Agencies use a free online language translator to translate texts and then ask a human translator to proofread them. According to discussions in the online German translator forums, this is becoming increasingly common.
And to say “proofread” is being generous – it’s often a case of “retranslate”.
Why use machine translation? Simple. To save money.
The idea: Use a free online language translator to get the German source text roughly translated into English.
Then get the result proofread and corrected by a real, human translator because generally the rate for proofreading is around 1/3 of the rate for translation.
Generally, using a free online language translator as a first step is a false economy.
Now, I certainly don’t believe all clients have ulterior motives when first turning to machine translation. Usually they misunderstand the skills involved in translation and the need for cultural knowledge to judge context.
Worst case scenario: you’ve agreed a word rate or line rate but when the translation arrives it's so bad that you effectively have to retranslate the entire text.
It takes longer than you'd planned and you’ve effectively given the client a 66% price discount off your standard translation rate. Are they worth this?
Maybe you’ll lose the job, but somehow low paying agencies are often also the ones who are unwilling to negotiate and unreliable when it comes to payments - so it’s probably worth avoiding them in the first place.
It’s up to us, as translation professionals, to help educate clients and would-be clients about the value of human translation.
Start with clients who present you with a machine translated text, with their eye firmly on profits before quality. Be firm and stick to your terms.
Unfortunately there will always be translators who get caught out. Try not to be one of them.
As free online language translators become increasingly popular I believe there is an increasingly feeling amongst the general population that translation is something that can be automated. This ignores the intellectual and creative aspect of translation entirely.
The software behind any free online language translator will of course continue to improve. In our global world, being able to understand each other quickly and correctly is increasingly important.
Billions are being invested into automating communication processes – translation, transcription, speech recognition etc., to enable companies to tap into the global marketplace more effectively.
But we’re not there yet.
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