What is MTPE - Machine Translation Post-Editing?


All businesses entering the global expansion stage have to take language differences and cultural gaps into account in their strategies. They have to translate and localize a wide range of content to the languages of the target country so that their foreign customers and clients can understand their messages and their value proposition. The translation must align with the culture of its intended market to achieve the highest communication effectiveness. It is a much more complicated process than people think, and we need good practices to achieve the best translation results.

Human translators have been used for so many years to adapt a business’s writings to other languages, but in recent years, a new trend is increasingly growing in popularity. MTPE – Machine Translation Post-Editing is now being adopted by so many translation agencies. It is slowly changing the translation industry and creating a more connected world. MTPE is loved and hated by many, but we can’t deny its impact.

machine translation vs MTPE machine translation post-editing

1. What is MTPE - Machine Translation Post-Editing?

Linguists and developers have found a way to combine the good sides of Machine Translation and Human Translation. They combine the lightning-speed of Machine Translation with the humanity of Human Translation and create Machine Translation Post-Editing, also known as MTPE.

Machine Translation Post-Editing is when Machine Translation and Human Translation meets. It enables faster translation while making no compromise to the overall quality by adding an extra touch of human intelligence and emotion. Simply put, MTPE is the process of putting the document through a Machine Translation platform, then have a translator edit it to improve quality to an acceptable level.

2. The MTPE Process

A Machine Translation Post-Editing happens in the following process:

  1. The Language Service Provider (LSP) receives the document in the source language.
  2. The LSP runs the document through a Machine Translation system. Many large translation agencies have their own technology that they developed over the years. The more translation projects an agency successfully delivers, the more linguistic resource they have to train their Machine Translation technology.
  3. The LSP now has a poorly translated file filled with errors and word misuses.
  4. The LSP assigns that machine-translated file to a human translator with relevant expertise
  5. The human translator will scan through that machine translated to edit it. They will keep the parts that are good enough and make changes and edits where necessary.
  6. The human translator submits the final file for delivery. The client receives a translation completed in a shorter period of time for the same quality. 

3. Pros and Cons of MTPE

MTPE machine translation post-editing pTranslate

Pros of Machine Translation Post-Editing

  • Faster than full Human Translation
  • Lower cost than full Human Translation
  • Higher quality than full Machine Translation
  • Affordable price for many clients
  • Convenient for both the agency and the client
  • Higher clarity
  • Improved flow
  • Greater cultural sensitivity

Cons of Machine Translation Post-Editing:

  • Slower than full Machine Translation
  • Potentially lower quality than full Human Translation
  • Sometimes the machine-translated text is too bad and meaningless that the translator can not understand what the text even means, at all. This leads to potential misunderstanding on the translator’s side, yet it was totally not their fault. 
  • The word order and expressions of the translated document can be a little bit weird and unnatural because, after all, it is still Machine Translation. 
  • The translation quality is acceptable at first glance, but a lot of linguistic nuances can be lost in the process. If you aim to retain these nuances, MTPE might not help you.
  • Inefficient for too complex documents. If the amount of editing the translator has to perform for these documents is too much, they are better off translating everything from scratch. The quality the client receives in these cases is only acceptable, not excellent.
  • Inefficient for literary writings. Only human translators can translate literary writings, and it is going to be a very long time before machines can start translating literary writings.
  • Inefficient for rare languages. There are currently not enough linguistic resources to train the machines to translate these rare languages. The translator is better off translating everything from scratch than editing a too-poorly-translate document.
  • Many translators don’t want to do MTPE because, from the translator’s side, it is much harder to re-translate a poorly translated text than translating everything from scratch. Professional, trained, experienced translators usually prefer full human translation requests.

Our Insights

MTPE machine translation post-editing service

MTPE vs Human Translation vs Machine Translation

4. When should you use MTPE - Machine Translaton Post-Editing?

You should use MTPE (Machine Translation Post-Editing) when:

  • You need fast translation and decent quality while wanting to be cost-effective
  • You expect lower translation quality. MTPE quality is not as low as full Machine Translation, but it is hardly going to be as good as from-scratch translation
  • You need to translate large volumes of simple content in a short period of time
  • Your content doesn’t have too high visibility i.e. it is personal and internal
  • Your content doesn’t affect the well-being of many people (i.e. legal, medical, engineering documents). If you want to translate those critical documents, we recommend that you choose Human Translation instead
  • You only want to understand the gist of the content. You only want it to be comprehensible with no typos and grammatical mistakes
  • Machine Translation is too low-quality for you, while Human Translation is too high-quality for your needs
  • You have a medium budget to spend on translation

Considering all of the factors mentioned above, we recommend that you only choose Machine Translation Post-Editing when you expect an acceptable, not excellent, quality of translation. In short, MTPE is in the middle on the quality spectrum, with Machine Translation on the lower end and Human Translation on the higher end. If you want to translate high volumes of documents in a short period of time while sacrificing a little bit to the overall quality, MTPE is the way to go.

We want to educate our clients on the risks and benefits involved when choosing each of these options. They have their pros and cons. You need to evaluate carefully your needs and wants before picking the types of services you want.

Want to have your documents professionally translated?

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5. Does pTranslate offer MTPE services?

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pTranslate offers MTPE, but we don’t include it in our official packages.

pTranslate offers 100% human translation for all of our projects, but we are ready to deliver MTPE service when our clients request it. We usually deliver MTPE services to clients who want to urgently translate up to 50,000 or 100,000 words, or clients who only want to translate non-specialized documents with low importance and low visibility. In these cases, MTPE is the perfect answer. In other cases, we advise our clients to take the slower but better route of Human Translation. The result is worth the investment. 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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pTranslate is a translation and localization agency for businesses and individuals. We offer world-class language services at a competitive price and exceptional quality. Our goal is to eliminate the language barriers and connect the world.

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