What is machine translation post-editing?

30. March 2023

Machine Translation Post-Editing – MTPE

Machine translation technology has evolved exponentially in recent years, and the accuracy and fluency of machine translation output has significantly improved. However, even the best and most advanced machine translation systems are not perfect, and quite often in machine translation there are errors and ‘interesting’ sentence constructions that necessarily need to be corrected. This is where the machine translation post-editing service comes into play.

Machine translation post-editing is a part of the translation process workflow that involves reviewing and editing machine-translated text to get an accurate and smooth translation as the final result. During the work, the translation specialist reviews the machine-translated text sentence by sentence and makes the necessary linguistic and substantive changes to it. The introduction of MTPE significantly speeds up the time required for translation, while ensuring high-quality translations.

Machine translation post-editing as a separate service is particularly suitable in situations where the client has large volumes of content that need to be translated quickly and efficiently, such as technical manuals, product descriptions or user interfaces. By using machine translation as the source material, which is then post-edited, we achieve a good translation pace without losing much in the quality of the translation text.

In MTPE, three levels of quality are distinguished, which are implemented depending on the purpose of the translation, the quality of the output of the machine translation, and the preferences of the client or end user of the text. The MTPE levels are listed below.

  • Light post-editing: at this level, the goal is not to achieve a result comparable to the result of human translation. Only minor changes are made to the text, to correct grammatical errors or to improve fluency. We recommend this level of post-editing when the intended use of the translation is not critical and the main goal is to understand the content of the text and that the translation is completed quickly and efficiently.
  • Full post-editing: at this level, the goal is to achieve a result comparable to the result of human translation. In the case of a comprehensive post-editing service, the text is also checked by a language editor. This level is typically used when the intended use of the translation is critical, such as legal or medical documents where accuracy is of the utmost importance.
  • Customised post-editing: this level is tailored to the specific needs of the client or end user. This includes creating guidelines or style guides that post-editors follow. The main purpose of using machine translation is to speed up the work, otherwise the process is similar to a standard full translation service.

The machine translation post-editing service also has some significant advantages over the traditional translation service, including:

  • efficiency: by using machine translation as a starting point for the translation process, and then editing the output, post-editing helps to reduce the time spent on translation while ensuring high-quality translations;
  • cost savings: by purchasing the machine translation post-editing service, you also save on translation costs, as it takes less time and effort to translate the content. In general, it can rather be said that switching to the post-editing service does not increase costs compared to the traditional service. It is therefore a good alternative for those who cannot afford to keep up with general service price increases.

However, there are also a number of challenges associated with MTPE. The biggest challenge is to find qualified linguists for providing the service, i.e. those who can effectively correct the machine translated content, recognise common mistakes in machine translation, false translation, etc. This work is not suitable for all translators and editors, and as with anything new, post-editing must be learned. Another challenge is to find a suitable machine translation engine that is of sufficient quality and provides accurate and smooth output. There are quite a number of machine translation applications available on the market with different price levels and quality. 

In conclusion, the inclusion of machine translation in translation workflows is a valuable additional option that generally helps speed up the translation process and, with skilful post-editing, does not reduce the overall quality of the translation. 

This article has also been translated using the machine translation post-editing solution! Did you figure it out?

* For more information on the requirements for machine translation post-editing, please see EVS-ISO 18587:2021.

Rutt Mäeots

Rutt Mäeots

senior project manager