The post-editing of machine translation, also known by its initials MTPE or simply as post-editing, is an increasingly popular service within translation. In addition to our regular machine translation service, COMUNICA also offers a number of post-editing services, namely light and full post-editing and full post-editing plus revision. Read on to learn more about the post-editing process, the differences between the services we offer and the benefits of MTPE over other options.

What is post-editing of machine translation?

The post-editing of machine translation is a popular translation service which combines the efficiency of machine translation with the insight and understanding of a human translator. A text is first fed into a machine translation tool and translated automatically using a large corpus of existing human translations and neural technology. The resulting output is then reviewed by a professional and human linguist who can check the text carefully for errors and make edits to improve the clarity, readability and quality of the final translation. By combining the might of man and machine in this way, texts can be translated both faster and cheaper yet without sacrificing quality.

MTPE has been around since the onset of machine translation, and many agencies have been offering this service for a long time. However, it is only within the last decade or so that post-editing has come to be seen as a viable option. This is due to advances within machine translation which have fixed some long-standing problems, such as the need to translate in small chunks without reference to a wider context. Whereas before machine translation was mostly suitable only as a screening tool, it can now (in many cases) be used to produce workable draft documents on which trained linguists can build.

Post-editing therefore uses technology to translate large volumes of text at a high speed, performing the more basic and mechanical parts of the translation task at a fraction of the time a human would need. The human linguist then takes over and drills down into the details of the text, fixing issues that the machine may have been unable to solve on its own. This might include changing certain words if the machine has misjudged the meaning of a term, for example, or fixing metaphors and idioms that the machine has translated literally.

Post-editing services

COMUNICA offers three different post-editing services. These are light post-editing, full post-editing and full post-editing plus revision. Exactly which service is best for you will depend on a number of different factors such as the quality of the MT output and the purpose of your text. Other considerations such as budget constraints and looming deadlines may also influence your decision. Below, you can see a table summarising the main differences between the services followed by a more complete description of each option. 

  Light post-editing Full post-editing Post-editing + revision
Content types
  • Informal and internal documentation
  • User-generated content
  • Support tickets and FAQs
  • Big data analysis
  • Technical manuals and documentation
  • Financial reports and business documents
  • E-learning materials
  • Knowledge based articles
  • Marketing and advertising materials
  • Legal documents
  • Medical and scientific content
  • Website and app localization
  • Government and official documents
Quality ⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐
Cost 💲 💲💲 💲💲💲
Turnaround time 🏁 🏁🏁 🏁🏁🏁

Light post-editing

Light post-editing is when the human linguist limits their intervention to essential changes which are necessary in order for the text to be understood. The kinds of changes covered typically include basic spelling or grammar mistakes and errors which greatly encumber understanding or convey a different meaning to that of the source. The aim is to create a text that is intelligible rather than one which is flawless.

The quality of lightly post-edited machine translations is generally lower than what you would get from a straight human translation. The syntax will more closely follow that of the original source text and a degree of nuance and subtext will be lost from the original. This option is therefore suitable for high volumes of basic and non-critical text. Customer reviews on a webshop or internal emails are both suitable text candidates.

Full post-editing

Full post-editing is a more thorough intervention which goes beyond the basic corrections covered by light post-editing in order to try and raise the overall quality of the text. This might mean making more extensive changes to bring out the subtext omitted by the machine, or to reintroduce a coherent and consistent style throughout the text. Rather than simply correcting obvious mistranslations, the editor will go to greater lengths to try and more closely align the precise meaning of the translation with that of the original, and to ensure that idioms and turns of phrase are translated and localised in a culturally appropriate way.

The quality of a full post-editing job will therefore be higher than a light post-editing, however it will still not quite match that of a straight human translation. The editor remains bound by the framework produced by the machine, and this prevents them from taking the kind of more creative or liberal approach that is sometimes necessary in order to translate text both accurately and naturally.

Post-editing + revision

Our full post-editing plus revision service is the same as full post-editing but also includes a final revision stage. This makes it possible to boost the quality even further and produce texts which are suitable for external communications, such as marketing texts or customer mailings.

Involving a reviewer also gives us the option to plug a specialised linguist into the project, such as a medical or a legal translator. This way, we can ensure that technical jargon and terminology is translated correctly, enabling the use of machine-translated texts within highly professional fields. The final reviewer will also take care to ensure all grammatical errors and cultural issues are addressed for a final translation that reads as if it were originally written in the target language.

What are the benefits of post-editing?

The main benefits of post-editing are that the use of machine translation allows the human linguist to achieve greater levels of efficiency than would be possible otherwise. This means that a linguist can translate more words in the same amount of time, and so translations can be delivered more quickly and at a lower cost.

This benefits not only existing translation clients, but also businesses and individuals who have not previously been able to translate their content. For example, an independent writer or blogger who previously did not have the budget to translate their articles may find that light post-editing makes this viable. Or a large retailer who previously assessed that the costs of translating user reviews outweighed the potential benefit may now see the virtue in translating this content via MTPE.

MTPE rates per word

MTPE rates per word will depend on a number of different factors. The most decisive will be the quality of the initial machine-translation output. Machine translation tools handle certain language pairs better than others, and the quality of your source text will also play a role here. Source texts with spelling errors and wordy sentences are less likely to produce good machine translations than proofread and concise texts.

Secondly, machine-translation post-editing rates are also influenced by the type of service you want. Light post-editing is naturally cheaper than full post-editing, while post-editing plus revision will cost the most. Legal, medical and technical texts will also cost more as these require the involvement of specialised linguists who command higher rates, as well as a more in-depth review and editing process.

If you are considering the post-editing of machine translation for your next translation project, we would be very happy to talk you through the different options and give you advice based on the language and content of your text. Please feel very welcome to get in touch with us for a no-obligation chat, or use our online form to request a quote.