Website translation

Automatic translation vs machine translation explained

Automatic translation vs machine translation explained
Sean O'Hare
Written by
Sean O'Hare
Sean O'Hare
Written by
Sean O'Hare
Sean O'Hare
Reviewed by
Updated on
June 19, 2023

For our website translation solution at Weglot to work as effectively and quickly as it does, we use automatic translation and machine translation. 

Despite popular belief, machine translation isn’t a bad thing. It also isn’t the only type of translation we support. 

Though machine translation gets a bad rap, it has plenty to offer: faster output, mostly accurate translations, lower costs, and scalability. And it’s a crucial part of automatic translation.

In this post, we’ll explore an issue that most people hoping to build multilingual websites face: automatic translation vs. machine translation. After reading this comparison, you’ll determine the translation solution that’s perfect for your needs. 

What is automatic translation?

In many contexts, automatic translation is used interchangeably with machine translation. Though it’s easy to confuse one for the other, the crucial difference is that automatic translation is the workflow involved in website translation. 

Machine translation provides the ‘raw’, first layer of translation. Automatic translation takes this and feeds it into a workflow of proofreading, editing (often involving professional translators), SEO, and re-uploading the translated content to your live site. So machine translation is part of the overarching process that is automatic translation.

Automatic vs automated translation

Although they sound like the same thing, there are subtle but important differences between automatic and automated translation.

For starters, automatic translation works without internal input or work from marketing teams (or anyone else). On the other hand, automated translation requires external manipulation, like triggers from software or tools, to produce a higher-quality output. It integrates different translation processes that need supervision and management by humans.

Yet, automatic translation enables different kinds of automation. These include simplifying your tasks and streamlining translation workflows. These make it easier than ever to have a multilingual website. 

What is machine translation?

The Globalization and Localization Authority (GALA) defines machine translation as technology powered by “fully automated software that can translate source content into target languages.” Many companies like Microsoft, DeepL, and Google use artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver high-quality translation engines for fuelling machine translation.

In short, machine translation is a singular tool that you can use to instantly translate content without requiring human intervention. For example, you can use Google Translate to convert content from the English language into Spanish to generate machine-translated text. 

Isn’t machine translation also automatic?

Machine translation is a translation technology that does involve some form of automation. Since it can immediately render texts into a target language without human involvement, it’s a crucial part of translation management. While it offers instant translated content, that doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication. Its output still requires human verification, localization, and integration to ensure it’s suitable for multilingual websites. 

What’s involved in automatic translation?

Automatic translation encompasses all processes involved in creating a well-functioning multilingual website. It’s not enough to feed your content into an MT tool and copy-paste the result. You’ll have to ensure the translation is accurate, appropriate, and localized to your target audience. The process of manually uploading translations for each language version of your website is also tedious. And that’s why this translation method completely changes the game.

Automatic translation aims to solve that through the following:

Workflow automation

Automatic translation adds structure and sense to your website translation workflow. For instance, it automatically scans and detects your content to translate into your desired language. You won’t have to worry about untranslated content. It also makes project management easier by allowing you to assign translations to teammates or translators. The exact kind of automation it offers depends on the website translation solution you choose.

Reduction of repetitive manual effort

Website translation is incredibly time-consuming if you do it manually. That’s where automatic translation comes in. It automates repetitive manual tasks, allowing you to focus on more cognitive-intensive deliverables. It also reduces the need to communicate every single detail, since changes and updates reflect in real-time.

If there are a few words or phrases that appear repeatedly throughout your website, it will use translation memory—your database of text fragments that have already been translated—to apply those same translations everywhere else. Automatic translation helps ensure that the process of translating your website is as frictionless as possible.

Translation memory

Translation memory is an integral part of optimizing the website translation process. It ensures that your translations remain consistent while erasing the need to correct the translations of the same phrases and terms over and over. This doesn’t just apply to your landing pages and articles, but the text throughout your website: navigation menu, footers, and even CTA buttons.

Multilingual SEO

The work isn’t done once you translate your website. It needs to be optimized so that search engines easily find them.

Your translated content won’t rank for the keywords in the language of your original content. You’ll have to adjust your metadata, ensure you add hreflang tags, and assign dedicated URLs to each translated language. Given automatic translation’s many features and integrations, some of these will be automatically done for you!

Website localization

Another important aspect of website translation that automatic translation helps manage is localizing your website. Localization means adapting your content to suit the preferences of your target audience, like their language, style, references, and beliefs. They must feel like you created your content especially for them. That means accommodating what they’re used to.

Automatic translation vs machine translation: What’s the best?

The best translation software for your needs depends on your use case, the language combinations you need, and the type of content you want to translate. 

Machine translation may suit you just fine if you need to translate literal texts, like technical and legal documents. In the context of your website, this includes low-traffic content like your footer, metadata, product descriptions, and even reviews.  It’s also a great option for translating brief phrases, as long as a frame of reference isn’t required to understand them.

However, if you’re working on marketing content, some form of human translation, mixed with machine translation will drive optimal results. It often relies on cultural references, wit, and humor to be successful. And all these need context for them to make sense.

Meanwhile, automatic translation is a comprehensive approach to website translation. It covers the numerous processes that go into creating a proper multilingual website. From project management to creating hreflang tags, it makes translating your website simpler.

Need some help figuring out if machine translation is the right translation method for you? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you translating low-impact, straightforward content?
  2. Examples: website footers, the terms and conditions page, thank-you pages, repetitive actionable content like instructions
  3. Does it need a low degree of post-editing?
  4. Examples: product titles, descriptions, reviews
  5. Is it internal content that doesn’t involve branding and culture?
  6. Examples that involve branding and culture: newsletters, landing pages, and homepages
  7. Are the language pairs you need similar to each other?
  8. Machine translation works excellently for language pairs with similar syntax and grammatical rules. These include Portuguese and Romanian since they’re both Romance or Latin languages. 

If you answered yes to all questions, then machine translation has all the functionality you need.

But, if you answered no to any of these questions, automatic translation—which involves human input for maximum accuracy and relevance—is your best bet. 

The best website translation solution to use

Looking for a translation software that makes it as seamless as possible to create different language versions of your website? Weglot has you covered. It’s compatible with all CMSes and has over 100 language options to choose from. 

How Weglot automates your website translation workflow

Weglot detects your content, scans it, then translates it into your target language. It then displays the newly translated content immediately on your website. You won’t have to worry about spending hours doing manual tasks typically involved in website translation since Weglot does pretty much everything for you. 

The result? You’ll free up more time to explore and translate your content into other languages. Our Dashboard allows team members—no matter where they are in the world—to manage translations, enabling seamless collaboration. 

Weglot’s intuitive translation management interface means you can verify and adjust the translations on your website. Edits are automatically applied to your website, which means you won’t need to course your desired changes through developers. 

If you prefer working with professional translators, you can add them to the project. They can directly work on the translations using the Weglot Dashboard. If you don’t know who to contact for professional translation, simply order them right from the Dashboard.

Immediate content detection and translation

Once you’ve integrated Weglot, it automatically detects all the content on your site. These include posts, web pages, and content generated by any plugins/apps you may be using.

Then, when you’ve selected the source language of your site and chosen your target language(s), Weglot provides a first layer of machine translation.

How? Weglot draws from many 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. It’s designed this way to get you the highest translation quality for your chosen language pair. This is the machine translation part of the automatic translation process powered by Weglot.

Professional translations

As mentioned earlier, machine translation is only one part of website translation. Human translators still need to check and edit the output to ensure they have the right context and references. That way, they can avoid embarrassing translation gaffes.

The problem is, many business owners hoping to go international don’t know how to find a professional translator they can trust. The solution? Ordering professional translations from your Weglot Dashboard. Whether you want your entire website professionally checked or just your most important pages, you’ll have your pages delivered in 2 business days. Note that this depends on the complexity of the languages involved.

Automatic multilingual SEO 

Once ready, your newly translated pages are automatically indexed following Google’s best practices for multilingual SEO. While translating your website into multiple languages will help boost your traffic and sales, your customers still need to be able to discover your translated pages 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). In turn, they’ll help potential customers find you online.

Smoother localization

Weglot makes localizing your website smooth like butter. First, it automatically detects and scans all your content (even images and dynamic content like pop-ups). This is so that you don’t have to do this manually, because it’s one of the most time-consuming parts of website translation. If there are a few pages you’d rather keep in their original language, you can exclude them on your Weglot Dashboard. You can even import and export translations if you have your own localization team, allowing them to review translations without needing access to the Dashboard.

Even better, you can set translation rules to help the translation process. When we talk about rules, we mean style guides, glossaries, appropriate formats, and other aspects. It’s important to have these rules in place because there will be a few words and phrases you wouldn’t want to translate for consistency, like brand or product terms.

Instant publishing

Your newly translated web pages are then automatically published on your live site under language subdomains or subdirectories, depending on what you choose. Displaying translated content is often a huge pain point for people who want to make their websites multilingual—but with Weglot, always consider it done. Your website visitors can choose between the different languages you offer via a language switcher that Weglot adds to your site.

Wrapping it up

Yes, Weglot does use manual translation, but it’s one part of what we do. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what we’ve discussed:

→ Automatic translation is not the same as machine translation.

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

→ Automatic translation is a great choice for companies wanting to cut costs and save time.

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

In reality, Weglot does much more than traditional ‘’automatic’’ translation. It 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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