AI translation: How to leverage it for website translation

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Updated on December 19, 2022
AI translation

Good communication is essential for businesses around the world, regardless of their specific domain, product, or geographic location. And for this, the accurate translation of online content is invaluable. 

According to a report by the Economist, 44% of respondents say they’ve experienced a delay or a failure to complete a project due to poor communication, while for 18% it has led to missed sales opportunities. And one of the best ways to improve communication is to make sure written content is accurately translated and remove language barriers. This can expose you to new business opportunities and be a catalyst for growth. 

Budget cuts and stretched internal resources might not mean that’s always possible. However, artificial intelligence has been responsible for the optimization of many internal marketing processes, so what about translation?

Can AI help with that? 

The short answer is: Yes, it can! 

Today, machine translation no longer produces translated content that is clunky, inaccurate, endearing due to its occasional misinterpretation of idioms, or even downright hilarious at times. 

Thanks to the latest developments in AI translation, AI-translated content flows well, has solid grammar, and helps get the message across – in most instances, quite accurately. 

If you’re looking to expand globally, harnessing the power of AI translation will enable you to start selling your products or services to an international audience at a fraction of the time (and budget) you’d otherwise need. 

Machine translation helped eBay increase its sales by 10.9%, while The Bradery managed to streamline the translation of over 500 products daily and manage a tight launch schedule. 

In this article, we’ll look at the ins and outs of AI translation, help you make up your mind about it, and talk about the best ways to use it to fuel growth. 

What is AI translation?

So, what is AI translation, really? 

AI translation, also known as machine translation, is an automatic translation method that relies on complex machine learning algorithms. It uses neural networks and algorithms to learn the meaning of words, understand context, and structure sentences in a way that is grammatically correct and feels natural to a reader.  

Machine translation software is an AI-powered application that translates content automatically from one language to another, for example, from Swedish to English or vice versa. 

Historically, machine translation used to be rather inaccurate and rough, which is why some businesses still avoid it for their translation projects. However, developments in AI and machine learning in the past years have greatly improved the quality of AI translation, making it a reliable tool to facilitate and speed up international launches and even translate marketing content

The evolution of AI translation

AI and machine translation has gone a long way since its beginnings – we all remember how clunky Google Translate used to be in the early 2000s, and earlier translation software was even less accurate. 

The history of automated translation begins in the 1970s with rules-based machine translation (RBMT). This technology was rather basic: It translated from one language to another word for word, via a language dictionary and a set of grammar rules. This meant that translation was often inaccurate or nearly impossible to read, making it unusable. 

Next came statistical machine translation (SMT). This technology compares content translated by human translators and organizes all rules with the help of algorithms. The quality of machine translation improved significantly with SMT, but it was still a hit or miss at times – and required extensive human intervention. 

Neural machine translation (NMT), the next and last (for now!) step in the development of AI translation, uses neural networks to work with datasets, decode the meaning of the source text, and encode it into the target text. 

Thanks to its sophisticated deep learning algorithms, NMT technology can produce translated content that is both more accurate and more natural-sounding. Machine translation software nowadays often uses NMT technology or a hybrid approach, in which two or more models are used together. 

The advantages and disadvantages of AI translation

Let’s look at its pros and cons to find out how AI translation can be helpful – and what limitations we need to be aware of.

Pros

Here are the pros of AI translation: 

  • Fast and efficient: AI translation is instantaneous and can translate very large volumes of content in real time. This is impossible to achieve with human translation.
  • Consistent: The quality will be consistent when using the same technology or software; some applications use machine learning to further improve consistency.
  • Continuous learning potential: With the help of machine learning, some AI-powered translation platforms can be improved by teaching them to use specific terms consistently.
  • Simple to use: AI translation tools are extremely simple to use. You either copy and paste content that needs to be translated, or, even better, you use a platform like Weglot that uses has API connections with three of the leading AI translation tools to translate your entire website. 
  • Can translate to many languages: With AI, you can translate the same content into dozens of languages. If you use human translation services, this would either mean you’d need to use the services of a very big translation agency (of which there might be only few that fit your requirements and budget) or a number of smaller agencies, which increases project complexity and workflow. 
  • Cost: A huge plus point is that machine translation services are well within budget.

Cons

Let’s now look at some of the downsides of AI translation: 

  • Nuances might be lost: Although it’s progressing rapidly, AI cannot always translate nuances accurately and might struggle with idioms. Cultural specifics might simply be lost in translation and reduce the overall localization of your website project. Additionally, AI won’t necessarily be able to adapt the tone of voice of a piece of content to a specific situation or type of use. 
  • Might not be able to translate emotion: Persuasive copy uses emotion to create a strong connection with the audience, which AI won’t necessarily be able to reproduce when translating to a different language. Use humor and sarcasm with caution when using artificial intelligence.
  • Can require a professional translator: This is not as much a downside as it is a feature. Human editing enables you to get the best of both worlds, the speed and efficiency of AI translation, combined with the accuracy, precision, and true understanding of a piece of text that a bilingual editor can achieve gives you optimal results.

What are the benefits of AI translation for businesses?

Let’s look at the ways in which AI translation can actually be beneficial to businesses. With the help of AI translation, your organization can: 

  • Reach a wider market: If you’re aiming to sell to other countries, AI translation software can be extremely useful in helping you translate product or service descriptions to as many languages as you’d like. According to a study by CSA research, 76% of customers prefer to shop in their own language, while 40% will not buy from a site in another language. 
  • Serve their customers better: Companies that use AI translation can also provide better customer service to international customers and serve multilingual markets better. Product descriptions are more appealing to customers if they’re in their own language – as are customer support and email updates.
  • Improve engagement: User engagement improves if you speak the language of your users.  If you leverage AI translation successfully, this will translate into more newsletter subscriptions, better engagement on social media, and better brand loyalty and recognition.
  • Distribute internal resources more efficiently: You can use your team’s resources – time, effort, and money – much more efficiently if you combine AI translation with a professional translator rather than translate everything manually. 

Current AI translation technologies

The available machine translation methods are: 

  • Rules-based machine translation (RBMT)
  • Statistical machine translation (SMT)
  • Neural machine translation (NMT)

Most current AI translation software tools use either NMT (neural machine translation) or hybrid machine translation, in which two or more machine translation methods are combined to produce an accurate result. 

A number of machine translation providers exist, such as DeepL, Amazon Translate, Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, and ModernMT. These engines use neural machine translation; if you’re interested in taking a deep dive into an analysis of their performance, check out our report on The state of machine translation for websites.

However, NMT has reached a maturity level that makes comparisons between the different top-performing engines pretty tricky. As you can see in our report, they all provide a good quality, which naturally varies by language pairs. 

AI translation is fit for translating website content at its current level of maturity – and will likely improve further in the next few years, positively impacting your translation process.

What should AI translation be used for?

AI translation has many uses in business and can be extremely helpful in enabling growth and keeping costs low. Let’s see how businesses can leverage AI translation in different use-case scenarios.

Website translation

Website translation is perhaps the most obvious use case for businesses – and also the most impactful way to use AI translation. Speaking the language of their customers becomes increasingly important for B2B and B2C businesses alike. 

As early as 2014, 76% of English searches for tech products and services occurred outside of the US and Canada, meaning that global exposure today is an inevitable part of growth for many, if not most, businesses. 

If a company wants to reach international customers, it’d need to translate its website into multiple languages. The easiest way to do this is via a machine translation software to translate the bulk of the content with the help of AI, proofread it (with the help of human translators), and publish it automatically once you’re happy with the result. 

This type of technology gives you the ability to automate such a complex project as website translation. You then get the flexibility and editing control to output high-quality translations at the fraction of cost and time usually associated with such a project.

Translating other types of content

AI can be used to translate other types of content, as well. Some examples include: 

  • User manuals
  • How-to guides
  • Reports
  • Whitepapers
  • Document translation
  • Knowledge base entries, and more. 

External and internal communication

Many companies are leveraging AI translation software to serve their customers in their own language, using an application to translate chat messages and emails automatically. 

The same approach can be used for internal communication in large multinational companies where teams from different locations need to communicate with each other easily.

How to use AI translation in a website translation project

So, how do you actually use AI translation to translate a website? 

In short, you need to translate the bulk of the content via AI and have a human editor go through it afterward before publishing it on your website. 

And, perhaps more importantly, it’s best to use a dedicated platform to streamline your workflow and simplify translation projects significantly. Weglot does exactly that, as it: 

  • Uses AI translation to translate content instantaneously
  • Enables human editors to proofread and correct the text in collaboration with each other
  • Displays the translated text under language subdomains or subdirectories
  • Adds hreflang tags to let search engines know that your site exists in different languages

This significantly simplifies each translation project: You won’t need to copy and paste text manually in and out of your CMS or edit it in a separate document, and then ask your development team to upload it to your site.

Instead, you can manage everything in a single platform – and also take care of your technical SEO, too. 

Sign up for a free trial or contact us for a demo and see how Weglot can help you translate your website effortlessly.

In this article we’re going to look into:

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