One step ahead of the machine with post-editing

The term post-editing is becoming increasingly common in the industry. However, working with the machine also has its pitfalls. Therefore, we’d like to show you some tips to make your work with Neural Machine Translation (NMT) easier.

People and machines.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

We would like to start by recommending that you be completely open to NMT. We understand that this topic is associated with many fears and prejudices. There were also sceptics here at Apostroph. However, you will benefit greatly from seeking extensive information on the topic, attending workshops and, above all, giving post-editing a try yourself

Some of us may remember going to school when maths and physics were pretty much the most unpopular subjects for many linguists. You label a subject as useless or too difficult and develop a strong dislike for it. Don’t let post-editing become your “most hated subject” but give the machine a chance. It could actually enrich your translation experience.


Two very different animals – light and full post-editing

Do you know what machine translation services the Apostroph Group offers? That should be clear to you before you deal with post-editing. Most of the time, light post-editing and full post-editing are requested. 

In light post-editing, only lexical and syntactic errors are corrected. Light post-editing is carried out if the translation is to provide the reader with a rough understanding and the text does not have to be perfected down to the last detail. This is also how it is communicated to the customer. This knowledge can help you complete the editing of the text at the right stage, without fearing that you will lend your name to a product that is “not good enough” in your eyes. 

When it comes to full post-editing, on the other hand, in addition to lexical and grammatical errors, you must also pay attention to the use of the right terminology, the correct style and the customer’s style guide. The finished translation must be flawless, as if no machine had been involved. Nevertheless, the fine art here involves holding back a bit and not simply imposing your own style on the text. Machine-translated sections which are good enough should be left that way – even if you could formulate it differently.

It is essential that you also pay attention to false fluency where both services are concerned: A sentence can be perfectly correct grammatically and read as though it were completely perfect. And yet it does not make any sense on closer inspection of the content or at least does not express what the source sentence says. But don’t worry, over time you will develop a good eye for it.


Your brain performs at the top cognitive level

Post-editing requires a lot of concentration, partly because of the false fluency described above. Therefore, you should schedule regular short breaks while working and, if possible, put the translation to one side for a short period of time. For example, you can use the Pomodoro Technique, where you spend 25 minutes translating and then take a 5-minute break before continuing to work on it. There are also suitable mobile phone apps for this purpose. You also shouldn’t forget about snacks during this process. When the brain performs at its best, it also wants to be fed.


Understanding processes helps to understand the machine

Keep reminding yourself that “only” a machine is behind NMT that learns using algorithms and huge amounts of data (millions of sentence pairs). It then applies these learning patterns individually to each sentence. There is currently still no commercially available neural machine translation software that translates on a document basis. According to experts, however, it is only a matter of time and money. The conclusion here is: knowing the processes behind machine translation will help you to better understand why the machine makes certain mistakes, and you will be able to identify them more quickly.

We hope that this post has shed some light on this issue and that we have been able to motivate you to try your luck at post-editing. You can also share your own experience with us. We would be delighted to receive your feedback via

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