Can ChatGPT translate content?
ChatGPT was introduced by OpenAI in November 2022 and has since gone viral. Moreover, it is obvious that the technology is here to stay, given the recent launches of the premium versions of the original programme.
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Today, we will check if ChatGPT can translate content and evaluate how well it can translate.
For starters, we asked ChatGPT if it can even translate content.
Although it acknowledged that its translation abilities are still limited, it affirmed that it can translate content. However, it is best to double-check with a human translator or native speaker because there may be subtleties or other peculiarities in the source language.
However, since it is a fairly new technology, ChatGPT remains to be properly evaluated.
Trying different language pairs
For this purpose, we decided to translate a press statement released by the French Senate into English.
We observed that the translated text is coherent and conveys the original message quite succinctly. However, we noticed that it didn’t retain the French abbreviations of different institutions and phrases when it translated the text into English.
Next, we tried translating an excerpt from a book of one of the most popular English novelists, Agatha Christie.
It was successful in translating the essence of the emotions conveyed and we found it better than the Google translation tool in finding more appropriate and precise words. However, we must understand that a professional literary translator would be less than satisfied with such a literal translation.
Next, we decided to try another language combination, Spanish-English. We got ChatGPT to translate a section from a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, a department of the Government of Spain.
We compared the translation with the Google-assisted English translation on the official website and concluded that it is nearly the same in both words and syntax.
As far as we can observe, ChatGPT can comfortably translate simple, direct messages from one language to another.
One word of Spanish and one is immediately reminded of the great 16th century author, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Cervantes continues to remain one of the most translated authors and we decided to compare ChatGPT’s translation of his text with a previously published translation done by John Ormsby, a professional literary translator.
Let us now look at Ormby’s translation of the same sentence.
“In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a greyhound for coursing.”
We noticed that Ormby’s translation is more “literary” and “novel-esque” while ChatGPT’s translation is slightly more direct. However, it doesn’t disappoint in that it retains the syntax of the original sentence and doesn’t try to oversimplify it, thereby retaining the flavour of the text.
So far, we have only engaged with Romance languages. We decided to ask ChatGPT about its expertise of non-Romance languages.
The tool acknowledged that even if it is trained in both Romance and non-Romance languages, there are challenges around the latter set of languages such as complex grammar and non-Latin script.
Nonetheless, we went ahead and decided to give Mandarin Chinese a try. As per Ethnologue, it is the most widely-spoken language today if we look at the number of native speakers. It is the native language of 920 million people, as per Ethnologue 2022 data.
We also asked ChatGPT to translate a popular Chinese idiom we often come across while watching TV dramas.
We referred to a popular Mandarin learning resource and concluded that while ChatGPT was successful in translating the meaning of the idiom, its literal translation was different from the one offered by the online resource.
And yet, when compared to the Google tool, ChatGPT is significantly better.
Is ChatGPT a good translator?
A list of researchers at the Chinese tech giant, Tencent AI, recently published a preliminary study asking if ChatGPT is a good translator. Wenxiang Jiao, Wenxuan Wang, Jen-tse Huang, Xing Wang, and Zhaopeng Tu are the authors of this study.
The group decided to try English-Chinese pair on the tool.
The primary goal of this study is to evaluate ChatGPT for text translation into English because a majority of its training data is in English.
ChatGPT does not need to be aware of the language of the content to be translated. But the researchers also concluded that once it is told what the source language is, its translation was found to be inferior. This seemed contradictory.
We are aware that ChatGPT was trained primarily on English data, yet it appears to be capable of accurately capturing the meaning of Chinese utterances sufficiently to generate English translations.
The authors acknowledge in their study that more experiments with more language pairs are needed to better assess ChatGPT’s translation quality.
How ChatGPT impacts the future of the translation industry?
A major benefit of this technology for translation is its speed. A human translation can take hours or days to accomplish, depending on the project’s complexity and length. ChatGPT generates a translation, on the other hand, within seconds or milliseconds.
Another benefit is that translations will become more accessible, owing to the increased availability of online language tools such as ChatGPT. Since ChatGPT substantially accelerates the translation process, translators spend less time on each assignment, resulting in lower costs.
However, it should be noted that highly regulated areas such as medical and law employ sophisticated terminology. The criteria for publishing its content vary widely across the globe. As a result, to be suitable for foreign regulators and audiences, the content frequently necessitates significant alteration.
Furthermore, using ChatGPT for translation can make your details vulnerable to privacy violations.
We concluded that ChatGPT still has a long way to go before it can produce true human translations. However, accessibility and affordability may increase in the near future.