Can ChatGPT Be Used For Translation? 

Dean Burton
Thanks to its ability to understand context, situations and examples, ChatGPT is a surprisingly great translator. Using some prompt tweaking, you can get amazing results that traditional direct translating services can’t provide.
Green square with a white knot inside (ChatGPT/OpenAI logo)
Can ChatGPT Be Used For Translation? Photo: ilgmyzin | Unsplash

Artificial intelligence is helping people all over the world be more productive and more creative. AI can even make you smarter.

Tools like ChatGPT can provide contextual information in a snap, something that search tools like Google leave the user hunting for. AI significantly speeds up the process of finding and organising information, which we looked at when we did a deep dive into Opera’s new AI Browser.

Now, we know that ChatGPT can be used for translation, but how accurate can it get?

Here we’ll run through how to use ChatGPT for translation and provide some AI tips and prompts that can help you get more accurate results.

Choosing ChatGPT Over Traditional Translation Apps

Choosing ChatGPT Over Traditional Translation Apps. Photo: Szabo Viktor | Unsplash

The first service most people think of when it comes to translation is Google Translate. After all, it’s used worldwide and has advanced quite fast in the past few years. 

But even with direct translation, mistakes happen, and incorrect translations can have real-world consequences. Often, these mistakes could be avoided by providing context, something you can’t present in Google Translate.

If you take the Spanish sentence “Tengo hambre” and literally translate it into English, you’d get “I have hunger”. Although most translation services do a pretty good job of picking up these language differences there are more complicated scenarios where traditional translation methods would fail here. 

The benefit of using ChatGPT for translation is that you can continue the conversation by asking for adjustments and providing further clarification and context, such as accounting for regional dialect, cultural connotations and other language nuances. 

Providing Context For Better Translation

Providing Context For Better Translation. Photo: Romain Vignes | Unsplash

When you use a service like Translate by Google, the translation you get is your only option. If it doesn’t look right or you need to dig deeper, you’d have to do the heavy lifting yourself.

When using ChatGPT, you can provide context to help.

Here are some examples of providing context to get better translation results:

  • Translate (“your text from English”) to Spanish from the perspective of a native Spanish speaker. The translation should maintain cultural connotations and colloquialisms where possible. 
  • Translate (“your text from English”) to Spanish. The text is a medical record, you should provide meanings in the translation for any medical terms used. 

The two examples above provide further context, allowing ChatGPT to understand more of the request before it begins translating. In the above cases, the Spanish reader will get translations that are much more in-depth with far fewer mistakes than if they’d just used a direct text translation. 

In the example below, I took a quote from Oxford Royale and translated it from English into Spanish. I then asked ChatGPT to translate the Spanish version into Old British English using the following prompt: “Translate (text to translate) to Old British English.”

Here is the original text from the Oxford Royale website:

Here is the translated text into Spanish, including the prompt to translate it back to Old British English:

Here is the result ChatGPT provided:

Here, we’ve been able to tell ChatGPT the style of language we want it to translate and it has understood the context.

Another trick you can use to help ChatGPT is to provide the type of text you’re asking it to translate. 

For example, if you’re translating a legal document, simply use a prompt like: “Translate the following legal document into (target language).” 

Using prompts like this, you can simplify entire documents while also translating them.

Imagine having a housing contract in German that you’d like to read in English, but you want to have explanations for any legal technical terms that appear. ChatGPT could do that.

Although ChatGPT wasn’t built for translation at all, it can be a handy tool when you know what to ask it. Thanks to its ability to understand contexts and situations, it’s able to provide much more accurate responses. 

It is important to keep in mind that AI can and does make mistakes, so you should always use a professional translator for any legal documents. However, we may well see official AI translators being developed as technology advances.


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