section Why automatic translation is realistic
For HTML documents on the WWW, automatic translation can be requested for in several alternative phases:
LINKelement. It is also possible, in principle at least, to organize things so that all the versions are accessible using a single address (URL); the preferred version would be picked up according to the so-called language negotiation mechanism.
It would be interesting to discuss the pros and cons of each method, but here we will only mention that fully automatic translation will in practice be needed for transient documents which are generated dynamically instead of being static files.
Naturally, these methods could be combined. For example, a browser might request (on the basis of language preferences set by the user) a document in a specific language, and the server could check whether it actually has a suitable translation; if not, it could check whether it can find a program for generating a translation; and if this fails, it could send the document in a language lower in the user's preferences, in which case the browser could check whether it can translate the document. (Some delicacies might be needed to prevent the situation where a server sends an automatically generated translation which needs to be translated again to the user's preferred language, instead of sending the original.)
Next subsection: What could automatic translation be good for