Motivate Post-Editors

KantanMT motivate post-editorsPost-editing is a necessary step in the Machine Translation workflow, but the role is still largely misunderstood. Language Service Providers (LSPs) are now experimenting more with the best practices for post-editing in the workflow. The lack of consistent training and reluctance within the industry to accept importance of the role are linked to the post-editors motivation. KantanMT looks at some of the more conventional attitudes towards motivation and their application to post-editing.

What is motivation and what studies have been done so far?

Understanding the concept of motivation has been a hot topic in many areas of organisation theory. Studies in the area really began to kick off with their application in the workplace, opening doors for pioneers to understand how employees could be motivated to do more work, and do better work.

Motivation Pioneers

  • Abraham Maslow and his well-known ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ indicates a person’s motivations are based on their position in the hierarchy pyramid.
  • Frederick Herzberg’s ‘two Factor Theory’ or Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory suggests professional activities like; professional acknowledgement, achievements and work responsibility, or job satisfiers have a positive effect on motivation.
  • Douglas McGregor used a black and white approach to motivation in his ‘Theory X and Theory Y’. He grouped employees into two categories; those who will only do the minimum and those who will push themselves.

As development of theories continued…

  • John Adair came up with the ‘fifty-fifty theory’ . According to the fifty-fifty theory, motivation is fifty percent the responsibility of the employee and fifty percent outside the employee’s control.

Even more recently, in 2010

  • Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer carried out a study on the motivation levels of employees in a variety of settings. Their findings, suggest ‘Progress’ as the top performance motivator identified from an analysis of approx. 12,000 diary entries, daily ratings of motivation and emotions from hundreds of study participants.

To understand post-editor motivation we can combine the top performance motivator; progress with fifty-fifty theory.

Progress is a healthy motivator in the post-editing profession, it can help Localization Project Managers understand and encourage post-editor satisfaction and motivation. But while progress can be deemed an external factor, if we apply Adair’s ‘fifty-fifty’ rule, post-editors are also at least fifty percent responsible for their own motivation.

Post-editing as a profession is still only finding its feet, TAUS carried out a study in 2010 on the post editing practices of global LSPs. The study showed that, while post-editing is becoming a standard activity in the translation workflow it only accounts for a minor share of LSP business volume. This indicates that post-editors see their role as one of lesser importance because the industry views it as a role of lesser importance.

This attitude in the industry is highlighted by the lack of industry standards for post-editing best practices. Without evaluation practices to train post-editors and improve the post-editing process, post-editors are not making progress. This quite naturally is demotivating for the post-editor.

How to motivate post-editors

The first step in motivating post-editors is to recognise their role as autonomous to the role of a translator. The best post-editors are those, who are at least bilingual with some form of linguistic training, like a translator. Linguistic training is a major asset for editing the Machine Translated output.

TAUS offer a comparison of the translation process versus the post-editing process, highlighting the differences in the post-editing and translation processes.

KantanMT, Translator process Taus 2010
Translation process of a Translator (TAUS 2010)
KantanMT, Motivating Post-editors,
Translation process of a Post-editor (TAUS 2010)

One process is not more complicated that the other, only different. Translators, translate internally, while post-editors make “snap editing decisions” based on client requirements. As LSPs recognise these differences, they can successfully motivate their post-editors by providing them with the most suitable support, and work environment.

Progress as a Motivator

Translators make good post-editors, they have the linguistic ability to understand both the source and target texts, and if they enjoy editing or proof-reading, then the post-editing role will suit them. The right training is also important, if post-editors are trained properly they will become more aware of potential improvements to the workflow.

These improvements or ideas can be a great boost to post-editor motivation, if implemented the post-editor can take on more responsibility, which helps improve the translation workflow. A case where this could be applied is; if the post-editor is made responsible for updating the language assets used to retrain a Machine Translation system, they can take ownership and become responsible for the output quality rather than just post-editing Machine Translation output in isolation.

Fixing repetitive errors, can be frustrating for anyone, not just post-editors. But if they are responsible for the output quality, understand the system and can control the rules used to reduce these repetitive errors, they will experience motivation through progress.

This is only the tip of the iceberg on what motivates post-editors, each post-editor is different and how they feel about the role, whether it is just ‘another job’ or a major step in their career all play a part. The key is to provide proper training, foster an environment where post-editors can make progress by positively contributing to the role.

Translators often take pride and ownership of their translations, post-editors should also have the opportunity to take pride in their work, as it is their skills and experience that make it ‘publishable’ or even ‘fit for purpose’ quality.

Repetitive errors like diacritic marks or capitalisation can be easily fixed using KantanMT’s Post-Editing Automation (PEX) rules. PEX rules allow repetitive errors in a Machine Translation engine to be easily fixed using a ‘find and replace’ tool. These rules can be checked on a sample of the text by using the PEX Rule Editor.

The post-editor can correct repetitive errors during post-editing process, so the same errors don’t appear in future MT output, giving them responsibility over the Machine Translation engines quality.

9 thoughts on “Motivate Post-Editors

    • Thanks for that John, we were using Localization Service Provider to highlight the use of technology but changed it since Language Service Provider is the official term. Regards, Louise


  1. Dear Louise,

    Motivation theories are very interesting indeed but they should not make us forget that money is the most obvious motivator. Therefore, MT post-editors should also benefit from the productivity gains from using MT. In other words, an hour of MT post-eding should be paid more than an hour of traditional translation.

    The problem here is that greed and global competition are already discounting the MT productivity gains (high MT rate discounts), and post-editors are responsible for fixing translations that come from a source outside their control. This can be frustrating for a translator working as a post-editor.

    My point is that the productivity benefits from MT post-editing should benefit all parties involved: customers, translation agencies and MT post-editors, and not only customers and translation agencies which seems to be the case rather often.


    • Dear Eloy,

      Thanks for your feedback, you’re absolutely right, money is a very important motivator and is definitely a grey area when it comes to pricing post-editing versus translation.

      Money as a motivational factor warrants its own discussion, but to really nail down an acceptable post-editing pricing strategy, we really need to understand what the post-editing role involves. Post-editing is almost viewed with contempt by some and as you mentioned, this is compounded by the downward pressure through heavy discounting on pricing MT jobs.

      In my opinion, an ideal scenario would be where prices are charged relative to the post-editing effort required and the post-editors skill/experience. To understand this it all comes back to engine quality, and managing customised engines. We should be doing more to control the MT training process and making it more transparent for everyone involved. Translators and post-editors should not be expected to work miracles on garbage MT output from generic engines.

      I may be wrong here, but even if a post-editor is paid higher rates for post-editing than translating, the money will become less important over time as they become more and more infuriated with constantly being asked to post-edit repetitive garbage output that could easily be fixed using customised MT engines and intelligent post-editing tools.

      Again, this is my opinion, but aside from managing MT engines properly, a huge barrier to coming to an agreement on pricing post-editing jobs is to ensure all parties; customers, translation agencies and MT post-editors can appreciate the role itself and its perception in the translation workflow.

      Do you have any suggestions or opinions about what has worked for you in the past in terms of pricing post-editing jobs to keep all parties happy? Or how you would like to see the industry develop? It would be great to hear them.


  2. Thank you for an interesting article. As a researcher in human translation process, I believe that only certain ‘types’ of translators can actually do post-editing effectively and efficiently. Research is very much needed in this area. Would it be possible to have references to the TAUS’s comparison of the translation process versus the post-editing process? Thanks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s