International marketing

Achieving Global Reach Through Multilingual Chatbots

Achieving Global Reach Through Multilingual Chatbots
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
August 17, 2023

While chatbots can help customers get assistance and support for their needs quicker, these virtual assistants will have limited effectiveness if they don’t support your customers’ spoken languages. They won’t be able to understand your customers’ inputs, and your customers won’t understand the chatbots’ responses either.

Hence, if you have an international – and multilingual – customer base, having a chatbot fluent in only one language just won’t cut it. Instead, your chatbot needs to be able to interpret inputs, and provide appropriate responses, in the various languages your customers use.

Let’s explore such multilingual chatbots in more detail – including their essential features, the benefits and challenges involved in operating one, and how you can build your own.

What are Multilingual Chatbots?

Multilingual chatbots are computer programs that can converse with users in multiple languages. They use natural language processing (NLP) technology to make sense of user input, and then provide a human-like response. Multilingual chatbots are typically installed into a business’s existing website or app instead of having their own dedicated website.

Essential features of multilingual chatbots include:

  • Language detection: Being able to identify a user’s input language and respond in that language, if possible.
  • Translation: If a chatbot hasn’t been programmed to provide responses in a certain language, it may be able to translate its responses into this language on the fly.
  • Automation: Chatbots can provide automated responses to user queries, or even assist users with simple self-help requests, 24/7.
  • Integration with other apps: For example, a multilingual chatbot may be able to integrate with a business’s ecommerce store to retrieve a customer’s order data while handling an order-related query.

However, what makes multilingual chatbots stand apart from other chatbots is their ability to receive, process, and respond to input in different languages.

This feature is a must-have if your business has a diverse customer base, or is doing business abroad, and your customers’ native languages differ from yours.

How Can Your Business Benefit From Having a Multilingual Chatbot?

By installing a multilingual chatbot on your website, your business can benefit from:

Increased Engagement

As your multilingual chatbot can converse in your customers’ preferred language, your customers will be more willing to engage with your business. For example, they may spend more time checking out your services or responding to pre-sales surveys.

And depending on how the customer engagement subsequently goes, it may result in your business closing a sale!

An Improved Customer Experience

Interacting with customers in their native language can enhance the customer experience as both sides can understand what the other is trying to get across.

And with such language barriers broken, your business can assist the customer more easily – be it to help them find the perfect product for their needs, address their sales objections, or handle their support request.

Time and Cost Savings

Chatbots can return answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) almost instantly. These virtual assistants can also help customers carry out simple self-service tasks without speaking with a human agent.

Customers can therefore get what they need quicker, while your business can hire fewer members of staff for the work.

A Competitive Advantage

Operating a multilingual bot that can assist customers in their native language can give you an edge over competitors that do not.

An Expanded Customer Base

By offering multilingual support, you prime your business for delivering stellar after-sales service, and winning over customers, in new markets.

What Are the Challenges Involved in Operating a Multilingual Chatbot?

While the multilanguage nature of multilingual chatbots makes them an asset, it can also pose unique challenges as you build and operate your multilingual bot.

Be prepared to deal with obstacles such as:

Language Nuances

Languages are complex and full of subtleties. Even within the same language, regional variations can result in differences in slang and cultural references!

As a result, if you’re preparing your chatbot’s responses with reference to copy in another language, you may need to undertake transcreation. This is the process of adapting a source text’s idioms and local expressions rather than doing a direct translation, and can help improve the relatability of your chatbot’s responses.

Potential Translation Inaccuracies

Due to differences in sentence structure, grammar, and cultural nuances among languages, directly translating text from one language to another may result in a loss of the source text’s meaning.

This is especially true if you're translating your text using machine translation software, which may not have been sufficiently trained on a certain language’s nuances.

Context Understanding

Chatbots need to correctly understand the user’s query to provide meaningful responses. However, doing so can be more complicated in a multilingual setting, where words can have different meanings in different languages and contexts.

An example would be the word “ultimate,” which could refer to a flying disc sport or an adjective that means “the best” depending on the context in which you use it.

Training Data Availability

For a chatbot to understand and converse in multiple languages, it needs to be trained on a large dataset of past customer interactions in each language.

Obtaining high-quality data on such interactions – and lots of it – can be a challenge, especially for less commonly-used languages.

Maintaining Language Consistency

The chatbot will need to deliver responses in line with your brand tone and voice across all its supported languages.

Crafting multilingual chatbot responses that meet such criteria isn’t impossible, but will take more time and effort to achieve.

The Sheer Scope of the Development Work

Building a multilingual chatbot can be a time-consuming and resource-intensive endeavor.

Just think of all the development and testing you’ll need to do to get a monolingual chatbot up and running. Multiply that work by roughly the number of languages you want your multilingual chatbot to support.

After that, add the time and resources you’ll spend on tasks specific to multilingual chatbot development. For example, you may need to engage professional translation services to refine your translated chatbot responses.

The Need for Regular Updates and Maintenance

Languages are constantly evolving, with new words and phrases coming into use and others falling out of favor.

Your business will need to regularly review your chatbot’s dataset and programming to ensure it can keep up with such language changes.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Depending on the countries you operate in, you may have to navigate legal considerations around data privacy and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

For example, the makers of the popular ChatGPT chatbot had to temporarily suspend ChatGPT access in Italy while it addressed the Italian Data Protection Authority’s data privacy concerns.

Also, consider issues of inclusivity and accessibility when planning the languages and dialects your bot will support.

If you’ll be operating your chatbot in South Africa, for instance, decide whether to make your chatbot available in all of the country’s 11 official languages or only some of them.

Undertaking the former route will be more expensive, while picking the latter option may result in concerns that you are excluding certain language users from accessing your bot.

How to Build a Multilingual Chatbot for Your Business

If you’ve weighed the benefits against the potential challenges of building a multilanguage chatbot and decided to go ahead, then let’s get into the steps for doing so!

1. Gather Your Requirements

Start by identifying your chatbot’s scope. For example:

  • Which languages should your chatbot support? Decide on your chatbot’s default language, plus the secondary languages it should understand and respond to.
  • What will be its function? Common chatbot functions include providing customer support, answering customer queries, and facilitating purchases.
  • On which platforms will you offer your chatbot? These could be your website, mobile app, or messaging channels like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Slack.

2. Choose a Bot Builder Platform for Your Chatbot

Screenshot of Microsoft's Bot Framework

From Google’s Dialogflow to the Microsoft Bot Framework, there are many conversational AI platforms that support the deployment of multilingual chatbots.

Some platforms may offer more extensive language support for certain languages or superior features for certain use cases, so do your research before investing heavily in any of them.

3. Design the Conversational Experience

In other words, plan the interaction flow between users and your chatbot. Define the:

  • User inputs (or “intents”) that your chatbot should recognize, the
  • Important pieces of information in user inputs (or “entities”) that influence the chatbot’s responses, and the
  • Responses themselves.

And since users may ask questions beyond the chatbot’s scope, flesh out how it should handle unexpected inputs – such as referring the issue to a human agent.

4. Translate Your Intents, Entities, and Responses

You’ll need to undertake such translation – and language localization – for each language your chatbot will support, while being mindful of their respective nuances and idiosyncrasies.

Using high-quality machine translation software or hiring professional translators can help ensure the accuracy and cultural appropriateness of your translations.

5. Train Your Chatbot

Most chatbot platforms use machine learning to teach chatbots the situations they may encounter and how they should respond. To get started, upload your training data to your platform’s training tool.

Your training data should include sample phrases and sentences that your users might use, as well as the “model answers” your chatbot should respond with. The more diverse and extensive the training data you use to train your chatbot, the more accurate its responses will be.

Apart from automatic training, you may also be able to manually train your chatbot by assigning intents to possible statements users may provide.

Repeat the training process for every language your chatbot will support.

6. Integrate Your Chatbot With Your Platforms

Once your chatbot is ready for use, integrate it with the platform(s) on which your users will interact with it.

Your chatbot platform may offer built-in integrations with these platforms to make the configuration work more straightforward.

7. Test Your Chatbot

Test your chatbot in all supported languages thoroughly. As you do so, gather feedback on its operations and use these to refine its responses.

Such testing and improvement work should be an ongoing process even after you’ve launched your chatbot.

8. Maintain Your Chatbot’s Knowledge Base and Training Data Regularly

Doing so helps keep your chatbot up-to-date on the latest phrases and expressions as languages evolve.

It also prepares your chatbot for answering new questions that may arise when you launch new products or services.

Expand Your Global Reach With a Multilingual Chatbot and Website

Multilingual chatbots can take a bit more work to set up and maintain than their monolingual counterparts, but the advantages they bring to the table can make such effort more than worth it. The available chatbot platforms also help take most of the technical work out of chatbot creation, making it easier to build a multilingual chatbot than ever before.

If you’ll be implementing your multilingual chatbot on your website, consider also making your website multilingual for a seamless user experience. Translating a website is a different ball game from translating chatbot intents and responses, so you’ll need a different translation solution here.

Weglot integrates with all leading website platforms and custom-built sites to detect, instantly translate, and display your website content.

All translations are stored in a user-friendly Weglot Dashboard, and you can invite team members and external translators to help refine them. A built-in glossary also lets you set up translation rules on how certain words or phrases should (or should not) always be translated to maintain branding consistency across languages.

Weglot also automatically creates language subdomains or subdirectories to ensure your site is optimized for multilingual searches.

Pairing your Weglot-translated website with a multilingual chatbot, your business will be in a strong position to expand your global customer base, boost customer satisfaction, and ultimately drive growth and revenue in the international markets.

Sign up for a free 10-day trial of Weglot here to explore how its website translation capabilities can complement your chatbot creation efforts.

Discover weglot

Ready to display your website in multiple languages?

Try Weglot on your website for free (no credit card required).

Icon blog

In this article, we're going to look into:
Try for free