Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in 2019 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.

With the development of machine translation, an increasing number of translation companies are providing translation and localization services by post-editing (PE), making the best use of machine translation.

Post-editing has lower quality compared to translations done by human from scratch. However, it is very useful in projects where reducing cost is prioritized over quality. It can achieve significant efficiency and cost reduction compared to human translation. In fact, in some cases it has led to save cost up to 60% or more.

In this blog, we will talk about post-editing services that can achieve a significant improvement in translation efficiency. Also, we won't forget about post-editors who actually work on these projects!

What is post-editing?

Machine translation is speed and cost oriented. In cases where the quality of machine translation alone is not enough, post-editing comes in. Post-editing is a service that applies human edits afterward to adjust the translation so that it is closer to the quality that the customer wants. Post-editing can reduce translation costs and shorten the turnaround time by making the best use of machine translation output. Now that the accuracy of machine translation has improved, it is attracting attention as an alternative to human translation.

As a prerequisite, an output of machine translation is required. For human translation, a linguist would create translations by referring to past translations (if there are any). In the case of post-editing, the output from a machine translation engine is used for all translations.

The target quality of post-editing should be decided after discussing it with the customer. At Kawamura International, we provide a post-editing sample for free of charge using an excerpt from the customer's potential project. The free sample is limited to the amount that can be post-edited in a couple of hours. We make sure that our customers understand and agree with the post-editing quality before they place an order.

How do you post-edit?

We already explained that post-editing can reduce translation costs and shorten the turnaround time. Now let's talk about the linguists who do the work, who are called post-editors.

So how does a post-editor actually work? We have summarized it below.

  1. Judge the output of machine translation
    A post-editor instantly judges the output of machine translation and decides how much of it can be used. The basic idea of post-editing is to utilize machine translation. From this viewpoint, a post-editor decides which parts to keep and where to edit.
  2. Edit the machine translation output
    After judging the output, a post-editor then edits it. While utilizing the machine translation output that is already there (usually in a CAT tool editor), a post-editor will make adjustments so that the translation meets the target quality requested by the customer. Details of the edit vary depending on the editing distance from the machine translation output, workload, and required quality. They can range from reconstructing the sentences to just touch-ups.
  3. Check additional requirements
    In addition, there might be other requirements as with human translation depending on the project. For example, having to follow the provided materials such as style guides and glossaries. Also, if the project utilizes a translation memory, some segments might partially match phrases included in the translation memory (so called "fuzzy matches"). For these segments, a post-editor will use and edit the phrases from the translation memory instead of the machine translation output. If requested, other quality control processes may be added on to the project.

Who are these post-editors?

Post-editors are professional linguists who take on the post-editing work. These post-editors are high in demand with the recent increase in machine translation and post-editing projects.

However, the current situation is that there is still a shortage of post-editors in the industry as a whole.

Currently, in many cases, translators and reviewers turn into post-editors. On the other hand, the industry has begun to take measures against the increasing demand, such as training young people as professional post-editors.

Kawamura is actively involved in the formulation of the international standard for post-editing (ISO 18587). The goal is to support everyone so that they can agree on quality standards and set the processes, methods, and requirements for post-editing. We hope to achieve this by clarifying the differences between human translation.

What are the skills required for post-editors?

With the advent of neural machine translation, the quality of machine translation has never been higher. However, the quality of machine translation is greatly affected by the engine and field and nature of the source text. Therefore, the quality of the machine translation output is not consistent.

Moreover, customers who request post-editing projects all have different quality requirements. Some would specify, "We're satisfied if it's readable in Japanese. Don't spend so much time on editing. We just want to know what's written in the document." Some others might say, "We want consistency in the terminology. Please take time editing."

In this way, post-editors need to adapt translations with inconsistent quality to the given quality requirements. Post-editing requires the same skills as translators and reviewers in human translation. But overall, it requires a unique skill especially for post-editors, adaptability.

Neither a lack of editing nor an overly high quality translation regardless of the machine translation output are good post-editing. It is important to balance the quality while ensuring productivity by editing just enough. Judge what is enough and adapt to it. Currently, the quality standards and requirements for post-editing vary by project and are quite fluid. Because of this, post-editing requires the ability to flexibly incorporate instructions and quality requirements into the working method more than in conventional translation work.

Kawamura's services

Although post-editing is not suitable for all contents and documents, the demand for the service is steadily increasing in localization and for marketing translation and multimedia translation. With the evolution and development of machine translation engines, the skills required of post-editors are gradually changing as well. We definitely have to keep an eye on the trends in machine translation and post-editing.

Kawamura has been taking on post-editing projects from early days. Our post-editing service is backed by the knowledge gained from numerous projects and our experienced post-editors. We have professional post-editors who we can rely on for delivering accurate Japanese translation. Not only that, we can secure native-speaking post-editors for other Asian languages and even European languages. We get more and more requests for post-editing services every year, not limited to just English and Japanese.

Even if it's your first time considering post-editing services, do not hesitate to contact us. We're happy to go through the details. Get in touch with us from our contact page.