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When to use auto-translation WordPress plugins

By Josian Phillips, 

We know that it can be hard for businesses to reach an international market without using large organisations, like Amazon, to effectively promote their products. Using these large companies will considerably cut into profit margins, which is why creating a multilingual website is becoming more and more popular for business owners – it allows companies to appeal to a global audience on their own terms.

Auto-translation is an extremely useful tool if you need to translate your content quickly while keeping costs low. There are, however, downsides to using WordPress plugins to translate all of your content. Machine translation can sacrifice the quality of your content, which is why you still need the expertise of human translators to make sure you have well-rounded and cohesive content.

So how do you know if and when to use WordPress plugins to translate your website? We’re going to look at a few examples of when it’s best to use auto-translation WordPress plugins, and how they can be effectively used in conjunction with human translation.

1. Budget restrictions

If you’re on a budget, using a WordPress plugin is certainly a cost-efficient option. Generally speaking, human translators are far more expensive than making a one-off purchase for automated translation, but beware of the false economy!

Auto-translation alone won’t impress your international customers – especially for the most important pages of your website! One of the downsides of machine translation is that any structural, grammatical or simply straight translation errors can go unnoticed, which can seriously alter the meaning and authenticity of your text. That’s why the most-viewed pages of your website – such as the main landing pages, category pages, product descriptions and the purchase process – at the very least need to be written by a professional translator.

To keep spending low, use auto-translation WordPress plugins to translate content that’s not viewed very often, such as blog posts from previous years. That way, you’ll keep the costs down by auto-translating some of your content, and only paying extra for the professional translation of your most important pages.

2. Large volumes of text

Machine translation is useful for translating large volumes of text in a short amount of time. In fact, it’ll be translated in a fraction of the time it would take a professional translator. However, WordPress plugins can sometimes struggle to identify grammatical inaccuracies, particularly if the content is highly technical or specialised (have a look at our technical translation blog post for more information). They can often produce grammatical inaccuracies from generally grammatically correct text – that’s why you still need to use a professional translation service alongside the WordPress plugin.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t use auto-translation for large pieces of text, because there are clear benefits to using a plugin for this purpose. But you should use a professional translator to at least proofread the text. They’ll be able to identify the errors that the auto-translation plugin produced, and correct them before the content goes live on your site.

3. Time constraints

A key benefit of WordPress plugins are their availability – machines are available for work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are able to translate thousands of words per minute. So, if you’re struggling for time, WordPress translation plugins can be a temporary solution.

Here is an example of the WPML translation plugin which is fast and easy to use. Brightlines offers this platform in conjunction with its professional human translation.

Although plugins provide fast translation, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the content will be good to go first-time round. As we’ve already mentioned, auto-translation WordPress plugins will not produce translations that are grammatically or structurally correct, which is why you’ll still need a professional translator. To save yourself time, consider hiring a translator or translation agency to proofread the auto-translated copy. As long as you factor the post-editing and proofreading stage into the total amount of time required, you’ll still be able to provide higher quality content quickly and efficiently.

While human translators continue to be the most effective method of translation, there’s definitely a time and place for WordPress translation plugins. A translation agency – such as Brightlines – will be able to suggest the best method of translation for you and advise where machine translation will fit into your strategy.

For more information about auto-translating WordPress plugins and whether they’d be right for you and your business, please get in touch. Whether you’re a global brand or a niche SME, we’ll be happy to help!

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