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Job changing from translator to MT post-editor
Thread poster: eccotraduttrice

eccotraduttrice
United States
Local time: 15:54
Italian to English
+ ...
Oct 8, 2018

I am an in-house translator at a large translation agency. I've enjoyed my job very much until now - I've always been treated very well and paid fairly. But now it seems the industry is switching over into MT, and my company is trying to keep up. I recently learned that my company plans to switch over completely to MT as much as possible, then run as many of these post-editing jobs in my language pair through me as much as possible, to ensure their quality. The idea is that my productivity will ... See more
I am an in-house translator at a large translation agency. I've enjoyed my job very much until now - I've always been treated very well and paid fairly. But now it seems the industry is switching over into MT, and my company is trying to keep up. I recently learned that my company plans to switch over completely to MT as much as possible, then run as many of these post-editing jobs in my language pair through me as much as possible, to ensure their quality. The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future. Here's the thing: I'm on my 4th MT post-editing job and, well...I hate it. It's not translation at all - it's correcting someone (something?) else's work. There's a reason I didn't go into proofreading or quality assurance. I like translating, the creative and research process of translating. The process of MT post-editing is something else altogether. Everything I loved about my job is basically gone.

Has anyone else gone through this, or going through this? I am the sole support for my family, and I am now worried that unless I want to be a proofreader for a machine, my job is about to be phased out, sooner or later. Where to go from here? Any words of wisdom? Advice? Light at the end of the tunnel?
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Mirko Mainardi
Tom in London
Christine Andersen
Michele Fauble
Jose Mota
thefastshow
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Jam tomorrow Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:

....The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future. ----


Ask them about the raise and tell them your concerns.


Jennifer Forbes
neilmac
eccotraduttrice
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:54
Member (2018)
French to English
Does it specify "translation" in your contract? Oct 9, 2018

What exactly does it say in your contract? In mine it was very clearly marked that I was a translator. While it did say that I could expect to do all sorts of work that wasn't translation, I was supposed to be doing more translation than anything else.

If the proofreading is really painful and time-consuming, it might turn out that it won't be as cheap as they thought. Keep track of the time you spend and keep a few copies of documents showing the extent of the corrections you had
... See more
What exactly does it say in your contract? In mine it was very clearly marked that I was a translator. While it did say that I could expect to do all sorts of work that wasn't translation, I was supposed to be doing more translation than anything else.

If the proofreading is really painful and time-consuming, it might turn out that it won't be as cheap as they thought. Keep track of the time you spend and keep a few copies of documents showing the extent of the corrections you had to implement (for example, using the Track Changes option in Word: very often clients will be horrified to see just how much is in red).

You don't say what kind of text you work on, but if it's marketing, it's pretty easy to show that MT just doesn't cut it. MT draws on stuff that's already out there, and marketing clients need their text to be uniquely hard-hitting and impactful.

Although I can't help thinking you'd probably be better off striking out on your own as a translator instead...
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Tom in London
Matthias Brombach
neilmac
Kenan Aydın
eccotraduttrice
 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 22:54
Member (2007)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Stay where you are ... Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:
Where to go from here? Any words of wisdom? Advice? Light at the end of the tunnel?

... for i.e. one more year and prepare to leave your company for a freelance career or something different: I suppose agencies like yours more and more try to force their own work force to perform post-editing jobs, just because the majority of experienced freelancers refuses to do those tasks or tries to avoid them by all costs. Their own staff cannot escape from it. As we all know, post editing isn´t simply a re-arranging of plain words ("terms"), but also a re-translating of the source in your mind, which unavoidably involves deeper thinking and knowledge of the subjects behind the source ("terms"). Perhaps one more year will give you more (painful...) experience with other subjects, which can be helpful for a future freelance or inhouse carreer. Good luck!


Tom in London
Jennifer Forbes
Katalin Szilárd
Christine Andersen
eccotraduttrice
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Indeed Oct 9, 2018

Kay Denney wrote:

.... I can't help thinking you'd probably be better off striking out on your own as a translator instead...


Indeed, because your employers seem to be having money problems, which they are desperately hoping to address by relying on MT (and on you) to generate more profit.

Their wholesale espousal of MT is surely a sign of crisis, and of a business that has taken a wrong turn.

However it takes a long time (years, not months) to get going as a freelancer. So you need to make plans.

[Edited at 2018-10-09 08:02 GMT]


Matthias Brombach
Jennifer Forbes
 

David GAY  Identity Verified
Dutch to French
+ ...
Disagree Oct 9, 2018

Tom in London wrote:

Indeed, because your employers seem to be having money problems, which they are desperately hoping to address by relying on MT (and on you) to generate more profit.



[Edited at 2018-10-09 08:02 GMT]


Their aim is to generate more profits. Greed is the main driver in the corporate world, especially in the US. I've had a look at the site of some LSPs and it's been quite a surprise to me to see that the first service they list is NMT.


Katalin Szilárd
Kay Denney
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
So, you lost your job Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:
I am an in-house translator at a large translation agency.
...I'm on my 4th MT post-editing job and, well...I hate it. Everything I loved about my job is basically gone.


So essentially you lost your job. Sorry to hear that. Does your contract allow you to do freelance work? This may be the start of your freelance career.


Tom in London
Rebecca Davis
John Fossey
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It IS a completrely different job Oct 9, 2018

As you say, proofreading, or as we are supposed to call it, revising and editing, is not the same as translating - and you decided not to do that.

Post editing MT is completely and utterly different. It depends on the language, but it usually means making a mess and trying to get something usable out of it, instead of starting with a usable text in one language and producing the best possible text in another, straight off. PEMT can NOT be compared with tidying up a first-draft tran
... See more
As you say, proofreading, or as we are supposed to call it, revising and editing, is not the same as translating - and you decided not to do that.

Post editing MT is completely and utterly different. It depends on the language, but it usually means making a mess and trying to get something usable out of it, instead of starting with a usable text in one language and producing the best possible text in another, straight off. PEMT can NOT be compared with tidying up a first-draft translation by a competent translator, whether it is your own work or someone else's.
My guess would be that MT will not improve your productivity, and the general quality of the results will plummet, so the expected pay rise will simply not be possible. Follow Kay Denney's excellent advice, whatever you do, until you find a solution.

My suggestion would be to get out and do something else. If you need a bread-and-butter job that is not translation-related, you will at least be able to see advantages in it, find some good colleagues, and feel you are doing something worthwhile. Believe me, I've spent years in jobs like that. It is far better than PEMT. The experience out in the 'real world' may be an advantage when you get back to translating, too.

Then go for the small translation agencies who specialise in a particular subject area or section of the market, rather than big ones who try to cover everything. The small agencies are good to their clients and usually good to their translators as well. By attracting the best and keeping them loyal, they can charge end clients for quality and tailoring, and they can often keep costs down - they need not do quite so much recruiting, and they can work from small offices outside big city centres. So they can pay reasonably and still be competitive.

I think (and sincerely hope) that kind of agency is going to be in business for a long time to come. Good luck!
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Olga Koepping
eccotraduttrice
 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:54
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
A good suggestion from Samuel Oct 9, 2018

I think Samuel's suggestion of taking on some freelance translation work before quitting your present - unsatisfactory - job is a good one.
Although your present job probably wouldn't allow you to do freelance work during working hours at the office, I can't see how your employers would know what you're doing at home during the evening and at weekends and I doubt they'd be entitled to prevent you - but perhaps it depends on what your employment contract says.
Either way, I suggest fi
... See more
I think Samuel's suggestion of taking on some freelance translation work before quitting your present - unsatisfactory - job is a good one.
Although your present job probably wouldn't allow you to do freelance work during working hours at the office, I can't see how your employers would know what you're doing at home during the evening and at weekends and I doubt they'd be entitled to prevent you - but perhaps it depends on what your employment contract says.
Either way, I suggest first explaining your unhappiness with the MT situation and, if that produces no improvement, quietly start looking for another job.
Best wishes, anyway.
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Rebecca Davis
John Fossey
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Small Oct 9, 2018

Christine Andersen wrote:

.....The small agencies are good to their clients and usually good to their translators as well. By attracting the best and keeping them loyal, they can charge end clients for quality and tailoring, and they can often keep costs down - they need not do quite so much recruiting, and they can work from small offices outside big city centres. So they can pay reasonably and still be competitive.



That's my experience too. I've worked with big agencies and small ones, and have found that the small ones are much better to work with.


neilmac
Katalin Szilárd
John Fossey
Viviane Marx
 

IanDhu  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:54
Member (2005)
French to English
Sounds like paying with promises Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:

The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future.


Hullo,

Some twenty years ago, a senior colleague spoke to me of his experience in post-editing, saying that it was deadening, and he, along with most of his colleagues, only stayed in the job two or perhaps three years at most: the career potential was limited. That was twenty years ago, and the human issue remains the same, while the prognostications today are, to all seeming, just as illusory.

I agree with our colleagues contributing here that, for your sheer sanity, you should think about branching out eventually. In the mean time, it might be an idea to negotiate with your employer a timetable for bonuses, with forthcoming quarterly targets - get that agency to put its money where its mouth is. Alongside this, it would be highly expedient for you to start canvassing your future clients, keeping this separate from your salaried work commitments. The web offers amazing potential, and building up a network of contacts by telephoning around among your acquaintances is a good idea too. Using the LinkedIn and Viadeo business-oriented social networks is a good idea, so as to get your name (or, prudentially, your pseudonym) and profile around. Avoid Facebook, which is currently having security problems.

If you find it tough going to reconcile the above-mentioned short-term and long-term goals, you could try working part-time with your present employer, so as to free more time to building up contacts and clients. Obviously, you will need to steer clear of your employer's own clients.

In any event, good hunting and never let the system grind you down!

With kind regards,

Adam Warren (ProZ.com: IanDhu, Translator 41189)


anamaria bulgariu
 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:54
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
So, you don't like a raise? Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:

The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future.


I simply didn't get the logic.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:54
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Really? Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:
Here's the thing: I'm on my 4th MT post-editing job and, well...I hate it. It's not translation at all - it's correcting someone (something?) else's work. There's a reason I didn't go into proofreading or quality assurance. I like translating, the creative and research process of translating. The process of MT post-editing is something else altogether. Everything I loved about my job is basically gone.

In what way does PEMT prevent you from being involved in "the creative and research process of translating"? I think you will still need to be creative and do a lot of research when you post-edit an MT piece.


 

Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:54
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
They didn't customize the MT system to improve accuracy Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:
I am an in-house translator at a large translation agency...
But now it seems the industry is switching over into MT, and my company is trying to keep up. I recently learned that my company plans to switch over completely to MT as much as possible, then run as many of these post-editing jobs in my language pair through me as much as possible, to ensure their quality. The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future.


I have participated in MT post-editing on many different systems and have watched each of the large translation agencies get involved in it. At the last one I worked at, they gave an MT program to a senior translator and asked the person to test it for a week. No training (and I wasn't allowed to help the person either). That colleague spent over half a week and didn't accomplish much. I spent 4 hours of train commuting time analyzing bilingual content, creating a customized dictionary, and at the end, I was able to sent all similar pages of content through the system with my custom dictionary and it got very high results. Consumer electronics, data sheets, so this was full of technical content. The key was training the system and then have trained users work with it.

One of the biggest mistakes that the large language service providers are doing is not training the MT system in the way on domain relevant content and terminology lists. This is the only way to be able to get the accuracy high enough. If the company is using a statistical MT system, but not overriding it with terminology training, then it will not be benefical for post-editing that is designed for published translations.

Sorry that the company is not approaching MT with the appropriate training and customization options to improve the quality. It can often be done, but they need people who know how to do this.

Measure your productivity and keep good records of it. I have done this for years. In my case, the productivity was so high that it was well worth the investment. I did however have significant experience with various MT systems and was able to customize them myself within 5-10 hours to then use the system to post-edit critical business documents for the clients in very short time frames.
In the end, the company needs to use an approach that is truly productive. If you have to redo the translation, then they are not doing the necessary system training upfront.

You can provide objective, measured logs and show the productivity. This might help them see that if they want to improve the post-editing speed, then they need to do the upfront customization work to improve the accuracy.


Christine Andersen wrote:

Post editing MT is completely and utterly different. It depends on the language, but it usually means making a mess and trying to get something usable out of it, instead of starting with a usable text in one language and producing the best possible text in another, straight off. PEMT can NOT be compared with tidying up a first-draft translation by a competent translator, whether it is your own work or someone else's.
My guess would be that MT will not improve your productivity, and the general quality of the results will plummet, so the expected pay rise will simply not be possible.


MT an improve productivity but not in the way that the translation company is doing it. The system is main factor, and then the language is the second one. Well-trained and customized MT systems with optimized dictionaries based on domain-specific and customer-specific terminology are a key to successfully using this approach. The statistical MT approach for several years was supposed to help but in most cases the out of the box systems did not include terminology and dictionary customization, so it lowered the quality.

The new Neural MT approach is improving the fluidity of the target language output, but that also leads to not checking the text closely enough. But a translation company is not investing in the infrastucture and the competent computational linguists to create a custom neural MT system. This takes a couple of years to do with much customer content available to train on.

IanDhu wrote:
Some twenty years ago, a senior colleague spoke to me of his experience in post-editing, saying that it was deadening, and he, along with most of his colleagues, only stayed in the job two or perhaps three years at most: the career potential was limited.


Of the systems available 20 years ago, there were only a few very customized ones that were highly productive because of all the development work. And even back then, there were few people who had the expertise as expert end-users to know how to quickly creating very optimized dictionaries. I created a few dictionaries (automobile, telecom, heavy-machinery, IT, and other domains).

If an MT system cannot be customized, I usually refuse to work with it.


Jorge Payan
 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:54
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
My 2 cents Oct 9, 2018

eccotraduttrice wrote:

I am an in-house translator at a large translation agency. I've enjoyed my job very much until now - I've always been treated very well and paid fairly. But now it seems the industry is switching over into MT, and my company is trying to keep up. I recently learned that my company plans to switch over completely to MT as much as possible, then run as many of these post-editing jobs in my language pair through me as much as possible, to ensure their quality. The idea is that my productivity will be increased so much that they will be able to give me quite a substantial raise in the near future. Here's the thing: I'm on my 4th MT post-editing job and, well...I hate it. It's not translation at all - it's correcting someone (something?) else's work. There's a reason I didn't go into proofreading or quality assurance. I like translating, the creative and research process of translating. The process of MT post-editing is something else altogether. Everything I loved about my job is basically gone.

Has anyone else gone through this, or going through this? I am the sole support for my family, and I am now worried that unless I want to be a proofreader for a machine, my job is about to be phased out, sooner or later. Where to go from here? Any words of wisdom? Advice? Light at the end of the tunnel?


I don't think PEMT and translation are mutually exclusive processes. They have a lot in common. They should not be considered as totally incompatible with each other.

I look at the issue in a neutral way, although I don't take PEMT jobs myself.


 
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