Machine translation in human translation workflows

With the cognitive computing age approaching at mind-boggling speed (before humans and technology likely will merge from about 2040), there seems to be a certain urgency in the need to familiarise ourselves with Artificial Intelligence. For translators this involves thinking about how (and if!) to integrate machine translation into their workflows.

On 24 January 2018 an event on the use of machine translation in professional contexts was held at Clifton Hill House in Bristol. It had been organised by the University of Bristol in partnership with Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville and the ITI Western Regional Group (WRG), attracting academics, professional translators, translation companies and technology providers.

My main takeaways from the event:

The job of post-editor is a relatively new profession. Post-editing nowadays is either offered as a service in its own right or just used as a tool that is incorporated into the translation process.

Post-editing has been defined in the ISO 18587 standard. Yet, although it’s been defined and hence should be clear-cut, in practice it’s more complicated since clients tend to have different requirements.

Bristol MA Trans

Machine translations often are over-edited, rather than under-edited. It is therefore important to note that post-editing a translation is not the same as revising it! They are two different skills.

Ideally, MT should be regarded as an additional tool, or translation memory, or source of reference, which for certain projects (!) can help improve efficiency and productivity.

Time Quality Cost

There will inevitably need to be a move from word count-based pricing to time-based pricing for projects involving the post-editing of machine translations.
There has been a notable shift in the perception towards MT among translators because it’s becoming more capable of producing results that are usable. However, feelings of uneasiness, or strong dislike, towards MT continue to persist.


News headlines about advances in machine translation have led to inflated expectations by clients of what such tools can do. It’s worth bearing in mind we’re still very far from the point where the machines can take over from us!

The upside of such news headlines, on the other hand, is they’ve drawn attention to professional translation and interpreting, an industry which had previously often been overlooked.

My thoughts after the event:

There is a bizarre discrepancy between “human translators are a dying breed” headlines and the real situation human translators find themselves in: All the translators who I know are up to their ears in work. Constantly. And the demand for translations seems to be steadily increasing.

So contrary to what headlines want to make us believe: No, translators are not a dying breed. So where does machine translation come in? Well, it’s been introduced as a new, additional type of translation activity. (And fair enough, perhaps the term “translation” is no longer an appropriate description of this new activity.)

The cognitive computing age is just around the corner, so should all translators integrate machine translation into their workflows? Well, it’s up to each one of us to decide that. As succinctly put by a colleague in an e-mail conversion on that same topic recently: “People are always free to choose what they want to do both with regard to work and life in general.”

Find out more about this week’s event on the use of machine translation in human translation workflows by looking up the hashtag #MTBristol on Twitter.

This post originally appeared on Elisabeth Hippe Heisler Blogspot

How to use Duolingo, the best app for learning another language


Many often count learning a new language among their New Year’s resolutions, and given how we live in the digital age, many require an app for such a task.Enter Duolingo. The platform is one of the most popular language-learning apps in the world with 23 languages available and several more in the works.

After getting several recommendations to use Duolingo for learning a language, I embarked on teaching myself French in 2016. Just over one year later, I may not be a master at French, but I’ve learned a lot about the language, and the app itself.

Here’s a bit about my experience with Duolingo and some advice on how to tackle learning a new language using the app.

It took me a little over a year to complete the entire course

It took me a little over a year to complete the entire course
You get a medal when you complete a language course on Duolingo
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

I started learning French on Duolingo in October 2016 and completed the entire course about two weeks ago. I am currently at 66% proficiency, according to the app.

I chose French because Czech wasn’t available

I chose French because Czech wasn't available
My French course on Duolingo
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

I decided to start using Duolingo ahead of a trip to Prague. I’d hoped to learn a few Czech phrases before my trip, but Czech wasn’t available at that time.

Having already downloaded the app, I decided to study French, which is the language I studied in college. Like many, I didn’t remember anything from my college study.

Duolingo added a Czech course in September 2017, which I may investigate at a later time.

My level of study is currently set to “Serious”

My level of study is currently set to
Duolingo difficulty settings
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Every lesson in the Duolingo app gives you experience points (XP). You get 10 XP per lesson, but you can choose how many lessons you want per day. Casual is one lesson per day, Regular is two, Serious is three, and Insane is five lessons in a day.

I have my daily goal set to Serious, which requires completing three lessons daily, but I’ll often do more lessons if I have the time, typically around five or six. At one point I had my daily goal set to Insane, but I found I’d slack off when I knew I was on the hook for five lessons a day.

I most often use Duolingo while commuting to work on the subway

I most often use Duolingo while commuting to work on the subway
Shaded Duolingo levels when the app is not connected to a Wi-Fi or data connection.
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

I’ve found the easiest way for me to get my lessons in is to use Duolingo during my morning commute on the subway.

Duolingo requires an internet connection, but now that there’s WiFi available in most NYC subway stations, it’s easy to load a quick lesson while I’m on the go. (Pro tip: You may be able to access lessons that you haven’t yet completed when you’re off WiFi.) You’ll know you can load the lesson if you can select its icon and it appears in full color, rather than grayed out.

Before I started my morning commute study routine, I typically used Duolingo before bed. This routine wasn’t ideal because I’d often be racing the clock to finish my lessons before midnight so I could sleep, and when I was rushing, I found I wasn’t actually absorbing the information. Overall, I recommend studying in the morning.

Duolingo does have a paid option that allows for offline study

Duolingo does have a paid option that allows for offline study
Duolingo Plus options include $9.99 monthly, $7.99 monthly for 6 months, or $6.99 monthly for 12 months.
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

Duolingo’s subscription options get rid of ads (which are a bit annoying) and let users download levels for offline study.

I’ve avoided purchasing Duolingo Plus thanks to my subway WiFi trick, but there have been other situations, like long airplane rides, that made me consider subscribing.

I especially don’t see a need to purchase Duolingo Plus now that I’ve completed the French course. Perhaps I would subscribe if I started another course.

Users can find details about Duolingo Plus in the ads in between levels or at the Duolingo Shop (the bottom right icon in the app).

The Duolingo shop and currency can make the app fun

The Duolingo shop and currency can make the app fun
Duolingo’s treasure chest game that allows users to collect Lingots (in-app currency).
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

Duolingo has several in-app purchases that can be fun and very helpful. Duolingo’s in-app currency is called a “Lingot.” They are easy to collect and nothing in the app is particularly expensive.

You earn Lingots when you complete a level and can collect Lingots in a relatively new treasure chest game that comes up after you complete a lesson. You must select one of three treasure chests and get to keep the number of Lingots saved inside — there are typically between one and five Lingots in each chest. You’ll get the option to open a second chest if you watch an in-app ad.

Lingots can be used to purchase in-app power-ups, bonus skill levels, and do fun things with the app’s owl mascot, Duo.

I’ve attempted a few of the bonus skills — including lessons like local idioms and flirting lines. They’re hard, but may come in handy for those who are using Duolingo in an attempt to learn a language before traveling.

I’m currently on my longest streak of 40 days

I’m currently on my longest streak of 40 days
My Duolingo level as of January 26, 2018.
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

I typically make it to about 20-something days before missing a day and losing a streak, but I am currently on my longest streak since I started using Duolingo.

I had one slip up at about day-26, where I completed only two levels for the day. The app allowed me to test to regain my streak and I passed. Had I not used that option, however, I would have had to pay a fee or lose my streak.

If users lose a streak due to an entire day of inactivity, their only option is to pay a fee to regain their streak. The cost to repair a streak starts at about $2.99 and increases to as much as $19.99.




Users can purchase a streak freeze power-up from the Duolingo shop for 10 Lingots, which holds their progress for 24-hours of inactivity from the time purchased. Often, when I studied late at night I would purchase a streak freeze before starting in case I finished my lessons after midnight. That was my little cheat.

I highly recommend using the Weekend Freeze amulet, in case you get busy and forget to do your lessons on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I’ve found I’m less likely to forget my lessons once I’ve purchased the amulet.

I was stuck at about 45% proficiency for most of 2017

I was stuck at about 45% proficiency for most of 2017
The strengthen option (the dumbbell in the right corner) allows users to build their proficiency without going into individual skills.
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

I got stuck in a rut where I was simply redoing lessons to keep my levels completely full.

Each level has a bar which fills up as you complete a skill. Once you complete a level, you must return to old skills to maintain strength in the words you’ve learned or the level bars will drop, indicating a drop in proficiency.

While it can be nerve wrecking to see proficiency levels drop, its good to move forward to new levels. You can always come back later and fill up your levels.

I had to force myself to move forward to other lessons and found doing a few new lessons and a few old lessons helped me continue learning while maintaining proficiency in what I’d already learned.

Using the strengthen option lets you keep your proficiency without going into individual levels. You can select the dumbbell icon at the bottom right corner of the app to load the strengthen option that tests different language skills in one lesson.

My proficiency level

My proficiency level
According to Duolingo, my French proficiency is “advanced.”
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

Though I am at an “advanced” level in French according to Duolingo, I very much still feel like a beginner.

I can read in French, identify words and phrases, and I have a basic understanding of the language; however, I don’t feel confident speaking French out loud.

Still, I remain committed to learning French and plan to continue using Duolingo to assist my goals. In-app, I plan to do the listening and speaking exercises more often. So far, I’ve mostly relied on the typing lessons.

I hope to maintain my streak as long as possible and use the strengthen option more often.

Other tidbits about Duolingo

Other tidbits about Duolingo
Duolingo logo
Screencap: Fionna Agomuoh/Business Insider

— Autocorrect on smartphones will make you get things wrong, and you’ll never get used to it.

— Reminder notifications and emails often won’t help you remember your lessons.

— I turn off the motivational messages from Duo, the owl mascot. He’s super annoying.

— Duolingo lets you add friends to the app and challenge them in language study. You can also join clubs on the app for the same purpose. I personally don’t have any friends on Duolingo, nor am I apart of any clubs.

— It’s funny when the options in lessons appear to match what is going on in real life. After attending an event discussing the implementation of robots into daily life, Duolingo came up with the following phrase.




— You can access additional study options when signing into Duolingo on a web browser. These include stories and podcasts in various languages.

— There are supplementary apps that work with Duolingo to help users study. Tiny Cards is a separate flash card app that works with Duolingo. Users can study with available cards and also create their own cards and decks for study.

— Memes about being upset at losing a Duolingo streaks are a thing, and they’re hilarious.


This post originally appeared on Business Insider