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Machine Translation and Self-post-editing for Academic Writing Support: Quality Explorations

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Translation Quality Assessment

Abstract

Scholars who need to publish in English and who have English as a Foreign Language might consider and already be deploying free online MT engines to aid their writing processes. This raises the obvious question of whether MT is actually a useful aid for academic writing and what impact it might have on the quality of the written product. The work described in this chapter attempts to address these two broad questions. After a brief introduction, Sect. 2 reviews literature on three topics: English as a lingua franca in academic writing and the consequences this might have for individual authors and for academic disciplines, second-language writing, and the use of MT as a second-language writing aid. In Sect. 3, the methodology is presented. As will be detailed, the experiment involved ten participants, who were asked to write an abstract in their field of expertise. One half of the text was written in English, while the other half was written in their L1 and then machine-translated into English. Section 4 describes the results: subjective feedback of the participants acquired through a post-task survey, revision activity of a professional reviser, number and types of errors identified by a grammar-checking tool. The results suggest that MT and self-post-editing did not impact negatively on the text produced. However, the participants were divided in their opinions about which task was easier and whether they would consider using MT again for academic writing support. In Sect. 5, we offer a discussion on those results and provide future research ideas.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    http://www.inputlog.net

  2. 2.

    http://tradukka.com

  3. 3.

    It is not explicitly stated in the paper, but we assume that the author corrected the texts herself.

  4. 4.

    https://translate.google.com

  5. 5.

    https://www.diffchecker.com/

  6. 6.

    http://www.antidote.info/antidote

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Acknowledgments

This project was partly funded by the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technology, which is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres Programme (Grant 13/RC/2106) and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund.

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Correspondence to Sharon O’Brien .

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Appendices

Appendices

1.1 Appendix A: Pre-task Questionnaire

[Questions marked with a “*” are required]

  1. 1.

    Please provide us with your email address here *

    Your email address will allow us to contact you should you qualify for the next stage of the study. We will not disclose your email address or any other personal data provided by you to us to any third party. No information given here will be associated with your responses in any publications on this study.

  2. 2.

    What is your first language (mother tongue)? *

  3. 3.

    What is your current field of study?

  4. 4.

    Please indicate approximately the level you are at in your academic career *

    Tick the option that is most relevant to you. Select only one.

    • PhD student

    • Post-doctoral researcher

    • Early stage faculty staff (between 1 and 5 years)

    • Established faculty (5+ full-time years of experience as faculty staff)

    • Other (specify):

  5. 5.

    How many academic papers have you published in English? *

    For example: conference papers, journal articles, workshop papers, posters, oral presentations etc. Please do not count papers co-authored by a native speaker of English.

  6. 6.a

    Please rate your academic English writing competence *

    If you participate in this study, you will be asked to write a 500-word academic text in English, on a subject with which you are familiar. How do you rate your competence at writing this sort of text? Please select only one option – the option that best matches your current competences.

    • Beginner: I can write a short, simple academic text, for example a summary of a chapter I have read in an academic book.

    • Intermediate: I can write extended text on my domain specialisation, such as an academic assignment, short conference paper or abstract. I can use an appropriate register. I can publish that paper with some editorial help from a native speaker of English.

    • Advanced: I can express myself in clear, well-structured academic text, expressing points of view at some length. I can write about complex subjects in an academic article. I can select a style and register appropriate to the reader in mind. I can write sentences that are mostly grammatical and need only minor editing from an editor.

    • Expert: My writing skills in academic English are indistinguishable from those of any native speaker of English in my academic field.

    • Other:

  7. 6.b

    How easy do you rate the task of writing academic texts in English? *

  • 1 = very difficult, 2 = difficult, 3 = easy, 4 = very easy

  1. 7.

    Have you ever resorted to a professional reviser when writing an academic text in English? *

  2. 8.a

    Have you ever used Machine Translation to produce a first draft academic English text before? *

    Examples of Machine Translation (automated translation) include: Google Translate, Bing Translator, Reverso, Systran, etc.

  3. 8.b

    If yes, how easy do you rate the task of post-editing English, i.e. revising a machine translated text?

  • 1 = very difficult, 2 = difficult, 3 = easy, 4 = very easy; if you don’t know, just leave this blank

  1. 9.

    Which of the following writing tasks could you undertake in the next 4–6 weeks? *

    Tick all that apply.

    • A 500 word summary of your PhD research

    • A 500 word abstract for a paper you are working on

    • A 500 word proposal for a future research project

  2. 10.

    Do you consent to participate in this study? *

    This is a pre-task survey to aid with the selection of participants. To indicate that you consent to participate in the event that you are selected, please TICK ALL THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:

    • I have read the Plain Language Statement (available at https://sites.google.com/site/selfpostediting/pre-questionnaire)

    • I understand the information provided.

    • I have had an opportunity to ask questions and discuss this study.

    • I have received satisfactory answers to all my questions.

    • Should this study include an interview, I am aware that it may be audio-recorded.

    • I consent to take part in this research project.

    • I understand that I will receive an Amazon voucher to the value of 100 euros (or equivalent in another currency) ONLY if I complete all stages of the study.

1.2 Appendix B: Post-task Questionnaire

* Required

  1. 1.

    Please provide us with your email address here *

    This information is required to link your answers with the previous questionnaire.

  2. 2.

    Which DRAFTING task did you find easier? *

    Reminder: By DRAFTING we refer to the first stage of the task when you initially wrote your text.

    • Drafting the text in my first language was easier.

    • Drafting the text in English was easier.

    • Both were equal in terms of effort.

  3. 3.

    Which REVISION task did you find easier, revising the text drafted in English, or revising the text drafted in your first language and then machine translated? *

    Reminder: By REVISION we refer to the second stage of the task when you produced the final version of your draft.

    • Revising the text I drafted in English was easier.

    • Revising the text I drafted in my first language, which was then machine translated, was easier.

    • Both were equal in terms of effort.

  4. 4.

    What specific difficulties did you encounter when drafting/revising in English? *

  • (for example: sentence structure issues, terminology issues…?)

  1. 5.

    What specific difficulties did you encounter when drafting in your first language and revising the machine translation? *

  • (for example: sentence structure issues, terminology issues…?)

  1. 6.a

    Which task produced the better QUALITY text, in your opinion? *

    Please specify: drafting/revising in English OR drafting in my first language and revising the machine translation.

    • Drafting/Revising in English.

    • Drafting in my first language and revising the machine translation.

    • Both were equivalent in terms of quality.

  2. 6.b

    Please explain your choice for the previous question. *

  3. 7.

    What language tools or resources (e.g. dictionaries, spell-checker, etc.) did you use to produce your text for both tasks? *

    Please list as many as you can remember.

  4. 8.a

    On a scale of 1–4, how likely are you to use Machine Translation and Revision to write an academic text in English in the future? *

  • (1=Never again, 4=Every time)

  1. 8.b

    Please explain your reasons for your decision in the previous question.

  2. 9.

    Would you be happy to participate in an interview to explore further your opinions and questions? *

    We will contact you by email should you qualify for an interview.

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O’Brien, S., Simard, M., Goulet, MJ. (2018). Machine Translation and Self-post-editing for Academic Writing Support: Quality Explorations. In: Moorkens, J., Castilho, S., Gaspari, F., Doherty, S. (eds) Translation Quality Assessment. Machine Translation: Technologies and Applications, vol 1. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91241-7_11

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