Business Translation Center

Post-editing machine translation – where to begin

by OFER TIROSH 13/02/2019

Receiving substandard work when you’ve got a tight deadline to meet is never a good experience. Sadly, many business people find themselves in just that situation after relying on machine translation. If you’re one of them, don’t panic – help is at hand! 

Machine translation versus human translation

The attractions of machine translation from a business perspective are pretty clear but – it’s fast and it’s free. But have you ever heard that there’s no such thing as a free lunch? 

Machine translation has come a long way in recent years, as artificial intelligence, deep thinking concepts and neural networks work to master language in the same way that human brains are wired to do. However, technology hasn’t quite caught up with our human translation abilities just yet! As such, if you’ve relied on machine translation for a business document and are now faced with a file that is of less than brilliant quality, it’s time to turn to a human for help. 

Post-editing machine translation 

The first thing to do is find a translation agency that specialises in delivering high quality post-editing machine translation services. Essentially, this means giving a poor quality machine translation to a human translator along with the original file. The translator then reworks the copy to bring it up to standard. (You can read more here about the process and advantages of post-editing machine translation). 

As machine translation becomes more commonly used, increasing numbers of professional translators are offering post-editing machine translation services. Just be sure to check with the translation agency that you plan to use that this is one of the specialist services that they deliver. 


Another thing that a human translation agency can deliver is localization services. Machines aren’t yet able to localize copy to suit a particular audience’s cultural or religious sensitivities – they struggle enough with just converting the language in a document. As such, if you have a particular audience in mind for your translated documents, ask your translation agency to localize the copy as part of the post-editing machine translation process. 

Localization will help to shape your document to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently cause offence – or humour. When engaging readers in a different culture, these things are surprisingly easy to do, with even big-name brands coming unstuck by their inability to localize their marketing materials correctly. Pepsi’s ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ campaign is a prime example, having been delivered in China as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ – hardly a thought that encourages the purchase of a soft drink. 

Personal translations

Of course, it isn’t just business customers who require post-editing machine translation services. Many individuals turn to machine translation in the hope of saving money when translating their personal documents. Sadly, machine translation is just as capable of making a mess of everything from legal papers to government document translation as it is of producing poor quality business translations. 

In such situations, professional translation agencies can come to the rescue, just as they can for business clients, providing skilled post-editing machine translation services in order to turn the document in question into a high quality translation. 

Fixing machine translation mistakes

Whatever the subject of your documents, they can benefit from the skill and refinement that a human translator can provide. Whether you opt to use a freelance translator through an online marketplace site or a professional translation agency like Tomedes, be sure to grill them on their post-editing machine translation experience before you assign the job. Remember to check that they provide localization services too, to ensure that you receive the ultimate translation service!

Final thoughts

Have you had a disastrous machine translation experience? How quickly were you able to put it right? Share your experiences in the comment section below.