Free Machine Translation + Human Input = A Good Idea?
Some translation agencies may use machine translation, and then ask a human translator to proofread the translated text.
And to say “proofread” is being generous – it’s often a case of “retranslate”.
According to discussions in the online German translator forums, this practice is becoming increasingly common.
So why is free machine translation becoming more popular?
To save time and money.
The approach is to use free machine translation to get the German source text roughly translated into English.
Then to 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.
However, often using free machine translation as a first step is a false economy.
Now, I certainly don’t believe all clients have ulterior motives when first turning to free machine translation.
Usually they misunderstand the skills involved in translation and the need for cultural background in order to judge context and appropriate language use.
It is true to say that huge strides have been made in the accuracy of machine translation in just the last few years, and there is certainly an important and growing role for machine translation in more automated environments.
But as the Germans say, "Knapp daneben ist auch vorbei", i.e. almost right is still wrong, and a substandard translation presented to clients and partners in today's global marketplace can create a negative impression of its publisher.
Instead, building a solid working relationship with a reputable local translation agency or translator will pay dividends in terms of output you can be confident in.
Worst case scenario: you’ve agreed a word rate or line rate, but when the translation you've been asked to proofread 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.
A polite and professional approach, and doing a good job, means both client and translator benefit.
As free machine translation becomes
increasingly popular, there is a growing belief that translation is something that can be completely automated.
The software behind any machine translator will, of course, continue to improve, and billions are being invested into automating communication processes – translation, transcription, speech recognition etc., to enable companies to tap into the global marketplace more effectively.
Machine translation is a megatrend, and its future role the topic of much debate and discussion. The new possibilities it opens up are often seen as a direct threat to human translators.
However, just as computers have created entirely new industries and job opportunities whilst eradicating others, I think machine translation will probably do the same.
Globalisation places a greater focus on translation.
Machine translation will be applied in fields suited to automation, whilst qualified and specialised human translators will always be able to make a good living translating texts requiring more cultural and linguistic sensitivity.
So don't worry about the impact of free machine translation. The future is bright for professional human translators!
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