The Comprehensive Guide to Translation Technology [2024]

Rayne Aguilar
Written by
Rayne Aguilar
Rayne Aguilar
Written by
Rayne Aguilar
Eugène Ernoult
Eugène Ernoult
Eugène Ernoult
Reviewed by
Eugène Ernoult
The Comprehensive Guide to Translation Technology [2024]

Language barriers have the power to create uncertainty among potential customers and can also make it extra challenging to extend your business's reach beyond your local market.

Most business owners aren’t linguist experts or translators, so how are they supposed to engage with audiences beyond their native language?

The answer is translation technology.

Imagine it as a master craftsman that transforms these language barriers into gateways that open up to global markets. However, not any craftsman will do. You need something sturdy, modern, and reliable.

To help you on your journey, we’ll go over the transformative potential of translation technology and how it can add substantial value to your business. We’ll also look at some translation tools like Weglot, which simplify the task of creating a multilingual global store or website.

So, take this opportunity to explore our guide and uncover the numerous benefits your business could reap by leveraging translation technology.

What is Translation Technology?

Translation technology is a broad term that refers to a range of software solutions designed to automate, assist, or manage the translation process. The primary goal of translation technology is to support businesses and individuals who face language barriers, facilitating clear communication with their potential clients, partners, or employees worldwide.

This technology can take various forms, which we’ll explain in more detail later in the article:

  • Machine Translation (MT) Tools: These automated software solutions use rule-based or probabilistic algorithms (more on those a bit later) to translate text from one language to another without human intervention.
  • Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) Tools: These tools aid human translators by providing features like translation memories and glossaries, but are not fully automated.
  • Real-Time Translation Solutions: These technologies provide immediate translation, spoken or written, enabling instant communication between different language speakers.
  • Translation Management Systems (TMS): TMS are comprehensive platforms that manage and streamline the translation process, including project management, workflow automation, and integration with other translation tools.

The History of Translation Technology

The journey of translation technology started in 1950 when Georgetown University and The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) created the first machine-translation system. By working with pre-programmed dictionaries and rules, this program was used to translate more than 60 Russian sentences into English.

Naturally, this approach is now considered extremely slow and unreliable, but it provided an important stepping stone for the innovations that were about to follow.

History of machine translation
History of translation technology — a brief timeline

In time, these methodologies moved from rule-based systems, like the one used in the 1950s experiment, to statistical systems, which used existing translations to learn and predict translations. Since 2016, we’ve entered the age of neural systems, which use artificial intelligence to understand context and produce more natural translations.

Specifically, in Machine Translation, we've witnessed significant advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and deep learning. These advancements have substantially improved translation accuracy, benefiting not only translators but also businesses that can now communicate more effectively in multiple languages.

As Eugène Ernoult, Chief Marketing Officer at Weglot says:

”We’re now at the dawn of a new age in human communication – an era where technology offers assistance in translation that was difficult to imagine just a decade ago”.

The Importance of Translation Technology in Today’s Globalized World

Imagine a global marketplace where the language barrier is no longer an obstacle. This is the reality of our constantly moving, interconnected world, and it's powered by translation technology – a pivotal agent for business expansion and effective communication.

While retailers are no longer confined to localized markets, global expansion brings a fresh linguistic challenge and a new set of obstacles to overcome.

These include:

  • Balancing costs with the efficiency of human translators.
  • Dealing with inconsistent translations.
  • Grappling with the complexities of idioms and metaphors.
  • Fighting inaccuracies that often accompany purely automated translations.
  • Scaling language translations for bigger-sized businesses and enterprises.

Translation technology is designed to address these challenges, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the translation process. Solution providers, like Weglot, can make this transition smooth and efficient.

Multinational companies can standardize global communication, digital marketing agencies can localize campaigns effectively, and education platforms can create multilingual courses – all with translation technology. These solutions have a significant commercial value, offering increased outreach, improved efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.

Providing a personalized user experience through translated platforms fosters accessibility, trust, and loyalty. Several companies have harnessed the power of translation technologies to catapult their businesses into the global arena.

One success story demonstrating this is the customer conversation management platform case study case study with Weglot

After implementing Weglot's translation technology, successfully increased its website traffic, with impressions for one of the languages growing by more than 2x within a year. With their main website now available in 15 languages, can cater to audiences from over 90 countries.

This is only one of the success stories of businesses embracing translation technology. By doing this, they have the power to overcome linguistic hurdles and set themselves up for exponential growth in the global market.

Exploring Different Types of Translation Technologies

As businesses expand their reach across boundaries and interactions on a global scale, the requirement for fast, efficient, and accurate translation services is more vital than ever. This ever-growing demand has given rise to many translation technologies, each carrying distinct advantages, functionalities, and applications.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Machine Translation (MT)

Machine translation is part of the branch of linguistics that involves using software applications to translate text or speech from one language to another. An attractive feature of Machine Translation is its capacity to process large volumes of text with impressive speed.

As we mentioned earlier, MT can function in two different ways:

  • Through probabilistic algorithms that allow MT tools to learn from many examples of translations that they've seen before. The probability comes from the action of trying to figure out patterns and then using these patterns to guess how to translate new sentences. This way can be more flexible and better at dealing with different speaking methods, but it needs many example sentences to learn well.
  • Via rule-based technology, which uses a big set of grammar rules and dictionaries to translate. They look at how sentences are built in one language and then try to make similar sentences in another language. They won't do well with everyday language or phrases that don't translate directly. This type of MT is recommended for handling specialized or technical language, for example, in government agencies and formal communication within multinational companies.

Many people mistake machine translation for automatic translation, but they are not the same thing. Machine translation delivers the initial, basic layer of translation, for example, putting a piece of text in Google Translate.

Automatic translation is the process that follows, including proofreading, editing (typically by professional translators), search engine optimization (SEO), and finally, posting the translated material on your live website. Thus, machine translation is a component within the much bigger process of automatic translation.

Examples of MT tools include:

  • Google Translate: The first multilingual neural MT service that comes as a website interface, a mobile application, and an API that can be used by developers to build browser extensions and software apps.
  • eTranslation: This software is developed by the European Commission. It’s mostly used by EU institutions, public administrations, universities, and EU freelance translators and lets you translate from and into any official EU language as well as Arabic, Chinese, Icelandic, Japanese, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish, and Ukrainian.
  • DeepL: Initially developed with Linguee, DeepL is a neural machine translation software launched in 2017. It supports 31 languages and allows users to translate pieces of text and entire documents using AI-powered edits.

The core challenge with Machine translation is maintaining the quality and preserving the inherent context of the original content.

Software like Weglot addresses this concern by utilizing machine translation to produce an initial translated version, which human translators then revise or refine. This methodology maintains a high level of accuracy and ensures the translated content respects the cultural sensitivities of the target language.

Real-time Translation

Real-time translation technology uses AI to instantly translate spoken or written language. This functionality, especially handy during business engagements and other live events, allows for smooth and immediate communication between parties speaking different languages.

The leading tools are:

  • Google Translate Mobile App: It supports 133 languages and can propose translations for 37 languages via photo, 32 via voice in "conversation mode", and 27 via live video imagery in "augmented reality mode".
  • Wordly AI: It’s used for in-person, virtual, and hybrid events, webinars, and videos, and it offers live two-way AI translation with audio and captions.
  • Microsoft Translate: The mobile app allows users to join real-time translated conversations across devices for one-on-one chats and larger group interactions. They only need to speak or type to communicate in their own language, and the messages will be translated into the recipient’s chosen language.

However, this technology comes with a handful of challenges. Potential time lags could interrupt the flow of the conversation, and the tool may overlook subtle details of dialects or specific language intricacies.

Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) Tools

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools are suites of software applications designed to aid human translators in enhancing their productivity. Instead of independently performing translations, these tools focus on reducing the translator's workload by offering features such as Translation Memory, term base, and real-time Quality Assurance checks.

For example, here is what the Translation Panel for Wordfast Anywhere looks like:

Wordfast Anywhere Translation Panel Example

This combination of human knowledge and machine translations is very helpful to professionals, especially when they deal with complicated documents that require them to keep the original formatting and structure.  

Popular CAT tools include:

  • WordFast Anywhere, Pro, Classic, and Server: As one of the first CAT tools on the market, WordFast offers features like translation memory and terminology management to help translators increase efficiency and consistency in their work.
  • SDL Trados Studio: This tool is widely used by corporations, language service providers, and freelance translators and is available as a desktop tool or cloud software. It uses three main technologies: translation memory (TM), terminology management, and machine translation (MT).
  • MemoQ: Their translation software comes with many useful features, such as Automatic Quality Assurance, PDF translation, and compatibility with other tools like SDL Trados Studio, WordFast, and STAR Transit.

One of the most common disadvantages of CAT tools is their steep learning curve. Many of these tools come with complex interfaces and advanced features, making them challenging for beginners to master. Another notable issue is the potential for quality concerns in translation memories. If not properly managed, these memories can perpetuate errors and outdated language, affecting the quality of new translations.

Translation Management Systems (TMS)

A Translation Management System is a platform designed to streamline the course of translating large pieces of text into various languages.

With a suite of features, including workflow management, project management, and review and editing tools, a TMS efficiently manages repetitive tasks, centralizes all linguistic resources, and ensures smooth communication between all project collaborators, allowing for an issue-free translation process.

Examples of TMS tools include:

  • Weglot: A website localization tool that offers automated website translation and multilingual SEO, making websites accessible in multiple languages with ease.
  • Lokalise: A localization and translation management system designed for agile teams, offering features for collaborative editing, automation, and integration with various development tools.
  • Smartling: A cloud-based translation and localization platform that provides advanced automation and workflow customization to streamline the translation process for businesses and organizations.

As these technologies continue to evolve, they promise to usher in advancements that will profoundly impact businesses, industries, and global communication at large.

The Future of Translation Technology

Translation technology is being revolutionized by a wave of innovative advances. AI is quickly moving from being an optional support to a fundamental element in this sector, significantly enhancing global business communication.

AI-based Techniques and Improvements

Artificial Intelligence is progressively raising the bar of translation technology. With innovative techniques and models such as machine learning models and neural networks, AI-powered translation systems can learn from their performances, continually improving their accuracy over time.

Technologies like machine learning algorithms and AI systems are being used to analyze large volumes of data, improving the understanding of language context, including idiomatic expressions and cultural nuances.

Experts are also working on improving AI translation software to analyze text and speech for sentiment, tone, and even emotional cues, providing more insightful interactions and responses during real-time translations.

As for businesses, advancements in AI will lead to improved user interfaces, leading to better language understanding and generation, and an overall better user experience. Additionally, AI will facilitate more efficient business communication by handling multilingual content, aiding global market expansion, and providing more personalized and culturally relevant content for diverse customer bases.

The Role of Human Translators

Human translators' abilities to comprehend cultural nuances and handle complex idioms and metaphors make them exceedingly relevant in translation technology. Additionally, their role in reviewing and fine-tuning machine-translated content, a process known as 'post-editing,' adds to their enduring importance.

Diego Cresceri, localization expert and Founder and CEO of Creative Words, sees it very clearly. According to him: “The very advancements in technology that are expected to replace human translators will instead highlight their irreplaceable value even more”.

Benefits and Challenges of Translation Technology for Businesses

Translation technology is transforming how we think about globalization in business, and its impact brings many long-term benefits:

  • Overcoming language barriers: Translation technologies make global communication seamless and inclusive. By facilitating clear understanding across diverse languages, they open doors to new markets and multicultural audiences.
  • Improving efficiency: These technologies streamline the translation process, significantly speeding up content localization and ensuring consistency across multiple languages. This efficiency saves time and allows businesses to respond swiftly to market changes and customer needs.
  • Reducing overall costs: By automating part of the translation process, these tools reduce the need for extensive human translation services, leading to substantial cost savings. They also minimize errors and the need for rework, further cutting down expenses.
  • Better customer service: Translation technologies enhance customer service by ensuring that support and information are available in multiple languages. This approach increases customer satisfaction and loyalty, as clients feel valued in their native language.

However, the implementation of translation technology presents its share of challenges:

  • The initial costs: Some of these tools come at a hefty price, which might pose a strain, especially for small businesses.
  • The quality of the translation: Ensuring superior machine translations versus human ones remains a concern. Nuances of certain languages or rare dialects could add layers of complexity.
  • The adoption process: Managing the integration of new technology across varying levels or departments can be an uphill task. But it's important to remember that as technology evolves, so do solutions. For instance, Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technologies are increasingly capable of tackling rare languages and nuanced linguistic elements.

Choosing the Right Translation Technology Provider

Opting for the right translation technology provider is integral to the process of adopting the technology itself. Several crucial factors help in the decision-making process.

  • The type of service: The services offered by the provider hold significant sway. Do they cater to your business needs, offering services such as CAT, MT, or TMS?
  • Reputation and customer satisfaction: Check their reviews on software review websites or by looking for feedback in industry forums. Remember that having issues is normal, but what’s important here is how it was handled by the customer service department.
  • The available languages: Make sure their range of languages interlocks with your business's target languages.
  • Update opportunities: In an era defined by rapid strides in technology, it's crucial that the software provider stays on top of the newest trends in translation technology. They should particularly be in step with advancements such as AI and deep learning that can drive translation quality and efficiency.
  • Ease of integration: A translation technology that smoothly interfaces with your existing platforms aids in preventing potential operational disruption and expedites the adoption process.

Maximizing the Benefits of Website Translation Technology with Weglot

Weglot translation software homepage

As a leading solution in the website translation sector, Weglot’s unique features enable businesses to fully harness the power of this modern advancement.

  • Automatic content detection: Functioning in the background, it steadily scans for any newly added content, effectively translating it in real time. Such automated vigilance ensures your website remains updated across all languages.
  • Integrated translation management tool: The centralized Weglot Dashboard stands as a testament to organizational efficiency, making the management of ever-evolving translations a breeze.
  • Integration with third parties: Compatibility counts, and Weglot stands tall with a wide reach of compatible website platforms like WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Webflow, and many more.

Besides all of these features, Weglot also has a unique approach to marrying machine and human translation. This fusion ensures efficient translations with an assurance of top-notch quality. The efficacy of Weglot is well-demonstrated in case studies that reveal its success in helping businesses sail smoothly over challenging translation hurdles.

Another real-life example showing the power of translation technology is The Bradery. They are a French eCommerce company that partners with multiple brands and designers, which leads to more than 500 products being posted daily on the website. Producing quality translations to English and Spanish at this volume proved a big challenge to them until they found Weglot.

The Bradery decided to go with a fully automatic translation to English, but with Spanish, they took advantage of Weglot’s post-editing feature so that their team in Spain could easily go and make small edits wherever it was needed.

This software gave them the versatility, speed, and near accuracy that was needed to cater to a multinational target audience and produce multiple flash sales per day.

Take a look at some more interesting case studies of companies that partnered with Weglot.

Best Practices for Using Translation Technology

It’s no use having so many choices and advanced tools if you don’t know how to use them properly, so let’s go through some universal rules.

Don’t Rely Entirely on Technology

As advanced as machine translation is, you still need to recognize the importance of human involvement in the translation process. Remember, translation technology serves as a stepping stone, not a replacement so you need to ensure that human translators give their input on the accuracy and context of the finished piece.

Keep up With Translation Tech Trends

Staying updated should be a constant pursuit for professionals. Subscribe to newsletters, go to training events with your team, and organize workshops and events with people involved in the translation process so they can share their expertise and experiences.

Use Translation Memory

If you want to be efficient, you have to use translation memory. This feature memorizes previously translated segments, ensuring consistency and speeding up the translation process for repeated content. So, whenever you’re looking for long-term translation software, make sure that they offer this.

Opt for Neural Technology

Using high-quality neural machine translation providers, like Weglot, can dramatically advance translation quality. Filled with rich features like multilingual SEO, automated workflows, user-friendly dashboards, and helpful integrations, they amplify the power of translation technology.

Focus on Context and Localization

You can improve the translation quality by becoming aware of language nuances, acknowledging cultural references, and adjusting to regional dialects

In a nutshell, unlocking the potential of translation technology requires a skillful blending of technology and human expertise, on top of a keen understanding of the complicated field of linguistics. multilayered linguistic landscape.

Taking the Next Steps with Translation Technology

Language connects people, but it can also pull them apart.

With the right tools and knowledge, though, you can scale your website in relevant languages, reaching new audiences and increasing revenue.

From the fundamental use of Machine Translation to the sophisticated domains of Real-time Translation and Translation Management Systems, the role of technology in overcoming language barriers has evolved considerably.

Nevertheless, adopting these technologies comes with its own set of challenges. Small businesses may grapple with initial implementation costs, and maintaining the quality of translations can pose an ongoing challenge.

Yet, the potential benefits far outweigh these challenges in the long run, especially when competent solutions like Weglot are within reach.

Looking to the future, it’s clear that AI has great potential to improve translation technology. Still, it’s important to remember that the main goal of translation is not only to translate word for word.  Instead, you need to capture the unique idea behind the text and ensure it has the same power in the target language – something Weglot is designed to do.

With a free trial on offer, Weglot presents an opportunity to dip your toe in the water and discover by yourself how impactful translation technology can be in engaging a multilingual audience.

So take the next step and reach out to the world by trying Weglot on your website for free.

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