Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE): The Future of Translation?
In a world where Artificial Intelligence is becoming increasingly predominant in every aspect of our lives, many wonder if AI might be a suitable solution for the translation industry.
While the debate still rages, a method has crawled its way into the world of the LSPs and it has now become one of the most requested services within the sector: we are talking about Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE). In this article, we will explore the benefits and dangers of this service.
What is MTPE?
Machine Translation Post-Editing (or simply MTPE) is the action of adapting a text previously translated by machine translation software. The ultimate goal is to produce a translation that maintains the same quality, fluency and naturalness as one carried out by a professional translator.
In a nutshell, the linguist who offers MTPE services reviews what a machine translation software has translated and applies changes when necessary to ensure the translation is consistent and spotless and that it sounds natural to native speakers of the target language.
MTPE is cost-effective and fast, so if clients have both tight deadlines and budgets, this solution is often the perfect fit. MTPE, though, cannot be applied to every project, but it can make a difference when it comes to:
Projects with large volumes of content to be translated into several languages; the content is usually full of repetitions and can be easily post-edited with a few changes without retranslating the whole text.
Projects that require the translation of social media content (such as Twitter, Facebook, and so on).
Also, depending on the project, you might choose between two types of Post-Editing:
Light Post-Editing (LPE), where only a few changes are applied by the editor and only when it is absolutely necessary to make the text natural and flawless. This option is fast and cost-effective, but style, tone of voice, and consistency are not much taken into consideration.
Full Post-Editing (FPE), which is often the best solution for MTPE since the text is thoroughly reviewed by an editor. The editor will make sure that every aspect of the text (grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, style, tone of voice, and consistency) is in line with the target language. This solution might cost a bit more, but you will benefit from it in the long run, especially if it is important for your text to maintain a certain style.
The Other Side of the Coin: Dangers
MTPE can be as useful as dangerous, so it’s worth mentioning how it might jeopardize the quality of your projects. In some cases, machine translation can be so bad (full of typos, inconsistent, even nonsensical) that there is nothing left to do but retranslate the whole text. This, of course, will impact the initial budget severely and you might end up spending more money than if you had entrusted a professional translator with your project, not to mention the waste of time and energy.
Therefore, before setting up a project, you should assess whether MTPE is the best solution. Here are a few things you might want to consider before making a decision:
Examine the content you want to translate, and the languages involved: As a rule of thumb, MTPE works best with content that has short and simple sentences, rather than complex and long texts or creative texts. Remember: the translation was carried out by a machine - which lacks human creativity - and the editor cannot ensure consistency. So, if you need a creative translation, a professional translator will do the trick.
Assess your budget: Once you have established MTPE is just what you need, you might think you don’t need to assess your budget again. But since MTPE offers different options (LPE/FPE, top-quality MT engines) this is an important aspect to keep in mind.
Choose an LSP that uses a good-quality engine: There are several Machine Translation engines, but only a few can carry out the job without making a mess. Examine all the different LSPs out there and go for the ones that are renowned for their top-notch MTPE services.
Will MTPE Replace Human Translation?
Now that we have considered the benefits and dangers of MTPE, two questions arise:
Is MTPE the future of translation? Will it replace human translation?
The answer is NO. While it can be acknowledged that MTPE can be useful for the purposes mentioned before, it is still a cheap alternative to professional translation. As we’ve seen, it has more limits than benefits and can be used only in a few cases. When it comes to marketing, transcreation, software and game localization, MTPE should be avoided at all costs.