What is MTPE?
The translation industry is evolving rapidly. Advances in software and AI-assisted technology have spread around the globe; as of last year, the machine translation market topped $1.1 billion worldwide and is due to triple by 2027.
Almost 40% of marketers now use machine translation in their localization efforts. While that strategy brings undeniable benefits, its drawbacks can be just as significant. Fast work only matters when it does not come at the expense of accuracy.
Enter Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE), a process that seeks to retain the benefits of machine translation while adding the human element back into the equation. This guide will explore the nuances of MTPE while sharing some best practices to maximize its advantages in your translation and localization strategy.
Just the Facts: What is MTPE in Translation?
Short for Machine Translation Post-Editing, MTPE describes a process in which a machine-translated text undergoes a systematic review by a human editor before publication. In other words, it represents a hybrid approach in which the software does the heavy lifting before a professional translator puts on the finishing touches.
The process itself is direct:
- A source text feeds into the translation software.
- The translation software does its work to output the text in the target language.
- A professional translator reviews the target text and performs edits as needed.
The result is a compromise between the speed of machine translation, especially with multilingual translations at scale, and the accuracy and nuance of human translators.
The Benefits of MTPE in Translation Practice
As a natural compromise between two extremes, the best way to discuss MTPE is specifically based on how it compares to human and machine translation.
Compared to human translation, MTPE can save significant time. Most professional standards expect a human translator to finish about 1,500 to 2,000 words daily. Multilingual editing, on the other hand, can reach up to 8,000 words a day. The advantage of saving time and money, thanks to increased cost-efficiencies and the ability to work through more text, is hard to ignore.
Compared to machine translation, MTPE increases the quality of your content through better quality assurance. The human input can correct awkward phrases or non-standard words that a machine might miss. For example, only some software can translate the northern German moin, a casual way of saying hello among acquaintances.
Drawbacks of MTPE for Multilingual Translators
While MTPE brings undeniable advantages to most translation practices, it also has potential drawbacks that are important to recognize.
Machine translation outputs, even when edited by humans, still have a relatively mechanical structure. Audiences that engage with the content might not find errors but will likely fail to see anything unique about it. Especially if the multilingual content to be translated needs to distinguish itself, such as content in a strong brand voice, the human translation still carries undeniable advantages.
Consider the process of translating your website’s About Us page. If the page is straightforward in listing your company’s history and mission, MTPE translation will be more than sufficient. Human translation will always win if your goal is to get your brand voice across. Imagine the German version of HubSpot’s Our Story page with the human touch woven throughout.
In addition, MTPE depends heavily on the quality of the source document. While human translators can improve on that source, MTPE treats it as the indisputable baseline on which all translations will be based. In other words, the quality of the source will also transfer to the translated document.
How MTPE is Used in Modern Translation
Given these advantages and drawbacks, MTPE has found a few particular uses in the translation industry:
- Straightforward text, like technical writing, can benefit from machine assistance’s advantages.
- Content for smaller audiences, like internal company communications, may be fine with the extensive work of 100% human translation.
- General content that does not include much jargon or specialized language is better suited for MTPE than highly specialized language.
- Content with universal applicability across cultures works better for this technique than content that needs to adjust to cultural nuances.
- Content consistent in its terminology and style, like an annual report, can benefit from the consistency of an MTPE process.
Of course, these are just some examples that could benefit from this hybrid approach to translation. Ultimately, MTPE is preferable to machine translation almost by default as long as resources are available. But it only trumps fully human translation in cases where the content is independent of cultural references, jargon, or a creative touch that distinguishes the brand and business.
5 Best Practices to Succeed with MTPE Approaches
Of course, as with any best practice, MTPE only works well when approached correctly. That means not just finding the right software but putting a roadmap in place that ensures every piece of content moving through the process will result in equally successful output. These five best practices can help your business succeed with an MTPE approach.
1. Ensure Source Accuracy
The quality of your source document is the single most significant variable in determining the quality of an MTPE translation. It should be free of any grammatical errors, and all sentences should make sense both in isolation and in the larger context. Many organizations using MTPE put an editing step before the translation to minimize any errors in the process.
2. Create Clear Guidelines
Even the best human editor is only as good as the directions given in which they are working. Tell them about variables like your target audience (especially geographically), your brand voice, and how formal the text should be. Even variables like the preferred length of individual sentences or paragraphs can help the editor ensure your desired output.
3. Define the Editing Scope
MTPE is a broad term that can encompass anything from proofreading (only designed to catch grammatical errors) to heavy edits that change the tone and sentence structure of the translation. Your editor will need to know where on this range they fall to provide a translation that meets your (and your audience’s) needs.
4. Periodically Evaluate MTPE Outputs
MTPE has immense potential advantages, but those advantages are limited to the type of content you need to translate. Additionally, quality varies based on the software used and the editor you are working with. A periodic evaluation of the quality of your translations can ensure that it remains the best process for managing your translations.
Optimize Your Localization Efforts with Vistatec
Translating and localizing your content is a significant undertaking that benefits from a reliable partner by your side. Depending on the source, you will find plenty of arguments for and against MTPE, often depending on whether or not that source offers these services.
At Vistatec, we can help with your translation and localization needs. We offer machine translation, MTPE, and human translation options, ensuring you can always find the best choice for your business and localization needs. Contact us to start the conversation and learn more about our services.