in All Things Localization, Language Technology

In today’s very globalized world, and amid unprecedented technological progress, the need for seamless communication across languages has never been greater. Machine Translation technology has, therefore, become a mainstream practice, and it has undergone a remarkable transformation, fueled by advancements presenting users with important features, such as consistency, speed, cost reduction, and productivity. But the old question remains – is it utterly successful?

By now, everyone working in the translation industry should know what MTPE (Machine Translation Post-Editing) is. Simply, it’s an approach that combines machines’ computational power with the nuanced understanding of human linguists. The machine has advanced to a point where it can deliver cost-effective human-like first-draft translations. But yes, you read it right. It’s a first draft, meaning it’s not quite there yet.

The finesse and cultural nuances of language often escape this system that struggles to capture context accurately, leading to a loss of meaning and awkwardness in the target language. And this is where humans remain relevant. They’re there to carefully dot the I’s and cross the T’s, ensure the language is as smooth and readable as possible, and fix what remains beyond the machine’s grasp. Human understanding and enhancement are indispensable to the success of this technology, and post-editing makes the workflow complete and valuable.

Here’s an example in which the machine could not flag the error in the source text and figure out that the sentence was incomplete. It translated the English verb can (to be) into Portuguese as a noun — “Latas,” which line the shelves at your local supermarket’s canned goods section. It took the understanding of a human linguist to have the error flagged in the source text so the translation could be edited accordingly. Just to give the machine the benefit of the doubt, I’d like to think that it was trying to save us some money by pushing us to buy canned food.

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Two types of post-editing are the most common: LPE (Light Post-Editing), which involves minimal human intervention for less critical tasks where only basic, obvious errors and stylistic improvements are looked for, and FPE (Full Post-Editing), which requires very humanized translation and needs extensive human intervention to correct errors and improve fluency. If the translation needs to meet high standards – with, for example, minimal errors and fluent language — FPE may be more appropriate. Strong cases for LPE would be for scenarios where the translation is of internal or informal communications.

This is why linguists and project managers are so valuable to the translation industry. They know which type of post-editing each project would benefit the most from, provided they step up at this stage and determine the most appropriate post-editing type, whether LPE or FPE, to achieve the desired balance between quality, time, and cost. What’s the purpose of the translation? What’s the level of quality needed? Are there any time constraints and/or budget considerations?

These applications are often industry-specific, and a business’s work determines which approach best suits its needs. For instance, legal, technical, and financial translations often require FPE as the content is typically complex and prioritizes accuracy to properly communicate specifics to its intended audience. On the other hand, marketing translations require a balance between accuracy and creativity, and it’s necessary here to accommodate cultural nuances in the target language. What’s very important is to be able to define the quality criteria upfront and tailor post-editing solutions to the specific client needs and requirements of any project, and that’s what we do over at CSOFT.

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As a leading provider of global translations, CSOFT adopts an approach that relies on project assessment and management. We understand clients’ expectations and work closely with them in the initial stages to determine their priorities regarding translation quality, turnaround time, and budget. Therefore, a set of sequential stages is involved for any project, such as assessing its needs and requirements, defining the area of expertise, target audience, and time needed for post-editing, evaluating the Machine Translation output, and assembling the adequate translation team accordingly.

CSOFT’s MTPE project management team has developed this strategic workflow to maximize automation while ensuring high-quality outputs.

For linguists, it doesn’t have to be that machines and language experts are eternal rivals. Machines are just tools — advanced technological “extra hands” that can assist the experts and be more productive. Machine Translation Technology complements our linguists’ skills and expertise, providing them with a powerful tool to streamline the translation process. And while we at CSOFT keep our eyes open to new technological developments and how we can use their power to better serve our clients, we know that human linguists – our linguists – will need to work their magic to nail cultural nuances and deliver flawless texts, at least for the foreseeable future. Without a guiding hand, machine translation has the potential to open a lata of its own for its users – one full of worms.

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