The Impact of Neural Machine Translation on Machine Translation Post-Editing

In the realm of language and communication, machine translation has been a longstanding pursuit of both researchers and businesses. For decades, it has promised to bridge language barriers and unlock new opportunities for global collaboration. However, the quality of machine translation has often fallen short of human standards, leading to the practice of post-editing—where human linguists review and improve machine-generated translations. With the advent of neural machine translation (NMT), the landscape of machine translation has experienced a paradigm shift. NMT systems have not only improved the quality of translations but have also had a profound impact on the post-editing process. In this blog, we will explore the impact of NMT on machine translation post-editing, discussing the evolving role of human linguists, the challenges they face, and the future of this essential linguistic task.

Understanding Neural Machine Translation

Before we delve into the impact of post-editing, it is crucial to understand what neural machine translation is and why it’s a game-changer in the world of automated language translation.

Traditional machine translation systems, such as rule-based and statistical systems, relied on predefined rules and large corpora of parallel text data. These systems struggled to capture the nuances of language, leading to often awkward and incorrect translations.

NMT, on the other hand, leverages neural networks and deep learning techniques to process language in a more human-like way. It employs deep neural networks to learn from vast amounts of training data, capturing context, syntax, and semantics. As a result, NMT systems have significantly improved the fluency, coherence, and overall quality of machine-generated translations.

The Evolving Role of Human Linguists

With the emergence of NMT, the role of human linguists in the machine translation workflow has undergone a significant transformation. While machine translation is more capable than ever, it is not infallible. Human linguists still play a vital role in ensuring the highest quality translations.

Quality Assurance: NMT has reduced the number of errors in machine-generated translations, but it has not eliminated them. Human linguists are essential for quality assurance, ensuring that translations are accurate, culturally sensitive, and contextually relevant.

Customization: Many businesses require translations that are industry-specific or tailored to their brand’s tone and style. Human post-editors can fine-tune NMT systems to meet these specific needs, ensuring consistency in messaging.

Complex and Creative Content: NMT excels at translating straightforward, factual content. However, when it comes to creative or complex materials, such as marketing copy, legal documents, or literature, human linguists are indispensable in capturing the nuances, tone, and subtleties of the source text.

Contextual Understanding: Language is rich with context, idiomatic expressions, and cultural references. Human linguists bring their cultural and linguistic expertise to the table, allowing them to understand and adapt translations in a way that NMT systems often cannot.

The Role of Post-Editing in Translation

Post-editing is a critical process in the field of translation, involving the review and revision of machine-generated or human-translated content to improve its accuracy, fluency, and overall quality. Key aspects of the role of post-editing in translation include:

Enhancing Machine Translation: Machine translation engines, such as Google Translate and DeepL, have made substantial progress in recent years, but they still produce translations that are not always perfect. Post-editing is essential to correct errors, improve terminology, and ensure that the translation aligns with the specific context and audience.

Human Touch: Post-editing adds the invaluable human touch to translations. While machines can process vast amounts of text quickly, they may lack the cultural, idiomatic, or domain-specific knowledge that human translators possess. Post-editors bridge this gap by infusing human sensibility and expertise into the translation.

Quality Control: Post-editing serves as a quality control measure to maintain the highest standards in translated content. It ensures that translations are free of grammatical errors, maintain consistent terminology, and adhere to the stylistic preferences of the client or target audience.

Cost-Efficiency: In some cases, post-editing can be a more cost-effective solution than full manual translation. For projects with tight budgets or tight deadlines, starting with machine translation and then refining it through post-editing can offer a balance between quality and affordability. While post-editing offers numerous advantages, it’s important to note that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The extent and nature of post-editing required can vary depending on the quality of the initial translation, the purpose of the content, and the available resources. Additionally, the role of the post-editor can vary from light editing for clarity to extensive rewriting for accuracy.

The Future of Machine Translation Post-Editing

As NMT technology continues to advance, the role of human linguists in post-editing will continue to evolve. Here are some key trends and predictions for the future of machine translation post-editing:

Hybrid Workflows: Many organizations are adopting hybrid workflows, where NMT is combined with human post-editing. This approach allows for improved efficiency while maintaining high translation quality.

Specialization: Post-editors may specialize in certain domains or industries, becoming subject matter experts in fields such as healthcare, legal, or technology, which require deep domain knowledge in addition to linguistic expertise.

Quality Metrics: Automation will play a more significant role in quality assessment, with the development of AI-driven quality metrics that can help post-editors evaluate and improve translations more efficiently.

Continuous Learning: Post-editors will need to adapt to the ever-evolving NMT technology by engaging in continuous learning and staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in machine translation.

Collaboration and Feedback: Effective collaboration between NMT systems and post-editors will be key. NMT systems will become better at incorporating feedback from post-editors, resulting in ongoing improvement in the quality of translations.

Machine Translation Ethics: With the increased use of NMT and AI in translation, ethical considerations, such as data privacy and cultural sensitivity, will become more prominent. Post-editors will play a critical role in addressing these concerns.


In conclusion, the impact of neural machine translation on machine translation post-editing has been profound. NMT has improved the quality of machine-generated translations, but it has not eliminated the need for human post-editors. The role of post-editors is evolving, with a greater emphasis on specialization, collaboration with NMT systems, and maintaining linguistic and cultural standards. The future of post-editing lies in finding the right balance between human expertise and AI-driven efficiency to deliver high-quality translations that meet the diverse needs of clients and industries in an increasingly globalized world.

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