Sarah Marshall

Translation from Spanish and Catalan into English

Proofreading and Editing of English Texts


Post-Editing Machine Translations

Where the Skill and Knowledge of the Translator Come Into Play

If you need translation for your website, business or personal communication, do you use a translator or rely on machine translation and your own knowledge of the target language?

Machine translation is very useful: professional translators use this technology every day to help search for words and phrases or translate passages as a substitute for expensive translation tools. However, the number of misnomers and the frequency of strange word order demand careful revision and sometimes a complete rewriting to achieve a comprehensible, grammatically correct and meaningful piece of translation.

Author of Is That A Fish In Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything, 2011, David Bellos states, "Translation is what you get, but translation isn't really what Google does. It's like the difference between engineering and knowledge. An engineering solution is to make something work, but the way you make it work doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the underlying things. Airplanes do not work the way birds fly."
(Taken from the article

On a music theory translation, I used machine translations for some of the work. As a result, I took half the time to edit than I would have done with word for word translation. Nonetheless, the initial glossary required careful investigation for correct translation and subsequent uses of the music terminology had to be crosschecked or researched even further once the context was fully grasped. This is something that a machine translation cannot do and why translation or post-editing is so vital to create a cohesive text which conveys the meaning of the original piece. Translators now give a faster service, which benefits you, with excellent quality results, which enhances your image. They have knowledge and skills which cannot be surpassed nor even matched by a machine translation. 

I recently watched Desk Set, the 1957 film with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, where a ‘computing machine’ is introduced into the office inculcating fear of redundancy into the researchers who worked there. It could be efficient on tasks that would take them weeks but lateral thinking defeated the machine completely. The same applies to translation: technology and humans working together provides the best service.

Post-editing by a professional translator is the most effective way to rectify grammatical errors, incorrect terminology, vocabulary blunders and spelling mistakes that can be produced by machine translation. Translators take the text as a whole, gauge the context, study the topic, research possible connotations or variations in meaning and build a coherent syntax and structure. Translators are far from redundant: use them to your advantage.


Return to main Articles page