In order to preserve the efficiency gained by using machine translation (MT), rather than full human translation, it is essential to minimise the cost of post editing. This is a complex and controversial issue since post-editing is essential, but also time-consuming and requiring highly skilled human translators.
The field is relatively new and there are not standards or specific guidelines that have been widely accepted. A realistic way to determine cost is to measure the time necessary to meet the required quality, and then assign a realistic hourly wage that is equitable for employers and skilled translators. We can also begin by comparing time requirements and costs of MT with post editing to human only translation. The growing field of MT will only be useful if it provides a considerable increase in human productivity while maintaining quality.
Extensive testing and research has been conducted around this issue of productivity, efficiency and cost. Consider the following example: over a 4 hour period, a human translator was able to produce 313 words per hour, and MT with human post-editing produced 1,029 words per hour. That means that machine-aided translation increased productivity by 328%. That is an impressive difference and certainly makes the case for continued effort to standardise procedures and details such as pricing for post-editing.
It is estimated that the productivity maximum for human translators is approximately 2,500 words per day. In contrast, MT combined with human post-editing can translate up to 23,000 words per day. Once additional research has been done to test these estimates and to create a widely accepted standard level of productivity, then a standard price per hour or price per word can be established. According to existing data, translators earn roughly the same on average whether they are paid by the hour or by the word. From the research, there has been a recommendation to include incentive pay for translators to increase their productivity and motivate them to complete post editing tasks more quickly. For example, $45 per hour could be the standard base rate and then an additional percentage could be agreed on as the bonus to increase productivity.
There is ongoing discussion about cost for post-editing and the factors that should be considered when negotiating the cost of a project. There are translators who agree to take a standard hourly rate whether they are working on full or light post-editing projects. Others think that pricing should be adjusted according to the quality of the output produced. There are different points of view about including the incentive bonus amounts and the guidelines for productivity standards.
As the field of MT develops and moves towards standardization, important issues such as payment for post-editing will be further researched and studied. Currently many translators negotiate their own pricing because they know their own productivity and can determine a wage that is fair depending on each project and factors such as the quality of the source document, the quality of the MT output and the source and target languages.