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What is the post-editing standard ISO 18587 all about?

Machine-translated text must be checked to “verify accuracy and comprehensibility, improve readability and correct errors”, according to item 4.1 of the new standard ISO 18587. The standard ISO 18587:2017 “Translation services — Post-editing of machine translation output — Requirements” was published in February 2018, providing a set of guidelines describing the prerequisites and requirements for the provision of this service. The standard limits itself to full post-editing, a type of post-editing designed to produce an end result which is of a comparable quality to a human translation. The other main type, known as light post-editing, is not covered by the standard.

Why do we need a standard for post-editing?

As ISO 17100, the general quality standard for translation, has already proved, the creation of standards in the translation industry makes it possible to compare services and feel reassured that a service meets a verifiable standard. But above all, the descriptions in the standard make it easier to define the requirements that apply to the different people involved in the process (post-editor, service provider and client) while providing a common language and shared understanding of what post-editing is.  

For example, the post-editing standard ISO 18587 precisely defines terms and abbreviations, the purposes of post-editing, the individual steps involved, and the responsibilities of the post-editor. In section 5 it describes the required competences and qualifications of post-editors, which correspond to the qualifications for translators we are already familiar with from ISO 17100, and are supplemented by special post-editing training. All in all, at just 16 pages (excluding the annexes) the standard is a very manageable size, making it suitable for everyday reference.

The requirements described in the standard are not difficult to implement and reflect usual post-editing practice, even though it does not discuss in detail the distinction between light and full post-editing. The competences and qualifications for post-editors show a striking number of parallels to ISO 17100. This standard describes the requirements that apply to translation services (with human translators) and demonstrates that a high level of linguistic and technical competence and qualification on the part of translators and post-editors is essential to the service provided.

Do you have any questions about ISO 18587 or ISO 17100, or one of our services? Would you like to integrate machine translation and post-editing into your processes? We can answer your questions in detail by phone, by e-mail, or if you prefer, in person.

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Jasmin Nesbigall





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How fast is post-editing?

How long does post-editing take? What volume can a post-editor handle per day? The amount of time required will of course depend on the quality of the machine translation output and the level of editing you require. However, there are guideline values that allow you to roughly estimate how much time and money you can save with post-editing. While a translator transferring the source text accurately and with correct style into the target language will output around 2000 words per day, a post-editor will mainly be comparing the target text with the source text and with an average error rate will output approximately 8000 words per day. Depending on how many quality assurance (QA) checks are needed, the amount may vary from 5000 words for full post-editing to 20 000 words per day for light post-editing.

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