As machine translation (MT) software grows more capable of accurately translating text, you may wonder if it’s a good option for you. You might also wonder which MT software would improve translation consistency the most and boost the efficiency of your translation process.
Let’s dig into when you should (and shouldn’t) use machine translation tools. Then, we'll compare the best machine translation providers.
When to use machine translation software
Machine translation software has progressed over the years. While it has a way to go, it’s inching closer toward higher levels of accuracy. And due to the speed at which it can translate significant portions of text, it may seem like a no-brainer to use. However, machine translation—especially without human review—is not appropriate in all situations.
Machine translation is best in these scenarios:
- You need a lot of content translated within a short period of time
- The content doesn’t involve complex brand guidelines or legal restrictions
- Content is low visibility or can easily be edited after publishing if necessary
Human translation is best in these scenarios:
- When the cost of inaccuracies is high, such as with legal documents or medical information
- Content cannot be edited or updated once it’s published
- Brand consistency and creativity are crucial to content performance (e.g., when translating a sales page for a new product)
Do you see opportunities for machine translation to speed up your translation workflows? If so, here are the machine translation tools we recommend (all of which connect with Smartling).
What’s the best machine translation software?
With so many options, finding the best machine translation tool for your needs can be tough. Let's take a look at how the top tools compare.
Translating content word-for-word can distort the message. To prevent this, Amazon Translate uses a neural network. This neural machine translation tool considers the context of source sentences and previously translated content. This allows it to retain the meaning of the original text and maintain fluency.
- Active Custom Translation (ACT) gives you more control over translated text. The best part is that it does so without forcing you to build or maintain a translation model from scratch.
- Amazon Translate automatically identifies the source language of your content. No language code? No problem.
- Real-time translation delivers translated content on demand.
- Amazon Translate has pay-per-use pricing. This makes it one of the more cost-effective solutions for organizations with minimal or growing translation needs.
- 75 languages are supported for a total of 5,550 translation combinations.
- You can translate various content formats in bulk with the TextTranslation API. These include Word docs, spreadsheets, and more.
- Integrating Amazon Translate requires some coding. You should be prepared for that during setup.
- Some users have had occasional issues with translation accuracy, mechanics, and detected words or phrases not being translated.
Best for: SMB, Midmarket, Enterprise
DeepL Translator is another machine translation service to consider. Known for its reliable quality, DeepL helps professional translators work faster. Because it uses a machine learning model, the tool gets better at translating your text over time. That means less time spent editing translations.
- Formal and informal tones are available. This helps create truly localized experiences for website visitors and users.
- All paid plans feature end-to-end encryption and immediate text deletion. This ensures maximum data security.
- A CAT tool integration is available. With it, you can integrate DeepL’s translations into other tools' translation results—Smartling included.
- DeepL is known for high-quality translations. They accurately reflect the original text's meaning in the available target languages.
- DeepL’s paid plans allow unlimited text translation across its web-based, desktop, and mobile apps. (It’s available on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.)
- Given that there are no translation limits on paid plans, this tool is among the more cost-effective options.
- DeepL Translator supports only around 30 languages, which is fewer than alternatives. Although there are 700+ language pairs possible, this engine may not meet your needs depending on your source and target languages.
- The per-user limits on translating whole files may be low for some. For example, the Starter plan only allows five files of up to 10 MB each per month.
Best for: SMB, Midmarket
CrossLang’s philosophy is that specialized knowledge is a must for the effective application of machine translation. The company ensures to match the brand tone and get the terminology right for specific use cases. So, rather than providing the usual generic solutions, it focuses on customization.
- The Translation Gateway gives access to thousands of mainstream and specialized engines via a translation management system (TMS) like Smartling or an API. Plus, automated engine advisory identifies the right translation engine for your needs in minutes.
- Integrations are available for WordPress, Drupal, Bitbucket, Gitlab, AWS S3, and more. The Translation Development Kit (TDK) is an efficient option for setting up custom integrations.
- There’s an optional secure translation interface. It ensures that private data isn’t as vulnerable as on public platforms like Google Translate.
- More than 600 language pairs are supported.
- CrossLang has a team of specialists to advise you and, if necessary, develop a custom machine translation solution. (They have expertise in machine translation, translation management systems, computer-assisted translation, and natural language processing.)
- CrossLang consolidates invoices from multiple services and engines into one each month.
- CrossLang has less transparency about its features and less help documentation than alternatives.
- Because CrossLang is so focused on custom solutions, it’s not the best fit for translation projects that don’t require a customized approach.
Best for: Midmarket, Enterprise
Google Translate is among the most popular machin translation tools. For many of its 100+ available languages, it uses neural translation technology to deliver accurate, natural translations.
- Custom translation models allow you to adjust terminology and tone for a specific domain or company.
- Batch translation helps you move content through workflows faster.
- Model training and management enable more accurate domain and context-specific translations.
- The translations are informed and improved by input from native speakers.
- Translation API Basic and Advanced allow you to translate unlimited characters per day.
- Offline mode means you can keep translating even without an internet connection.
- Google Translate is not ideal for translating confidential information.
- Its plans are leaner and less flexible than the alternatives. For example, Translation API Basic doesn’t support the Glossary, and you can only translate two content types.
Best for: SMB, Midmarket
Rounding out this list is Microsoft Translator, which—like all the tools here—connects with Smartling. It handles document and text translation with neural machine translation as the default for all supported languages. Use cases range from customer support to internal communications to web localization.
- Dictionary Lookup finds alternative translations, and Dictionary Examples helps you understand the context of selected words.
- Batch translation is available. There's no limit on the number of characters you can send in a single translation request.
- Custom Translator supports industry-specific translation. This increases content accuracy and translation quality in the process.
- With just a single request to the Translator cloud service, you can translate source text into multiple languages at once.
- Translator is scalable and works across Microsoft products. These include Office, Edge, SharePoint, Bing, and more.
- No customer data or submitted text is stored in Microsoft’s data centers. Further, Translator holds several compliance certifications, including HIPAA, ISO, SOC, and FedRAMP.
- Depending on the language pair, Microsoft Translator sometimes translates text less accurately than alternatives, including Google Translate and DeepL.
- Users have reported that this MT tool doesn’t always do well with the nuances of various languages. For example, it may not translate slang appropriately.
Best for: Midmarket, Enterprise
Smartling’s Neural Machine Translation Hub
Why pick one engine, when you can have them all? Smartling’s Neural Machine Translation (NMT) Hub integrates with all major MT engines listed above, and then some. Our NMT Hub uses AI to select the best MT engine to deliver the highest quality translation results, instantly.
Smartling’s NMT Hub uses AI to select the best MT engine for your translations. This results in reduced post editing efforts on a large scale (some customers see a reduction of over 350%), and/or ensuring the best engine choice for raw publishing scenarios.
MT-Post Edit (MT-PE) is when a linguist reviews and corrects machine translations after they have been delivered. Raw publishing is when machine translation outcomes are published directly to your content destination without human intervention.
And while popular MTengines may break placeholders or tags, causing errors in your applications, the Smartling NMT Hub identifies and corrects these errors with pre and post processing rules, before your translations are delivered.
The NMT Hub also benefits from the advantages of Smartling’s translation software, giving you the ability to handle all of your language content and translation needs at scale, from Machine translation to MTPE and Human Translation across complex formats, within one central workspace.
Learn more about Smartling’s Neural Machine Translation (NMT) Hub
Smartling’s Translation Management Software and Professional Translation Services
Smartling is more than just translation software. It’s a flexible, full-service solution, encompassing top-notch translation technology and professional translation services. Take a closer look at Smartling’s services and capabilities to see how they can help you strike the right balance between quality, cost, and speed.