Machine Translation: Light vs. Standard & Full MT Post-Editing

Published on October 6th, 2023

Machine translation can help language experts deliver content faster, but the technology has its flaws. To achieve the right level of quality, professional translators perform something called post-editing, a process which reviews and edits the output of machine translation.

Depending on the nature of your project and the complexity of your source material, some content may require more MT post-editing than others. So let’s explore the differences between light, standard and full machine translation post-editing – and which one is right for your next project.

What is MT post-editing?

Machine translation post-editing (MTPE) is the review and editing process of machine-translated content, performed by human translators to meet the quality requirements of any given project.

Some projects require a stricter post-editing process than others. Language agencies can tailor machine translation post-editing to the specific needs of your project, but we provide categories as a starting point:

  1. Light PE
  2. Standard PE
  3. Full (or Heavy) PE

Essentially, Light PE prioritises speed while Full PE prioritises quality and Standard PE strikes a balance between the two. As a result, choosing the right type of MTPE depends on the goals of your project and how much of a compromise you’re willing to make with speed vs. quality.

Which type of MT post-editing do you need?

Now, let’s see if we can help you decide which version of post-editing is best for your next language project.

Light post-editing

The goal with light post-editing is usually to make as few edits as possible for the required quality. It mostly fixes typos, spelling mistakes and grammar issues, but translators will also quickly rewrite anything that doesn’t make sense.

Translators will only refer to the source material if they really need to. Where possible, they will simply edit the machine-translated content, as quickly as possible, to ensure it is error-free and makes sense.

Projects that often require light post-editing include:

  • Real-time translation projects – e.g. sports commentary or live subtitles.
  • News reporting – when getting news out as quickly as possible is the priority.
  • Literal translations – e.g. product specifications (depends on the product; we don’t usually recommend light MTPE for FMCG or retail products sold online).

If light post-editing can deliver the quality you need for your projects, it is also the most cost-effective version of post-editing.

Standard post-editing

Standard PE is the most customisable version of machine translation post-editing. This is designed for projects that need to strike a balance between speed and quality. In this case, a language agency should clearly establish your goals, resources, budget, etc. and implement an editing process that makes your project workable.

We usually apply standard post-editing to:

  • Projects with short deadlines – e.g. weekly video subtitles where translators need the final edit before they can get started.
  • News reporting projects – when you have to strike a balance between speed, accuracy and editorial guidelines.
  • Statements, public announcements, etc. as agreed with our clients – often for relatively simple translations where accuracy is still important.
  • Social media publishing projects – when you need to post/respond quickly but you want to check your wording before you hit the publish button.

If your project falls anywhere between needing light and full machine translation post-editing, we recommend developing a standard post-editing process that meets your objectives.

Full post-editing

Finally, we’ve got full post-editing, which prioritises quality above everything else. We are not necessarily only talking about translation quality either. Many projects involve strict editorial requirements concerning style, tone, terminology and other important aspects. In such instances, full post-editing also implements these editorial requirements to ensure that you are getting the best translation quality in content that meets your brief.

Projects that often require full post-editing include:

  • Technical translations – e.g. financial reports etc.
  • FMCG translations – e.g. product descriptions etc.
  • News/blog publishing – translating written articles into other languages (depending on the nature of the content).
  • Actionable content – e.g. web content, e-mail copy, CTAs etc.
  • Important visual content – e.g. infographics, graphs, reports, etc. with minimal text but where you still need 100% accuracy.

Full post-editing is the most time-consuming and expensive form of post-editing but it is often the preferred option when quality is our clients’ priority.

Combine the quality of professional translators with the speed of MT

The goal with MTPE is to achieve the quality of professional translation, combined with the speed of machine translation. Some translation projects prioritise speed more than others and this is why we have to take multiple approaches with MT post-editing.

If you’re still unsure which version of MT post-editing you need for your next project and need advice, get in touch with our MT specialists today, by filling out the form on our contact page.

Posted on: October 6th, 2023