In 2022 we were introduced to the capabilities of Dall-E 2 where realistic images and artwork can be created based on short descriptions given by the user. Since then Open-AI, the creators behind Dall-E, have launched ChatGPT which had a record-breaking 100 million users in under two months. ChatGPT is another generative model that claims to “interact in a conversational way” with the dialogue format making it possible for ChatGPT to “answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests”.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is what’s known as a large language model which are artificial intelligence algorithms that use natural language processing to understand human language and are trained on huge datasets.

For content creators it is easy to generate blogs, social media ideas, website content outlines and much more by simply submitting prompts in ChatGPT’s chat box. With its range of uses it is easy to see how ChatGPT could be applicable in our personal and professional lives. So far ChatGPT has been used for various tasks such as writing essays, debugging code, planning itineraries, translating content, and even composing music. As a Language Service Provider, we are most curious about ChatGPT’s translation capabilities.

ChatGPT user interface

Does ChatGPT work as a translation tool?

For the user, ChatGPT is easy to navigate with the user entering a prompt in the chat box and waiting for ChatGPT to display the result, usually in a number of seconds. To get its output, ChatGPT is trained on a massive dataset and this dataset is used every time ChatGPT generates a response.

At face value, ChatGPT does a good job at almost instantaneously generating content that reads fairly well which means that, in theory, translations could be produced at a lower cost making translation services more accessible for those on a smaller budget such as individuals or small businesses.

The issue with this type of generative AI is that the quality of its output is limited to the quality of the data that it is trained on, which for ChatGPT is a massive dataset comprised of books and articles, Wikipedia and scientific journals, code repositories, social media posts as well as blogs and online forums. It is worth noting here that whilst this dataset is extremely large, it still doesn’t have access to all of the data that humans have and therefore it is unable to provide reliable responses for niche topics.

Another point of concern here is that there is no way to know which of these sources in its dataset ChatGPT has used to form its response, and this had led to some of its output being potentially biased with a need for fine-tuning to ensure the content is correct in the wider context.

As the accuracy of ChatGPT’s output is limited, in industries where accuracy is paramount such as the medical or legal industry it is unlikely that generative AI would be used during the translation process. Instead, these industries will continue to use highly-skilled human translators or neural machine translation which is often followed with post-editing to strike the balance between speed and quality.

Our conclusion

There is a place for ChatGPT in many scenarios, not as a direct replacement for translation but more as a CAT tool or aide to translation. There will be a future where LSPs or other content providers will work together with Chat GPT, but the purpose of the content will be the key.  For now, it is clear that the AI chatbot has a long way to go before it is capable of producing content that is equivalent to genuine human translations.

Emotional intelligence, cultural understanding, and insight into the wider context are extremely important parts of the translation process and this is an area where machine translation in general is lacking. With additional concerns about the reliability of ChatGPT’s data sources and the growing debate surrounding data protection, ChatGPT is a long way away from transforming the translation industry. For now, we recommend relying on a trusted language service provider for all your translation needs!

Language Insight has been providing high-quality language services to clients in a range of sectors for over 14 years. We would love to discuss your projects with you so get in touch today to see how we can support you.