Machine Translation

Machine Translation Post Editing: What is it and why is it a Game-Changer?

For any company that decides to expand to international markets, top-notch translation services are a necessity. However, there are many translation service options available, from basic online tools to professional language services providers (LSP). So, how can businesses achieve superior translations in a timely manner while staying within their budget?

Machine translation might seem like an ideal choice since it can quickly complete the job at hand. However, it is important to remember that machine translators can only translate words; they cannot relay a deeper meaning or achieve the type of professional quality that comes from human translators.

That is why machine translation post editing (MTPE) is an excellent choice as it creates a more “balanced” form of translation. It provides the efficiency of a machine, while ensuring that the translation has a human aspect to it.

Read these tips to determine whether machine translation or MTPE is the best option for your translation project.

What is Machine Translation?

First, it will be helpful to understand an overview of machine translation. Simply stated, it is the process of a computer program translating text from one language to another. By processing millions of words per hour, machines work rapidly to produce decent translations in almost any language.

Through the years, machine translation has evolved, with enhanced accuracy and speed. Additionally, the development of neural machine translation has made translation outputs even more precise by giving computers a means to map words that are typically associated with each other.

However, even with improvements, machines simply cannot capture the unique aspects of languages, like humor, nuances, sarcasm, and the intended tone of the text. Without those elements, translated content can seem cold, while sending the wrong message to the target audience.

What is Machine Translation Post Editing?

MTPE combines the speed of machine translation with the benefits of human translation. To start the process, the software will generate an initial translation of the content. Next, human translators will review the text and edit it for accuracy, flow, and clarity, while making sure that the material will resonate with the intended audience. This is critical when working with highly technical content, as well as with text which needs to relay a certain tone or that addresses culturally challenging issues.

There are two types of MTPE:

  • Light post editing, focuses on ensuring that the output is accurate and understandable to the user. As such, human editors pay attention to mistakes that will hinder how the content reads. This option is best suited for simple projects when money and time are limited; however, it is not the right option for complicated projects, since it focuses on efficiency more than quality.
  • Heavy post editing, which means that editors will be much more in depth with their revisions, including focusing on grammar, punctuation, tone, and cultural aspects. Ultimately, the editor’s revisions should make the translation seem like it was conducted by a human translator from the very beginning. The output will be a precise translation that might take a little longer but will be worth it. Using a machine translation services company can ensure top-notch translation.

Pros and Cons of Machine Translation and MTPE

Since both options offer positive aspects, it can be difficult to decide between them. Here is a look at the pros and cons of each process.

The pros of machine translation are:

  • Affordability. Since there is no human element involved, it is the most cost-effective choice. Rates will vary, depending on the service that is selected. There are free machine translators online, as well as machine translation services that are offered by LSPs.
  • Speed. Because the machines rapidly produce the translated content, machine translation is the fastest option.
  • Efficiency. As a result of the time that is saved, human translators can put more effort into focusing on intricate projects, including localization, that require more time.

Conversely, the cons of machine translation include:

  • Lack of emotion: Without a human translator, the output can come across sounding unnatural and artificial.
  • Low quality: If the work is complex, the quality will not be as good with just a machine doing the work.
  • Wrong messaging. Machines cannot change its tone to reflect the idea being presented, therefore it is common for the wrong message to be relayed.

For MTPE, the pros are:

  • Accuracy. One of the most important benefits of MTPE is that it is considerably more accurate than machine translation by itself. Because humans will be carefully reviewing the work, they will find and correct any mistakes that occurred during the artificial intelligence (AI) machine translation.
  • Quicker results. Without the assistance of machines, human translation is a slow process. With machines rapidly processing the content, humans can focus their attention on the intricate details after the initial translation is complete. As a result, companies can expect a much quicker turnaround time on their projects.
  • Understandable content. During post editing, the text will be revised to flow better, making the translated content more understandable to the audience.
  • Appropriate cultural nuances. Human translators understand the cultural nuances of the languages and regions in which they specialize. No matter how sophisticated machines become, they simply cannot understand the cultural references or know what is appropriate for a region.
  • Accurate local information. When it comes to local references, human post editing is vital to ensure accuracy. These references include the names of cities, streets, parks, landmarks, and other regional information that can easily become muddled by a machine translation.
  • Understandable industry terminology. Most industries use their own jargon that is vital to whether the content makes sense. Specific terms can translate differently, causing them to lose their meaning. As human translators edit the content, they can make certain that the industry-specific jargon is correct.

On the other hand, the cons of post machine translation editing include:

  • Longer completion time. While humans ensure accuracy, they also naturally add more time to the translation process.
  • Expense. The process is more expensive than machine translation without human editors.

When Should Machine Translation be Used?

Machine translation is most appropriate for the following situations:

  • For web chats, databases, and user-generated text, such as frequently asked questions that are crowd-sourced.
  • When there is a limited budget to use for a translation project.
  • When there are substantial amounts of content to translate.
  • If a translation project needs to be completed quickly.
  • During situations when a general translation will be acceptable, such as for internal messaging.

When Should MTPE Be Used?

MTPE is the best option in the following situations:

  • When technical knowledge is required for an accurate translation; examples include translations in the legal, medical, and financial fields.
  • For translations of materials that will be seen by the public, such as for product descriptions, packaging inserts, website content, instruction manuals, and marketing materials.
  • When the translation involves content that is culturally sensitive.
  • For content that will reflect the company’s branding throughout global markets.

After reviewing the differences between machine translation and MTPE, it is clear that MTPE is the right option for most translation projects. It combines the best aspects of machine and human translation and ensures that the project will be affordable, the output will be precise, and the deadlines will be met. For the best results, partner with a professional MTPE service company that can guarantee to meet the translation project’s requirements.


International companies need translation services but deciding on the best option can be difficult. Although machine translation can be a viable choice, machine translation post editing (MTPE) is significantly better. Read this overview to learn why MTPE is an excellent option for most translation projects.

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