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Why and when do you need post-editing?

The popularity of machine translation is rising fast now that systems like DeepL are generating ever better results, producing a level of quality that convinces even hardened sceptics. However, it’s important to remember that machine translation is not guaranteed to produce good-quality texts without any errors. The new generation of neural MT systems is also erratic in its output. Mistakes are often unpredictable and only noticeable when you take a second look. This means that post-editing is absolutely necessary in any machine translation process.

Post-editing at oneword: Smart and cost-saving post-editing of your machine translations

We offer a full-service package for professional post-editing: We work with you to define your objectives and the level of editing required and then draw up editing guidelines. It’s important to us that you receive continuous feedback from us even after the pilot phase so that you can recognise and continually improve errors in your machine translation output.

Our post-editing team, which is qualified in accordance with ISO 18587, works closely with our in-house project managers, terminologists and machine translation experts. This combined team can also provide advice and support on additional processes such as tidying up and optimising translation memories and glossaries or building terminology databases.

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Jasmin Nesbigall




More on this topic

Post-editing for machine translation

Postediting Maschinelle Übersetzung

Enhance the quality of machine translations.

Post-editing standard ISO 18587

Post-Editing Norm

Standard-compliant post-editing, tailored to you.

Post-editing of statistical and neural machine translation

Let’s start with the good news. Machine translation systems based on a neural approach are becoming more reliable and accurate all the time, and sometimes they cannot be distinguished from the work of a human translator. However, language and translation are too complex to rely fully on artificially produced MT output. The problem tends not to be the obvious mistakes or stylistic errors that we are all too familiar with from statistical machine translation (SMT). Rather, it’s the mistakes that we don’t notice at first glance – because on a superficial reading they sound perfectly correct – that cause problems.

Examples without post-editing

Original: Select the name of the person you want to review the file you are sending from your computer, enter comments for the reviewer, and then click Send.

SMT (statistical machine translation): Wählen Sie den Namen der Person ein, für die Sie die Datei überprüfen möchten, die Sie von Ihrem Computer, geben Sie Kommentare für den Überprüfer senden, und klicken Sie dann auf „Senden.“

NMT (neural machine translation): Wählen Sie den Namen der Person, die Sie von Ihrem Computer senden möchten, geben Sie Kommentare für den Überprüfer ein und klicken Sie dann auf „Senden.“

While the SMT sentence is awkward enough to make you check the original to be sure of the meaning, the NMT version reads fluently and might be assumed to be correct – if you didn’t know that people can’t be sent by computer! At first glance you also might not even notice that something important is missing: “you want to review the file”. If you imagine a similar result for a specialised text, the content of which you are not an expert in, you get an idea of how easily translation errors in machine translation output can be overlooked.

So even with neural machine translation (NMT), rework by an experienced post-editor is not superfluous but an absolutely essential step.

Feasibility analysis, objectives and benefits of post-editing

At the beginning of each post-editing process, a feasibility analysis is performed. This determines the estimated degree of usability of the machine output. Based on this, a decision is made as to whether the project is suitable for post-editing or whether other steps (pre-editing and subsequent re-translation by machine, human translation) should be introduced.

Finally, the objective of all post-editing is to ensure that

  • the target text is understandable to the reader,
  • that the content of the translation corresponds with the content of the source text and
  • that the customer’s requirements and specifications are met.

In order to achieve these objectives, we at oneword have certain quality requirements for the target text:

  • Consistency of terminology and language register
  • Use of domain-specific terminology
  • Use of standard syntax, orthography, punctuation, diacritics, special characters, and abbreviations
  • Compliance with guidelines
  • Correct formatting
  • Suitability for the target group
  • Suitability for the intended purpose
  • Compliance with customer requirements

The post-editor’s important task: keeping an eye on quality and efficiency

Post-editing is neither a traditional translation task nor a revision, which places special demands on post-editors.

Post-editing requires the post-editor to have a high level of understanding of the functions and objectives of machine translation, as well as linguistic and technical competence, and to be able to decide quickly whether the machine output is suitable for further processing or whether a segment would be better re-translated. This means that, efficiency is the main focus, as the entire process of MTPE in many use cases is mainly adopted to achieve higher degrees of efficiency.

Skills that our post-editors bring to your projects:

  • Translation competence
  • Linguistic/textual competence
  • Research and information gathering competence
  • Cultural competence
  • Technical competence
  • Specialist competence
  • Detailed knowledge of MT systems and typical sources of errors in machine translation
  • Competence in considering efficiency and cost-benefit analyses

The more experienced a post-editor is, the easier it is for them to recognise and eliminate the typical errors and peculiarities seen in machine translation. You can therefore rely on experienced teams that will find a happy medium for you and, in the interests of high productivity, decide what can remain as a blemish and what must be corrected as a fundamental error.

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Quality management in accordance with ISO 17100


Delivering the highest quality translations to you

Customised MT workflows

Workflows automatic Translation maschinelles Übersetzen

From MT training to revision and terminology management.

What does MT cost?

Kosten Computer Übersetzung automatische Übersetzung

Our pricing for machine translation.

8 good reasons to choose oneword.

Learn more about what we do and what sets us apart from traditional translation agencies.

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