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Junk Translations

On our previous article we pondered about the main drivers in the translation industry (cost, time and quality) and how, as if it were affected by the force of some natural balance, one most always prevail over the other two.

Translation services buyers today are usually like the March Hare in one of Lewis Carroll’s stories:

Always in a hurry, and always running late.

In my experience, the average client values speed over quality and cost above all almost every time, so speed and cost usually lead the process, switching their place in the spotlight from time to time .

But, as we have emphasized before, you can’t have all three drivers at full capacity.

Quality takes time, and “time is money.” Quality assurance requires several steps to be conducted by different linguists in an organized workflow. We have  to make sure any possible human mistake has been eradicated and the document polished into a perfected localized text. This it time consuming, and it won’t be done for free.

Therefore, in these mad times of insane and futile urgency, quality tends to be the one left out.

Today’s average clients aren’t looking for any substance or delicate craft. Their palates are far from refined. They want their fast-food translation burgers hot and with fries on the side in 5 minutes or less. There is no nutritional value and no time to waste. And, of course, they have their discount coupons at the ready to make the experience more affordable.

So, if this is what’s on high demand these days, what are the tools at our disposal when we need to meet unreal deadlines down the vertiginous madness of the rabbit hole?

How can we manage to offer something that can meet their needy expectations halfway without lowering our standards?

Well employed post-editing, for one, could be the key to our success in this endeavor.

I know I usually dread the rise of sentient technology and the ways in which machine translation (MT) through artificial intelligence seems to loom in the horizon as a dangerous and ominous threat of what might be yet to come.

But here I see a possibility to work together, man and machine, to offer our clients the best of both worlds.

If we stick with the fast food metaphor, I’d have to say that well employed post-editing would be like crispy fries soaked in a cool strawberry milkshake. Yes, completely off-menu, bizarrely delicious, and not very nutritious, but that singular taste and the odd combination of it all just makes your mouth water up into a gooey pond.

Think about it: It’s cold and it’s warm. Salty and sweet. Soft and crunchy, all at the same time. A combination that quenches the very thirst it awakens so deeply.

Well employed post-editing (and I can’t stress this enough, since poorly done post-editing can most surely end up as sadly as a of cold box of soggy old fries) has the best to offer between the speed that MT brings to the equation, with the addition of the human factor being able to decode and correct the complex parameters that the computer couldn’t fully understand in the first place.

Of course, for this to work, there are several variables ranging from diverse language pairs to MT engines and well fed translation memories to make the process run more smoothly.

So, next time you are looking at the flashy billboard menu in a hurry, why not think off-menu and ask for something bolder? You might just be deliciously surprised.