Machine Translation has made remarkable progress. The standard Machine Translation sites (Google Translate or Bing Translator) do a good job on relatively simple texts, such as restaurant menus but are unreliable for the kinds of complex texts found in legal documents.
A German service, DeepL, has done a remarkable job on complex texts. It offers a Dutch-English combination. Whether it is sufficiently good is for the user to decide.
Spotting an opportunity, some translation agencies offer clients a Machine Translation + Post-Editing product. The client purchases a translation created by machine which is then edited by a human translator/editor.
Columbus 7 BV does not offer this product. Our view is that if Machine Translation does the job, it has no need of editing. If the translation requires editing or correction, experience shows that the work involved is almost as onerous as doing the entire translation from scratch. And sometimes more onerous.
This appears counter-intuitive, so an explanation is called for. Translation is a demanding exercise. Start with the source text, carefully analyse and evaluate, translate, then correct. When post-editing a machine translation this work – if done properly – is doubled. Not only must the source text be carefully analysed and evaluated; but then the proposed machine translation must also be carefully analysed and evaluated. Then, where necessary, corrected. But the economic model only allows a quick read-through while the post-editor is under pressure to accept the machine translation version.
This difficulty is familiar to those developing software for self-driving cars. It is only when the software is so reliable as to make human intervention unnecessary that it provides a safe, reliable and economical alternative.
Similarly, Machine Translation will only become safe, reliable and economical, especially in sensitive legal translations, where it is so good that no post-editing is necessary.
For the record: Columbus 7 BV uses Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools. While the translator works on the translation, a CAT tool proposes a translated word or segment, usually derived from previous translations made by the translator himself/herself. These are options and the translator is free to accept, modify or reject them. The translator maintains complete control over every word of the translation. There is no post-editing of a complete translation previously effected by machine.