“They get what they’ve paid for”

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An intriguing discussion among translators recently caught my attention. It revolved around a client’s attempt to cut costs by pre-translating texts using machines, followed by offering the job for editing at an extremely low rate. The consensus among translators was clear: such underpaid tasks might not receive the attention and effort they require.

Savings Over Quality?

It’s no surprise that many clients turn to machine translation to save money. The allure of using machines instead of human translators, with the promise of later editing, is tempting. Indeed, machine translation post-editing (MTPE) has become a frequented workflow, occupying a significant portion of translation jobs in various market segments. But is this approach flawless?

Quality vs. Cost

Machine translation (MT) providers often assert that their output quality is nearly perfect. Undoubtedly, these machines have made astonishing advancements. But here’s the catch: while machines have improved, it’s crucial to align your expectations with what they offer. If your priority is saving costs rather than attaining flawlessness or creative work, using machines might suit your needs. Just don’t expect miracles.

But you’ll have it edited, so it’s going to be perfect?

Here lies the crux of the matter. The translation market faces a significant gap between the expected quality of machine-translated output, a post-editor’s capabilities, and fair compensation for the work.

Contrary to claims by some providers that MTPE should rival human translation, the reality is quite different.

Post-editors aren’t tasked with crafting original translations. Their role involves editing machine-generated content to ensure coherence, grammatical accuracy, contextual consistency, and adherence to prescribed terminology.

  • The focus isn’t on creating the ideal translation; it’s adapting the machine’s work to the minimum required extent.
  • The market trend of lower rates for MTPE results in post-editors handling higher word counts per hour, leaving less time for refining terminology or style.
  • There’s no room for terminological research. Pressed by time, inexperienced post-editors are tempted to use the MT output without properly checking, often with a painful result.

The real savings from MTPE

Determining the actual savings from MTPE isn’t straightforward. The effectiveness of over 30 machine translation engines, including 3 AI-powered ones, varies based on content domain and language combination.

Are clients the most qualified to decide whether to employ MT and select the best provider?

Remember: A language professional will probably be more competent about this decision. And I am not sure whether the fact that if you proceed to this step on your side anyway, justifies any expectations of significant discounts from translators. Would anyone give you a 50% discount just because you’ve done a 2-Dollar step for them? Maybe also not in the best manner?

Insights from Translators

11% translators agreed that they have to work faster on MTPE jobs to achieve the same hourly compensation (compared to translation), assuming the client expects lower quality.

14% state that according to their experience, MT output is unusable. (7% usually delete MT and retranslate from scratch, 7% won’t accept MTPE jobs any more)

43% are OK with MTPE, stating their hourly income on MTPE is about the same as from translations, but elaborating on this response, they provided some game-changing comments:

Language pros satisfied with their compensation for MTPE:

  • Charge all their work by hour; or
  • Offer only negligible discounts on MTPE, or none; or
  • Process high numbers of words per day, claiming the quality remains perfect.
    Note: My experience of a senior reviewer however, contradicts such statements:
    in many cases, the quality is substandard. It seems to be clear that post-editors are forced to produce at high speed even if the MT quality is not good for their field and language combination.
  • MT usability is highly dependent on domain and language combination.

“…I do see the quality dropping quite a lot due to MTPE: partially it’s because linguists are struggling to maintain their same earnings in terms of time and so skip through docs… but it’s also due to less experienced linguists being given MTPE jobs because there is a belief that there is “less to do” with the document but also because the less experienced linguists are happy to accept lower rates…”

“I went from 2500 source words per day to around 4500-5000 by using MT as an aid.”

“In my IT>EN language pair for technical pharmaceutical translations, the MT output is actually very good. … This is not the case, however, for my ES>EN language pair and legal material.”

“When I started doing MTPE 4 years ago, I made a point to calculate my MTPE rate … to maintain my average hourly rate. many people are starting to accept MTPE jobs for less than I do, and my work volume has started to decline…”

“First of all, my hourly rate for MTPE is a good rate for the majority of my MTPE projects, so I’m ok with this rate and I’d say I finish 90% of my projects within the time allocated.”

Many have stated, some very roughly, that using MT makes no sense. These were often creative translators. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Choosing the path for your project

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do you seek creativity or simple editing? Superior quality or cost-effectiveness? Are you a tech enthusiast eager to explore all that technology offers? If so, get advice from professional linguists for optimal results.

How about using MT only?

Like no editor at all? Honestly, I saw projects where the editor’s contribution to quality was negligible. This, however, is not to say the text was OK. I mean that the result remained disastrous.

You CAN use the machine translation directly. Just consider the purpose: Is it permissible if the result suffers from omissions, additions, shifted meaning, a nonsense here or there, or pure gibberish?

Are you able to assess the usability of the text in the target language?

I keep thinking about these two clients

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The two similar customers

Both of them had intricate business applications, and they were looking to have these applications localized into multiple languages. They both opted for the same translation tool, which, by the way, provides fantastic support for translation queries. They both had having their translations reviewed and chose to work with a boutique agency. They both selected me as their Czech reviewer and paid me similar rates.

You’d naturally expect that they would end up with similar translation quality. But they didn’t.

Here’s how it all played out:

One of the clients put together a stable and exclusive team consisting of just me and one translator. We had the opportunity to exchange contacts and collaborate closely. They even granted me the authority to create a glossary (though they had the final say on terms, and we could discuss them). I could make fixes and ensure consistency across the entire application whenever needed. While the translation tool could suggest machine-generated translations, the translator had to consciously decide whether to incorporate any of it. The icing on the cake? I had unrestricted access to the application to check for context, and I could leave queries right in the translation tool next to the text in question. The agency made sure the client always replied and that reviewers for all languages are notified. Whenever the client provided feedback, I’d get an email notification with a link directly to the relevant section. Implementing replies to translators’ queries took no time. Plus, my confirmed strings were linked to my username, making me accountable for my work. This also made it easy for the client to distinguish between texts I had given the final nod to and earlier versions. Work assignments were consistent and arrived weekly, which meant I knew what to expect each week, even though the workload might vary.

Now, the other client had a different approach. They assigned short-term licenses for the translation tool along with translation tasks on an as-needed basis. I wasn’t aware of other individuals working on the same language. Each time, I received a link to a specific set of strings, strictly defining the scope of my task. These strings could come from various files and contexts. There wasn’t a project glossary maintained, which led to inconsistencies in key terminology. I tried my best to ensure consistency based on what seemed most common, but there was a risk that prevailing usage could change next time around.Making matters more complex, I couldn’t differentiate my work from others’, as the same username was used for multiple contributors as required. To make things even trickier, some strings were clearly machine-translated, resulting in a rather chaotic revision process. The translation tool also contained queries from translators, some dating back years but there were no responses. I’ve never got to see or test the final application product itself. Tasks would come in unexpectedly, always with the tightest possible turnaround, although the agency was willing to negotiate deadlines when necessary.
The other client assigned short-term licenses to the translation tool along with translation tasks as needed. I didn’t know other people who worked on my language variety. I always got a link to a specifically filtered set of strings, strictly setting the scope of my job. The strings may have come from different files (and contexts). No one kept any project glossary, so key terminology remained inconsistent. Though I was trying for consistency with what seemed prevailing usage, next time the prevailing usage could be different. I could not distinguish my previous work, as the same username was assigned to multiple people as needed. Some strings were clearly machine-pretranslated, so the bundle arriving for revision tended to be a mess. The tool contained queries from translators, some years old, with no attached responses. I have never seen or tested the final product – the application. Tasks arrived unexpected, always with the minimum turnaround time possible, though the agency was always prepared to negotiate the deadline when I needed.

Similar products, similar budgets

Can you guess whose product ended up with the better translation?

Why have I created a free course for translation customers?

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I’ve seen it again and again.

“Our translations suck. We can’t find decent translators. Most translations we get are disastrous.”
Maybe it’s the client who could do something differently next time? Because there are other customers who consistently buy translations they’re happy with.

How are they doing it? It’s not that difficult, actually, and I can help you.

You can learn to select your partners more carefully, prepare meaningful instructions, make realistic timelines and budget. There’s some industry-related knowledge you can make use of, too. You can learn to manage your translations successfully.

So, I thought, let’s try to make a difference. I’ll show you how!

How to make informed decisions.
How to select the right translation partner.
What instructions you necessarily have to prepare.
What technologies you may benefit of.
How to get the best value for your money.

Because the sad truth is that many translation projects are spoilt before they reach the translator’s desk.



WHY AM I YOU DOING IT FOR FREE? I won’t be. I can’t. This is the first course run, we can call it a “warmup” or a “beta”, this one is not charged. It starts on September 4th, the registration is open. This opportunity won’t repeat.

How to get the right translations that win new customers

Translation Management for Small Businesses

Step by step instructions on how to manage complex translation projects to get customer-winning translations without unnecessary expenses. 

You’ll learn how to make confident decisions about using machine translation, understanding its effects on your budget, timeline, and quality.
You’ll learn how to recognize potential pitfalls and risks and learn preventive measures to save time and money.
You’ll learn how to set up your translation team or choose the right provider.
Finally, you’ll learn how to effortlessly organize existing translations and terminology to ensure consistent, efficient updates using cutting-edge technology.

4 weeks, from 4th September to Sunday, 1st October 2023

Please apply to participate for FREE in the beta round of this new course.
Also share the registration form with anyone who you think would love to participate too.

Hi! I’m Marketa Brozova


Translation has been my profession and passion for 20+ years.

In a nutshell:

Former agency employee
Turned translation company owner
Turned freelancer offering all the experience and know-how in a single package

With a track record of translating or reviewing over 3,000,000 words and successfully managing large multilingual projects, I have gained hands-on experience with almost all translation and translation management tools on the market.

There are lots of options you have: Your own translation team, agencies, machine translation, AI, computer-aided translation, or a combination of all.

Learn what’s needed to use them to your advantage.


+ Who is this course for?

This course is ideal for entrepreneurs and businesses who need translations and wish to avoid unsatisfactory results, delays, and unnecessary costs. This is equally applicable for product and project managers in charge of translations who want to avoid or fix issues like unaccounted expenses, missed deadlines, or bleak quality.

+ Will the course take too much of my time?

Try to reserve 2 hrs per week for the course but no worries, you can work at your own pace.

+ Do I need specific technical equipment or software?

NO. You don’t need anything special for the course. Just an internet-connected computer, or a laptop. Videos may be viewed using your phone or tablet, whatever suits you well.

Current Translation Landscape: Sorting Fact from Fiction

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Ever feel like the media is playing a game of telephone? Misunderstandings seem to be cropping up left and right. Let’s talk about the buzz around machine translation – what does its widespread use mean for us, the translators?

Debunking Illusion #1: Smooth Sailing with Machine Translation? Not So Fast!

Picture this: You’re a hotshot lawyer, and a friend needs a privacy policy for their new online biz. They’ve got a half-baked draft from some online tool. They think you just need to sprinkle some legal magic, no biggie. Oh, and can we pay you a third of your rate? Yeah, right!

Or imagine: Once you’ve mastered Trello, Calendly, and a CRM system, your sales job‘s a breeze now. But guess what? You’re now footing the bill for those fancy software licenses. And by the way, we’re thinking of cutting your pay by a third. Easy job, easy pay, right?

And, oh, your customer has just roughly drilled some holes in the materials, sparing you of the rough work, right? You just do the rest of the work, the highly precise assembly. The fine-tuned assembly tools you have are incompatible with the customer’s prep, you have to use tools borrowed from your client.
Never mind, they’ll deduct them from your pay, too.

Surreal stuff? It’s real, and it’s happening in the world of translations.

Someone forces you to use technology you didn’t mean to in a process that doesn’t feel effective. You are expected to fix errors you haven’t made and charge a fraction of your usual pricing.

Debunking Illusion #2: Are Translators Facing Extinction? Here’s the Scoop

True. False. Both. Back to facts:

Translators aren’t fading into oblivion. In fact, the global translation industry is raking in a whopping $26 billion annually (maybe $57 billion by another yardstick). Keeps growing.

And translators are idly waiting, hypnotizing their empty inboxes? Quite the opposite, their inboxes are brimming with job requests. However, there’s a catch: Many of these assignments frequently come with inadequate budgets and preparation.

When translators express discomfort about the mass use of machine translation, it’s not about depressed people watching their empty mailboxes as the whole world ceased to need them. Their mailboxes are being flooded with demand, but for inadequately budeted and unprofessionally prepared jobs.

Debunking Illusion #3: Translators don’t want to reflect the ease of their work in their rates!

False. While the translation industry is on the rise, translator rates are in search for their bottom. This can be attributed to the supposed “increased productivity” brought about by machines, or the misguided belief that searching for machine’s errors is a piece of cake. However, the truth is quite different. Those who take on such assignments have lower income than before machines “made their tasks easier.”

The situation of language professionals is not about raking in more with the same effort.

What the translation industry currently has to offer to many, is inconvenient work process for a compensation that’s far from thrilling.

Freelancers are the industry’s backbone.

They invest in their technological tools while being offered meager compensation in return.

My inbox? Constantly flooded. Requests for translation and revision arrive from all corners of the globe. Yet, decently paid jobs are rare.

At first, some of the incoming job offers reminded me of my job with a non-profit. Then the pricing just got somehow “historical.” But recently, we’re in the sphere of the absurd, with breathtaking 3 USD/hr.

Let’s talk about adopting new tech. If it means that highly educated and specialized pros need to slash their earnings to “stay competitive,” is that an “opportunity”?

I think not.


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Going international and struggling with getting the right translations?

I’m on the lookout for visionary entrepreneurs and forward-thinking businesses grappling with the quest for impeccable translations. If you’ve ever considered tackling translation management yourself, are intrigued by transformative technologies in this space, and wish to gain a sneak peek into potential pitfalls and how to sidestep them – I’d love to hear from you!

By filling out this survey before this Thursday at midnight, you can win a 1-hour 1-1 coaching session to help you set up your translation project for success.