Website translation

Machine Translation Quality: How Good Is It? (And How to Get Started)

Machine Translation Quality: How Good Is It? (And How to Get Started)
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Written by
Merve Alsan
Merve Alsan
Reviewed by
Updated on
April 9, 2024

In this post, we go into the results of a recent survey we conducted on the state of machine translation. Simply put, we wanted to know: how accurate is machine translation? Can you rely on software solely for your projects, or will you always need the human touch of professional translators?

The short answer is simple: machine translation is very good (with most translations only needing light edits), but whether or not you need human review depends on the content you’re translating and the overall scope of your project.

After we take a look at the quality of machine translation, we also go over a detailed walk-through on how you can set up Weglot, our website translation software, with any CMS and start translating your content today.

Note: Ready to translate your website? Skip the article and start your free trial.

Machine Translation Quality: How Good Is It?

First, a quick definition – machine translation is the process of using software to translate content. This content can be anything from website copy to subtitles for videos to user manuals.

And to be even more specific, we’re looking at the efficacy of neural machine translation (NMT). The neural part is important –NMTs are translation tools that constantly improve the quality of their translations over time. This means they adapt their translations in the future based on what they’ve translated in the past.

There are two big reasons to consider using machine translation over a human translator.

  1. Machine translations are faster.
  2. Machine translations are more affordable.

But both reasons fall short if the translated content you’re getting is riddled with errors.

So the question is, how accurate is neural machine translation? And is it the right translation method for your project?

To answer this, we had professional translators take a look at content translated by various machine translation providers, including:

  • Amazon translate
  • DeepL
  • Google Cloud Translation
  • Microsoft Translator
  • ModernMT

The editors were asked to rate the translations as:

  • Usable – This means they didn’t need to make any changes.
  • Touched – The translated content needed minor edits.
  • Reworked – The translated content needed significant edits.

Translators were tasked with rating how accurate the translations were to the spirit of the text, not just providing a literal translation. 

When we looked at the average rating across all of these providers we learned that most machine translations were acceptable. FYI: An “acceptable” rating here meant that while some content needed editing, the corrections were mostly light adjustments.

machine translation usability

We also learned that different translation providers offer varying levels of accuracy, depending on which language they were translating.

Machine translation human editing perspective

For example, you can see that professional translators made fewer changes to German translations when they were working with Amazon Translate, Microsoft Translate, and Google Translate.

Note: Weglot maintains active API connections with 3 leading translation providers. This way we can always use the best option to translate your site.

In short, this study shows that machine translation is an attractive option for all translation projects, though how you use machine translation may vary. 

For some projects, it can be sufficient just to let machine translation translate your content and not bother with manual reviews (at Weglot, roughly ⅔ of our customers don’t edit their machine-translated content). For other projects, you can use machine translation to provide you with a first layer of translated content. 

Then you can have editors spot-check or review those translations.

This two-layer process is faster and more affordable than just using human translators.

Below, we look at how using this two-layer approach would work if you’re translating a website.

Note: In this post, we do focus exclusively on translating website content. If you need to translate a mobile app, video subtitles, or off-website content, then you’ll want to look at using a translation tool – like DeepL – or a translation agency.

How to Get Started With Machine Translation

In this section, we look at how you can use Weglot to handle your machine translation.

Weglot has active API connections to these leading translation providers:

  • DeepL
  • Google Translate
  • Microsoft Translate

So by using Weglot, you’re getting machine translation from the best tools in the business, without having to fuss with extracting or uploading your files. You just add Weglot to your website. Weglot works with any website, and here’s a short video showing how simple it is to set it up. 

After adding Weglot to your site, you pick which language(s) you want your site translated into. We currently offer over 100 different languages, including right-to-left languages like Arabic and custom languages like Canadian-French. 

Weglot will start translating your site immediately. For most sites, this entire process takes just a few minutes. You also have the option of customizing which content gets translated – for example, you can exclude specific URLs from the translation process or even sections/blocks within a page.

Once your translation is done – again, this typically takes a few minutes – Weglot will host your newly translated site under a subdomain/subdirectory of your existing site. For example, one of our customers is New Balance in Saudi Arabia.

Here’s their English site and domain.

Here’s their Arabic site and domain:

New Balance Arabic website

Take a look at how seamless the change is from left-to-right orientation to right-to-left orientation. All of that is done by Weglot, simplifying the entire localization process for your website.

By connecting your site with leading translation providers, and allowing you to customize what gets translated and how your language switcher lookers, Weglot lets you use highly accurate translation to quickly create a multilingual site.

If you’re ready to start translating your content, start your free trial today

Or keep reading to learn how you can access and edit your translations and other key benefits of using Weglot.

How to Make Edits to Your Translations

We looked at how effective and accurate machine translation is – but plenty of businesses (about ⅓ of our customer base) still choose to make edits to their translations. 

These edits could be for accuracy (as discussed, machine translation is very accurate, but not infallible). You may also want to make edits for tone, or to make sure your translated content fits nicely within their website’s layout and overall design. 

That’s why Weglot makes it easy for you to access and edit your translations. 

With Weglot, you can:

  • Access all of your translations through your dashboard. You don’t need to download or extract files. You can simply log into your dashboard and pull up your translations, like logging into the back end of a website. However, if you’d rather work outside your dashboard you can also export and import translations.
  • You can use a visual editor to make changes to your site from its front end. Sometimes translated content will take up less or more space on your layout. You can use a visual editor to see how translations look within your design and make changes in real time.
  • You can order translation services from professional translators. You can also add your own translators, this way, they can work through your machine-translated content and make changes when/if necessary.

How to Access Your Translations Through Your Weglot Dashboard

When you log into Weglot, you can access your translations from your dashboard.

translations list

On your dashboard, you can:

  • See which languages your site is currently translated into.
  • Choose if you want to add any new languages.
  • Import/Export your translations.
  • Access your Visual Editor. 
  • Access your glossary. A glossary is just a set of rules for translations. For example, you can exclude certain words and phrases – such as brand names – from being translated.

You can find specific translations by looking up the URL or typing in the phrase or word you want to find.

Or you can use our Visual Editor. When you use our Visual Editor, you see a live version of your site’s front end. You can easily navigate over your website and makes edits to your site’s content.

visual editor new

Our Visual Editor is a great way to avoid issues like overlapping text or broken design. 

How to Order Professional Translation Services Through Weglot

You can either use Weglot’s platform with your team of translators, where they log in, access the translations, and make their edits. Or, if you don’t have a team of translators that can help with your manual translations, you can order professional translation services directly through Weglot:

Review order of professional translations

Simply pick which translations you want to be reviewed by a professional translator and pay for your order. Your order will be completed within 2 business days, and your site will be updated with the newest translation.

Note; Because you’re using a base layer of machine-translated content, it’s going to be a faster review process for your translators. This saves you time and money.

Other Benefits of Using Website Translation Software Weglot

There are two extra benefits to using Weglot to translate your website’s content.

  1. Weglot keeps your translated site up to date with automatic content detection
  2. Weglot optimizes your translated site for search engines

Benefit #1: Keep Your Translated Site(s) Up-To-Date With New Content

With Weglot, your translated site exists as a subdomain or subdirectory of your main site. It’s an extension of your main site. 

When changes are made on your main site, they will be automatically reflected on your translated site.

For example, if you run an eCommerce store in English and have translated your site into French and German. When you add new products – or revise your product pages – your French and German sites are automatically updated. Any updates and changes you make are then continuously synced so there’s no worry of displaying untranslated content. 

Benefit #2: Optimize Your Translated Site for Search Engines

Weglot’s translation management platform also helps your translated sites with search engine optimization (SEO).

Weglot will automatically:

  • Add hreflang tags to your source code that lets Google know about the translated versions of your site
  • Translate your on-page SEO content, like metadata and alt tags.
  • Create unique URLs for each translated version of your site, creating subdirectories/subdomains for each URL.

Next Steps: Using Machine Translation to Translate Your Website

In this post, we looked at the efficacy of machine translation. While exact results will vary, depending on factors such as translation providers and what languages are being translated, the overwhelming consensus is that machine translation can translate content and only require minimal edits.

This is a major win for your business if you want to translate content quickly and effectively.

Even with the most complex translation jobs, you can use machine translation as a base layer, quickly translating your content into a different language. Then, on an as-needed basis, you can use professional editors to review/spot-check your translated content.

That’s how Weglot is set up, which makes it a perfect tool for businesses who want to create a multilingual website. 

With Weglot you get:

  • Fast and accurate neural machine translations from leading providers.
  • A translation platform where you can easily access and edit content (as well as order professional translation services).
  • Translated sites that always remain up-to-date with any new content changes thanks to Weglot’s automatic content detection and syncing.
  • Translated sites that are optimized for search engines.

If you’re interested in seeing how easy website translation can be with Weglot, start your free trial today.

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