Post Editing Supertext

Post-editing – who, what and how

Neural machine translation (NMT): you either love it or hate it. But there’s simply no avoiding it if you want to stay on the ball in the translation and localization industry. This post will give you a taste of what post-editing involves.

Machine translation (MT) is a hot topic. To some extent, it has been able to escape the common accusation, “That sounds like Google Translate!” and has become a way of translating that just makes sense for certain text types. So it comes as no surprise that many of our clients are becoming more and more interested in NMT. And what goes hand in hand with MT? Post-editing (PE), of course. In order to stay up-to-date with the latest developments, several of our language managers took part in post-editing workshops offered by ZHAW and BDÜ, among others. In this article we’ve summed up the most important information that we discovered.

There’s more to post-editing than meets the eye

What exactly is post-editing? Post-editing is the term used to describe the revision of machine translations. This is divided into two different types: light post-editing (LPE) and full post-editing (FPE). This is useful, as many machine-translated texts don’t necessarily have to meet a high standard of quality. These include internal communications or any kind of text that is deemed to be purely for informational purposes, in which case LPE would suffice. As a general rule, FPE is used for external communications, such as product catalogs, user manuals, or general terms and conditions (GTCs).

So, what is the difference? LPE only serves to ensure that the text can be understood. The style and flow of the text are not taken into account. It’s even acceptable if the punctuation isn’t totally on point, or if the occasional spelling mistake is left in the text. The reader simply needs to be able to understand the information being conveyed. With FPE, on the other hand, it shouldn’t be obvious that the text was machine translated. The final text needs to be of a high quality, as if it had been translated by a professional human translator. It therefore goes without saying that the client’s expectations for the final text need to be clarified from the get-go.

LPE can pose a greater challenge to experienced translators and proofreaders than FPE does. When you’re used to picking through a text with a fine-toothed needle for every little typo and stylistic blunder, it can be hard hold yourself back during LPE. This is no mean feat for some.

What does a post-editor need to be able to do?

Is every translator suited to post-editing? Do you even have to be a translator in order to post-edit? These questions have been addressed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which has imposed the ISO 18587 standard. This standard specifies the requirements needed to carry out FPE.

The translation skills required are as follows: linguistic and written competence in the source and target languages; the ability to research, find and work with information; cultural competence; technical competence; and knowledge in the respective areas of specialization

As a basic principle, the requirements for post-editors are the same as those for translators. As mentioned earlier, the difficulty with this lies in being able to step back and not change every little thing to mirror your own style. But let’s not forget: practice makes perfect! According to the lecturer who ran the BDÜ workshop, it can take around six months to have post-editing down pat.

Are you a Supertext freelancer with experience in post-editing? Then get in touch with one of our language managers on the relevant language team. We can’t wait to discover new post-editing gurus!

Cover image via Unsplash (CC0)


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