Machine translation and post-editing

State-of-the-art technology + linguistic finesse = efficiency and quality

Machine translation and post-editing at a glance

Machine translation with subsequent post-editing could be the right approach if you need a translation asap, or are keen to keep your costs down. However, not every text is suitable for machine translation. Our translation agency has followed this technology since the early days of neuronal machine translation, but we are careful to employ it only for selected projects and in agreement with the client. We are happy to advise you on whether machine translation could be useful in your case. Of course, we always draw on the skills of our professional post-editors to tweak and refine the machine’s output once the translation is complete. We take your individual requirements into account and offer a range of packages to ensure that the finished product meets its intended purpose.

What are the upsides of machine translation?

Our quality pledge

Qualified post-editors

All translators commissioned to undertake this work are experienced post-editors and native speakers of the target language.

Use of translation memories and termbases

If available, we use your translation memories, termbases and additional reference material for all your machine translation projects.

Processes meet ISO 18587 standard

For all machine translation projects, we comply strictly with ISO standard 18587.

We deliver the level of quality you determine

Before starting an MT project, we discuss with you the purpose of the target text and establish the level of quality it should have.

Post-editing: So what exactly does the process entail?

  1. First of all, we let you know whether or not the source content is suitable for machine translation.
  2. If the source text passes muster for machine translation, we will prepare the post-editing project. We will work with you to define the desired level of quality.
  3. The second step is to carry out the machine translation with the aid of the most cutting-edge tools on the market.
  4. We then send the machine output to our accomplished post-editors for review. They will adjust the machine translation to your desired standard. We comply with ISO standard 18587 for the production process. If you already have a translation memory or a terminology database, it will be used in the post-editing depending on the level of processing. We’ll also take into account any reference materials you send us. Our quality pledge remains the same.
  5. The quality of the finished article is checked by a Cruz Communications project manager. We pay special attention to ensure that we meet the agreed standard of post-editing.

Full versus light post-editing

Full post-editing

Our aim for this type of post-editing is to make sure that the content, grammar, spelling, terminology, style and formatting are all correct* and that the finished text is comparable to a human translation.

Light post-editing

For this level of post-editing, we aim to deliver a product that is correct* in terms of content. We do not claim to provide a finished text that resembles the quality of a human translation.

“Correct” simply means that the translation is accurate. The final machine-translated, post-edited product cannot match the originality and ingenuity that is characteristic of a human translation: in post-editing, the linguist is instructed to use as much of the machine output as possible.

In essence, a light post-editing may be enough if you only need the factual content of a foreign text to be conveyed. If, however, the translation is destined for end consumers or specialist circles, we recommend the full post-editing service. This guarantees not only that the content is correct, but also that the language measures up.

In compliance with ISO 18587, we have put together a detailed checklist for you. You can use this to decide what level of post-editing is necessary for your purposes:

Criterion Full post-editing Light post-editing
Content Editing unsuitable content Editing unsuitable content
Semantics (meaning) Correcting incorrect or unclear meanings Correcting incorrect or unclear meanings
Completeness Rectifying additions and omissions Rectifying additions and omissions
Grammar Ensuring correct grammar Correct grammar not ensured
Punctuation Punctuation rules applied Punctuation rules not applied
Spelling Spelling rules applied Spelling rules not applied
Hyphenation Hyphenation rules applied Hyphenation rules not applied
Syntax (sentence structure) Correct syntax ensured Correct syntax not ensured
Terminology Adherence to terminology specifications No adherence to terminology specifications
Style Appropriate style ensured Appropriate style not ensured
Formatting Formatting rules applied Formatting rules not applied
Other As much machine translation output used as possible As much machine translation output used as possible

If you’re not sure how much post-editing is useful in your case, 

please pick up the phone or write us an email. We are always happy to guide you in the right direction.

Ruby’s tip
Customer advisor

The limits of machine translation

Machine translation systems are getting better all the time. However, they are still no match for human translation. Even the most advanced machine translation technology can only produce accurate translations in 15-25 % of cases. Machine translations often contain serious errors such as wrong words, misinterpretations, omissions or additions, the wrong word order and incorrect punctuation. Long, convoluted sentences can pose problems for machine translation. Errors in the source text usually lead to incorrect equivalents in the target text. Because standard machine translation systems work on the sentence level, the machine often picks different translations for the same term depending on where you are in the text. It often takes longer to correct these errors, especially in texts of critical importance, than it does to ask a professional linguist to translate the document from scratch.

Furthermore, even a fully post-edited machine translation can’t compete with the originality and ingenuity of a human translation: in post-editing, the linguist is instructed to use as much of the machine output as possible. If you need a text translated to an extremely high standard, where there is a lot at stake, we recommend a human translation by one of our professional linguists.

FAQ about post-editing

It’s undeniable that machine translation will save you time. But… the quality of the machine output won’t be good enough without subsequent post-editing. Even the latest and most powerful machine translation systems are still prone to error. The quality of the machine translation also largely depends on the type of text, the specialist area, and the quality of your source text. In sensitive texts, typical errors in machine translation often mean you spend more time correcting the machine’s output than getting a translation done by a human. Before commissioning this kind of work, you also need to weigh up the costs and benefits.

We want to point out that post-editing and translation are fundamentally different: even a full post-editing service does not deliver the same result as a human translation. This is because the human linguist uses the source text as a foundation upon which to craft a target text. The post-editor, on the other hand, works with the output produced by the machine. Naturally, this inhibits any room to manoeuvre. In challenging texts that require human creativity and thorough attention to detail, you can’t beat a purely human translation by one of our professional specialist translators.

If your source text is suitable for machine translation and post-editing, you can save up to 25 % compared to the usual translation service. Exactly how much of a saving you make depends entirely on your particular case and a series of factors: the nature of the text, the specialist area, and the quality of your source text.

You may also wish to consider whether post-editing will actually work out cheaper for you than a computer-aided human translation: if you have already had lots of material translated by us, our translation memory may offer a high repetition rate. You will then get a discount on this. It is therefore important to consider the costs and benefits very carefully.

Please do get in touch with our translation agency using our contact form for a customised quote.

Texts with low to medium quality requirements are usually suitable for machine translation and post-editing. Support forums, customer feedback and in-house company communications are all excellent contenders for machine translation and post-editing.
You’ll probably need to assess more carefully whether product descriptions, user guides, catalogues or info sheets destined for external use/print should be machine-translated. In this case, the best approach will depend on the specialist subject and quality of the text.
We would discourage you from getting a machine translation for legal texts, highly sensitive texts, or texts that need a certain amount of human creativity: official documents, contracts, medical technology texts and advertising texts are much better suited to a human translation by one of our professional specialist translators.

Light post-editing is fine when you’re pressed for time and just want to get across the content of a foreign-language text. Typical content for light post-editing includes support forums, customer feedback and in-house company communications: the important thing here is for readers to get the gist quickly. But don’t expect a gleaming piece of writing: our post-editors only make sure that the content is accurate.

Specialist texts such as product descriptions, user guides, catalogues or data sheets require high standards by skilled professionals. It’s not enough for the content to be correct, and that’s it: the translation must also claim linguistic precision. This we can promise with our full post-editing service.