Real-time translation guide: 3 tools and 4 best practices

Real-time translation improves efficiency and the user experience you deliver. Learn about the top instant translation tools and how best to leverage this tech.


When the average person hears the term “real-time translation,” they may think of personal translation apps like Google Translate that they can download on their smartphones to make communication easier when traveling. But there’s no shortage of far more robust real-time translation software available for use by businesses that need multilingual content.

Some are for use during live interactions with customers, while others are used behind the scenes by localization teams. Both, however, have the same key benefits: improved efficiency and better user experiences. (In many cases, real-time translation is also lower in cost than alternatives like human translation.)

The role of technology in enabling real-time translation

Machine translation, which facilitates real-time conversion of text from one language to another, is a large and growing market. In 2022, it was valued at $982.2 million USD and is expected to increase to $7.5 billion by 2032. Clearly, many companies recognize the value of this technology now and see a good deal of promise looking ahead. Why?

The most popular form of MT currently is neural machine translation (NMT), which has some key advantages over alternatives like statistical MT. Rather than predicting the best translation for each word based on probability and without considering context, NMT engines leverage neural networks and natural language processing (NLP). NLP enables them to understand and replicate human language in a natural way, while neural networks make it possible for them to translate in context and even learn over time.

3 real-time translation tools to help you overcome language barriers

No doubt, you’ve heard of tools like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator. Yet, if you need some solid alternatives that are better suited for enterprise use cases, here are some of the top options:

Smartling Translate

Powered by LanguageAITM, Smartling Translate is a fast and secure way for enterprise users to produce up to 350% higher quality translations instantly. This self-service translation portal leverages GPT and multiple machine translation engines to improve translation quality and fluency.

Top features:

  • Zero configuration: No project or workflow setup is required and no training is necessary to get started.
  • MT auto-select: AI algorithms select the best MT engine for your language and content.
  • File and text translation: Copy and paste text for translation or upload and translate entire files instantly.


  • You can enhance source text and/or improve the quality of translated text with Smartling Translate.
  • Your brand voice, terminology, style preferences, and previously human-translated content can be automatically applied to your translations.
  • Like Smartling Neural Machine Translation Hub, Smartling Translate is also 100% private and secure.


  • Smartling Translate isn’t yet suitable for bulk translation.

Lokalise Messages

Lokalise Messages is a live translation solution for customer support interactions via live chat, social messaging apps, and email or support tickets. It’s powered by artificial intelligence, which enables instant machine translation of text into dozens of foreign languages.

Top features:

  • Integrations: This product works with common customer support tools, including Zendesk, Drift, HubSpot, and Intercom.
  • Analytics: See the impact of real-time translation per language and ensure efficiency long-term.
  • Language-based routing: Customers are automatically routed to native-speaking customer support agents when available.


  • More than 100 languages are supported.
  • Lokalise Messages can reference your glossary to accurately translate company and industry terminology.
  • Customers have good things to say about Lokalise’s own support team.


  • One user noted some configuration issues upon setup. (Source: G2)
  • Another user noted the cost, monthly character limits, and a lack of flexibility when analyzing usage as cons. (Source: G2)

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) Hub

Smartling’s Neural Machine Translation Hub is a multi-machine translation engine that can function as the central workspace for handling all of your machine translation projects. You can use it to translate various types of content in different formats, from marketing materials and support tickets to legal documents such as contracts.

Top features:

  • Autoselect: Using artificial intelligence, Smartling will automatically select the machine translation engine that will deliver the highest quality translation based on the type of content. This results in up to 350% higher quality for our customers.
  • Custom engine training: Confidently train custom engines in a private and secure setting, using your own Translation Memory and Glossaries, to ensure quality translations that are on brand.
  • Connectors and integrations: NMT Hub integrates with top content management systems, CRMs, and other software. You can also connect it to our translation proxy for instant delivery of translated website content to your global site visitors.


  • The NMT Hub is designed for localization at scale with the ability to translate billions of words in an instant and for a fraction of the cost of human translation.
  • This workspace is completely private and secure, so you can have confidence that any and all sensitive information is protected.
  • You can automate 90% or more of your translation efforts by creating dynamic workflows with our translation proxy and integrations.


  • It can sometimes take new customers time to get familiar with the user interface.
  • Smartling’s Neural Machine Translation Hub is limited to customers only.

Maximize the benefits of real-time language translation

Regardless of which instant translation technology you choose, here are some things to keep in mind as you use it:

1. Choose applications for this type of translation wisely Identify high-impact business processes and workflows where integrating real-time translation could enrich interactions with global audiences or remove friction for your translation team. For example, it may be necessary to improve customer support experiences or to prevent frequent slowdowns and delays when translating high volumes of content at scale.

2. Prioritize efficiency The larger your organization and the more content you produce, the more tools you’re probably using. The problems come when those tools don’t play nice with one another. Opt for real-time translation solutions that seamlessly integrate with your existing content management, collaboration, and communication platforms. APIs, plugins, or proxies like Smartling’s that add instant translation capabilities to your apps and websites with minimal coding are an incredible time-saver.

Many Smartling customers have automated 90% or more of their workflows by translating their content through NMT Hub and delivering the translated text to their audiences instantly via our Global Delivery Network.

3. Have a quality assurance process in place Especially for high-visibility content that demands a high level of accuracy and isn’t easily editable, implement a quality assurance (QA) process to evaluate quality before translated content goes live. You can make use of automated checks, human review by native linguists, or both.

4. Monitor the impact of translating in real time There are two types of monitoring you should do upon incorporating instant translation into your process:

  • Internal quality. You need to ensure that instantly translated content is clear, accurate, appropriate, and ready for the world to see. Automatic quality scoring is an effective way to do this, as explained by Smartling Senior Data Scientist, Mei Zheng in our machine translation quality estimation Reality Series episode. You can then set baselines for what quality scores correspond to low-quality, satisfactory, or immediately publishable content.

  • Audience sentiment. How is your target market responding to your translated text? Pay attention to patterns. If people are often confused, upset, or have negative comments about your messaging or their interactions with your brand, there may be a translation accuracy or quality issue.

Be ready to react quickly to what you find as you track these two factors. That might mean custom training a model to consistently use accurate, on-brand terminology and match your preferred style. Or putting more robust QA processes in place to smooth out any issues before they’re published.

With these best practices in mind, you’re ready to take instant translation technology for a spin. Whether you need to translate content into widely used foreign languages like Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese (or less common ones), Smartling’s software has the real-time translation functionality you need. Check out our five-minute demo to get a closer look at the platform and see how it can speed up your workflows and help you deliver better experiences to your target audience.