

There's a conference on MT (the latter type) on Friday 9 September, organised by the Dutch association of translation agencies. I'm not attending myself this year, but I'd say you'll be sure to find some of the attendants are willing to share some of their insights.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 19:45
Spanish to English
+ ...
Response Sep 6, 2011

OK, so we're talking about making sense of stuff churned out by MT.

1) What is your job title? Engineer cum translator
2) How long have you been working in the translation industry? 35 years (25 years in house, 10 years freelance).
3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have? None whatsoever.
4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task? Yes.
5) What do you think draws clients towards MT + post-editing rather than human translation? Penny-pinching ignorance.
6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Ambivalent.
Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? No (at least, not yet).
Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry? Yes.

If you regularly take on post-editing tasks, there are some further questions I would like to ask:

1) How did you get into post-editing? Neccesity. For the jobs I've done I have myself been the 'end client' and, although I am not (totally) ignorant I most certainly am a penny-pincher.
2) Did you receive any post-editing training at all? None. But that also goes for everything I've done relating to languages in the past 35 years. The post-editing of MT is no different in skill-set terms than editing human translation (or, indeed, texts poorly written by people in their native language).
If yes, could you briefly describe the training? N/A
3) Which types of text do you post-edit regularly? (e.g. scientific, financial etc.) Mostly social sciences (fields in which I don't, as a rule, offer human translation services).
4) Do you have access to the source text when doing post-editing projects? Yes, always.
5) How do you charge for post-editing tasks (e.g. per word, per hour)? I don't charge myself anything (I can't afford my rates) - if I did, it would be 'per hour'.
6) Which tools do you use when post-editing? Anything over 500 words, pencil and paper (print-out of translation), then transfer mods to Word doc. Less than 500 words, edit Word doc directly.
7) Do you enjoy post-editing jobs? It's no worse than editing sloppy human translation, or poorly-written 'native' source texts.

MediaMatrix


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:45
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Had no idea Sep 6, 2011

I had no idea what 'post-editing' means. Now that I know, my answer is short and simple: I don't want anything to do with it.

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Bilbo Baggins
Catalan to English
+ ...
Reply Sep 6, 2011

1) What is your job title? (please specify if you are in-house or freelance)
Freelance translator and editor of non-native EN

2) How long have you been working in the translation industry?
17 years

3) Which translation-specific qualifications do you have?
Master's in Trans

4) Have you ever completed a post-editing task?
No, but I have some limited experience of MT

5) What do you think draws clients towards post-editing rather than human translation?
Possible savings on the cost of human translation

6) What is your overall attitude towards post-editing? Do you think it poses a threat to human translation? Do you think there is a place for it in the translation industry?

a) Rather ambivalent and wary attitude, mainly because of two issues: (i) open to abuse by ignorant and/or exploitative individuals/agencies, and (ii) confidentiality.
b) I also think as follows:
- MT has the potential to eventually replace bottom-feeder translators
- MT potentially meets needs for certain kinds of translation that do not need to be perfect, also where confidentiality is not an issue.
- PEMT should only be done by professional translation who know the source language and who earn a decent hourly rate.
- I personally would prefer to PEMT than revise a poor human translation.


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