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Automatic translation vs Machine translation explained

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At Weglot, a question that we frequently get asked is whether our translation solution makes use of machine translation. 

In short: Yes, Weglot does use machine translation

However, despite popular belief, automatic machine translation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also, it isn’t the only type of translation we support in our solution. 

In fact, at Weglot, we think that automatic machine translation gets a bad rap for many reasons. In this post, we decided to weigh in on the perennial automatic translation vs. machine translation issue that most people looking to build multilingual websites face. Hopefully, after reading this comparison, you’ll be able to choose a translation solution that’s perfect for your needs. 

What is machine translation?

A common misconception is that automatic translation is the same thing as machine translation. However, according to the Globalization and Localization Authority (GALA), machine translation, by definition, is powered by “fully automated software that can translate source content into target languages.” Many companies like Google, Yandex, Microsoft, and DeepL use artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver high-quality translation engines for powering machine translation. For example, you can easily use Google’s Google Translate translation technology to convert content from the English language into Spanish; this is machine translation.

What is automatic translation?

If you look at the translation process, you’ll see that it starts with gathering the content in the source language, translating it, proofreading and fixing it, optimizing it for SEO, and posting the translated content back on the platform. 

Now, as you can tell, there are many moving parts to the translation process, and the actual translation part is only one of them. That’s why machine translation is one functionality among the many that automatic translation solutions like Weglot offer. 

At Weglot, when we refer to automatic translation, we’re talking about much more than just translating the content from one language to another. When we talk about automated translation, we encompass the whole experience the Weglot platform provides, including the translation of your content and the managing of this content, the SEO capabilities of our solution, and the publishing of the translated content all automatically on your live site. 

Note how a translation management solution like Weglot works on the entire translation process (end-to-end).

How does automatic translation work with Weglot?

Weglot is compatible with all CMSess and has over 100 language options to choose from. Our automatic translation process can be broken down into the following three sub-processes.

Automatic Detection & Translation

Once you’ve integrated Weglot, it automatically detects ALL the content on your site, including posts, web pages, and content generated by any plugins you may be using.

Then, when you’ve chosen the original or source language of your site and the target language(s), Weglot, by default, provides a first layer of machine translation. How? Basically, Weglot draws from a number of different translation providers, including DeepL, Microsoft, Yandex, and Google Translate (via APIs). The translation tool that gets used for your specific case depends on the language pairing that you select to guarantee that you get the highest translation quality for your specific language pair. This is the machine translation part of the automatic translation process powered by Weglot.

Automatic multilingual SEO 

Once ready, your newly translated pages are automatically indexed following Google’s best practices for multilingual SEO. It’s true that translating your website into multiple languages will help boost your traffic and sales, but your customers still need to be able to discover your translated pages in the first place via channels like search engines.

By translating not only your visible website content but also things like metadata and hreflang tags, your newly translated pages get ranked higher on the search engine result pages (SERPS) and thereby help potential customers find you online.

Automatic publishing

Your newly translated web pages are then automatically published on your live site, and your website visitors get the option to choose between the different languages you offer via a language switcher that Weglot adds to your site.

French/ English language switcher

Why use machine translation? 

One of the main drawbacks associated with machine translation is that of accuracy. People tend to think human translators are the best option when it comes to translation services. While not yet at delivering 100% accuracy, machine translation is improving, and the reality is that for most companies, this can be a great choice over human translation.

First, machine translation can save you a lot of time. Of course, the accuracy of the machine translation you generate depends on the language pair you need and how advanced and proficient your translation tools are for that specific pair. But, as a ballpark estimate, take that the translation is good 80% of the time. All you need to now do is get a professional translator to go over your machine translation output and verify and edit it, so it’s wholly accurate. 

If you’re an established company with thousands of web pages to translate, imagine how long your localization efforts will take. By getting a first layer of automatic machine translations in such cases, you can accelerate your translation campaign and quickly go multilingual.

Furthermore, from a financial perspective, this choice can be very viable. If you’re hiring a professional translator to start from scratch and work on copious amounts of web pages, the bill you’ll rack up will be huge, to say the least. Whereas, if you start with a first layer of machine translation and then bring in human translators to make adjustments where necessary, both their workload and your bill will be significantly reduced. 

A good compromise for companies such as this is to incorporate a mixture of both automatic and human translation. So, you may choose, for example, to get human-verified translations for the most essential pages on your website (think your homepage, the checkout and pricing pages, and your legal info) and use automatic translation for the less important pages. This will save you time, money, and stress! 

Finally, from an SEO perspective, machine translation is also a good safety net to have. Say you have thousands of pages and forget to translate one. This can be problematic as Google can penalize sites with mixed languages in SERP rankings. However, once you’ve used machine translation with Weglot, you won’t have to worry about this as 100% of your content will be translated, and the different language versions of your site will be separated by separate subdomains.

Example

  • English → https://myswebsite.com
  • French → https://mywebsite.com/fr

Building upon your machine translation

While we’re big advocates for machine translation here at Weglot, we also think it’s an excellent practice to either verify the translations yourself or work with professional translators to verify and guarantee the translation quality.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with vetted professional translators to ensure you can access them when you need. You can order professional translations or verifications straight from your Weglot dashboard and have everything checked and adjusted within 48-72 hours, allowing you to focus on other parts of your business. 

Another important aspect of our automatic translation solution is the ability to manage your own translations and have them automatically updated on your live site via either your Weglot translations list on your dashboard or directly on your live site via our intuitive in-context editor.

screenshot of the Weglot visual editor

On the Weglot dashboard, you can also collaborate with other members of your team and work together when verifying translations. You can even add specific language rules that will be applied automatically across your entire site. For example, say you’re translating from English to French, and you want your site to have an informal tone. You may set a language rule to always translate “Hello” to “Salut” as opposed to “Bonjour.” You can also choose to never translate certain words, for example, your brand name. Weglot will retain such translation memory.

add a translation rule

Wrapping it up…

So, in short, again, yes, Weglot does use manual translation, but it’s just one part of what we do. To recap, let’s remind ourselves of the following: 

Automatic translation is not equal to machine translation.

Weglot’s automatic translation solution incorporates multilingual SEO, translating your website’s content, managing it, and publishing it.

Automatic translation is an intelligent choice for many companies in terms of both time and cost. 

With Weglot, complementary translation options are available after the first layer of machine translation.

In reality, Weglot does much more than traditional ‘’automatic’’ translation and enables organizations to accelerate their move towards multilingual websites and cross-border success. When it comes to expanding and reaching new global markets, let Weglot’s solution smoothen your journey. 

Go ahead and try Weglot’s 10-day free trial to see for yourself how easy setting up a multilingual website can be.

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