Is Editing Machine Translations really cheaper?

Is Editing Machine Translations really cheaper?

How many times have we been asked to edit machine-made translations since we started our business? Simply too many to count! I have a feeling certain customers are still trying to save a buck thinking a translator needs less time to edit a machine-made translation than to translate a text from scratch. Although I can understand how this belief could initially make sense, I quickly realized it didn’t. I just had a feeling it was taking more time – and therefore more money – to fix machine-made translations than to translate directly from the source language, which is why I conducted the following experiment. I wanted to prove once and for all that it’s actually less costly to translate an original document than to edit the words of a machine. I’m certain any professional translator will agree with the outcome of the results I am about to reveal.

Source language: Italian (taken from Wikipedia with no real equivalent for this specific section in English)
“Una mongolfiera è costituita da un ampio pallone realizzato in tessuto monostrato (nylon). Il pallone ha un foro in basso, chiamato gola. Al pallone è vincolato un cesto, detto anche gondola, nel quale trovano posto il pilota ed i passeggeri. Montato sul cesto subito sotto la gola si trova il bruciatore, cui è lasciato il compito di riscaldare l’aria e di spingerla nel pallone stesso. L’aria riscaldata che si raccoglie nel pallone lo rende più leggero dell’aria circostante e determina la spinta ascensionale del pallone e del cesto ad esso vincolato. Le mongolfiere sono in grado di raggiungere quote altissime (in alcuni casi, palloni ad aria calda per uso scientifico sono giunti oltre i 20.000 m di quota, ben al di sopra dei normali aeroplani).”
Automated translating system 
Target language: English
“A balloon is formed by a large ball made of fabric monolayer (nylon). The balloon has a hole in the bottom, called the throat. To the flask is bound a basket, also called gondola, in which there are the pilot and passengers. Mounted on the drum immediately below the throat is located the burner, which is left with the task of heating the air and to push it in the same ball. The heated air that collects in the flask makes it lighter than air surrounding and determines the buoyancy of the ball and the basket bound by it. The balloons are able to reach very high (in some cases, hot air balloons for scientific use are joints over the 20,000 m altitude, well above the normal airplanes).”

Editing without looking at the source document:

“A hot air balloon consists of a large balloon that is made with a single layer of fabric (nylon). The balloon has an opening called the neck. The balloon is attached to a basket, called the gondola, for the pilot and its passengers. The burner is mounted on a drum right below the neck of the balloon. It heats the air and blows it into the balloon. The heated air sent to the balloon is lighter than the surrounding air. It determines the buoyancy of the balloon and of the basket to it attached. Balloons can rise very far up into the sky (in some cases, hot air balloons used for scientific purposes ran rise beyond 20.000 meters above the ground, much higher than normal airplanes).”

Time needed (including research): 20 minutes.
Time needed when consulting the source document: 30 minutes.


Translating directly from Italian into English (with the help of standard translation tools):riginale:

“A hot air balloon consists of a large balloon made with a single layer of fabric (nylon). The balloon has an opening, called the neck, at the bottom. A basket, also called a gondola, is attached to the balloon for the pilot and passengers.  A burner is mounted onto the basket and directly under the neck. It heats the air and propels it into the balloon. The heated air that rises into the balloon makes the entire structure lighter than the surrounding air, therefore determining the buoyancy of the balloon and its basket. Hot air balloons can reach very high altitudes (in some cases, hot air balloons developed for scientific purposes went beyond an altitude of 20.000 meters, much higher than normal airplanes).”

Time needed: less than 10 minutes.

robot_vs_human_pcAn editing job is paid by the hour; translations are paid by the folder, word or sentence. If we were talking about an entire page, what do you think would be more costly considering it took 20 minutes to edit one small paragraph (without comparing it to the source document), 30 minutes including the comparison and 10 minutes to translate it from scratch? It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Translators not only prefer to provide reliability and quality in their own words, but they work hard to make sure the text flows without having to invent or deviate from the original one. Editing machine-made translations does not always guarantee this since it takes more concentration to try and figure out how to make sense of their broken-down language format. So why pay more when you can achieve better results for less?