Automatic translation vs machine translation explained

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7 minutes

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Updated on December 9, 2022

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

In short: Yes, Weglot does use machine translation

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

In fact, at Weglot, we think that machine translation gets a bad rap for many reasons.

In this post, we decided to weigh in on the 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, 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?

Automatic translation is different because it encompasses the whole translation process. So while machine translation is the ‘raw’ translation, automatic involves a workflow of proofreading, editing (most likely with professional translators), optimizing it for SEO, and posting the translated content back on your live site. 

This guarantees accurate translations and is the preferred translation method of most big brands.

And to achieve this, you’ll need to use a website translation software.

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.

Automated translation and detection

Once you’ve integrated Weglot, it automatically detects all the content on your site, including posts, web pages, and content generated by any plugins/apps 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 neural machine translation providers, including DeepL, Microsoft, 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.

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 it might not be delivering 100% accuracy yet, 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 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, you’ll require a large budget. 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 machine and human translation, automatic 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 provide a smooth translation management workflow. 

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 guarantee the translation quality.

That’s why you can order professional translators directly through your Weglot Dashboard, or add your own translation team. You can also collaborate with other members of your team and work together when verifying translations.

Other translation management features include the ability to 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.

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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