Machine translation for websites? Now it’s better than you think

Machine translation for websites? Now it’s better than you think

Having your website in different languages is the best way to reach a wide global audience. But the conventional translation process can be costly, especially when many languages are involved, and the return on investment is uncertain without extensive market research.

But what if machine translation could fill in the gaps?

Weglot is a SaaS tool that allows users to create fully code-free multilingual versions of a website through integrated machine translation. The company behind it recently conducted a study, in partnership with global language consultancy Nimdzi, on how effective the top machine translation engines are at translating marketing material. Specifically they looked at whether machine translation can be a practical solution for website content.

You can access the full report here, but we’ll go over some of the key points:

  • The study involved a specialized human evaluation of translated website content in seven language pairs. Professional linguists were recruited to conduct the evaluation.
  • Five major MT engines were used to generate the machine translations. These were Amazon Translate, DeepL, Google Cloud, Microsoft Translator, and ModernMT. Only the stock models were used, which means they weren’t trained on any additional data.
  • Rather than make a comparison with human-translated content, the evaluation focused on the overall usability of the machine translation, as well as accuracy and reliability.

The results are promising. The quality of machine translated samples were on average deemed to be good enough for practical use by the evaluators, with 85% being marked as acceptable or very good, and none marked as very bad. Very good means that the text segments rated didn’t need any editing, while acceptable means that they only required minimal editing, if at all.

This means that overall, the quality of machine translation is now higher than it used to be, and is now at a point where people browsing a translated website have everything they need in order to navigate the site well, and to understand the content of the site.

The study does seem to have its limitations—in focusing on the criteria of usability, it’s hard to tell the likelihood of the website’s audience to take the action they want, like making a purchase. That is, whether usability translates to leads. Although going off the example of ecommerce giant eBay, which saw a 10% increase in sales through the availability of machine translation, the possibilities are also promising.

In any case, the study shows that the state of machine translation is getting better and better, and we’ve reached the threshold where it’s practical enough for certain consumer-facing use cases in the commerce sector.

And what does this mean for businesses? That they have an easy, cost-effective opportunity to expand their reach, for one. But there’s more to it—machine translation can now be at the front line of market research, helping companies feel out their target audience in different languages at minimal cost, before they invest more resources into full expansion.

The possibilities of machine translation in marketing are now greater than ever, and businesses need to learn how to best harness it for quick growth.