With ChatGPT now powering Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the conversational AI tool has truly taken the world by storm, and now every industry is questioning whether or not generative AI tools are competition.
Of course, the translation industry has been through all this before, and language professionals are pretty good at separating the hype from true potential.
So, are generative AI tools like ChatGPT and the latest breed of AI translation software about to take us into the future of translation?
How good is ChatGPT as a translation tool?
First of all, ChatGPT is not a translation tool; it is an AI conversational platform that was never designed to rival AI translation tools like Google Translate. However, when asking ChatGPT to describe itself, it specifically lists “translating text” as a task it is capable of handling:
“ChatGPT is a conversational language model [that] can engage in casual conversations, provide information, and assist with various tasks, such as answering questions, translating text, and generating creative content.”
After testing ChatGPT for translating text, we noticed that it does a good job (depending on the target language), outperforming Google Translate in some cases. Others have done the same and ChatGPT seems to be holding up well to major translation tools – take a look at these articles from Metaroids.com and Makeuseof.com for a couple of more examples.
From early analysis, ChatGPT’s greatest strength – as a translation tool – is its ability to interpret source text meaning in English, as well as in other major languages like Spanish. Moreover, its conversational AI capabilities allow for ChatGPT to bring a level of flexibility you can’t get from tools like Google Translate, for example.
With ChatGPT, users can push the technology further by asking the system to revise its own translated output, provide feedback and also generate new responses. Likewise, you could ask it to translate a piece of text for 9-year-olds or even translate it in the style of a movie script.
As impressive as ChatGPT is at translating text, Google Translate still has the overall edge across all languages and two-way translations. In addition to this, Google’s technology is also capable of speech detection, transcription, translating live speech and even translating text in images – tasks the current version of ChatGPT can’t perform.
All things considered, Google Translate has the overall edge but the fact it is this close – and that ChatGPT is better than Google’s system in many cases – is a big win for OpenAI’s product.
What does the rise of ChatGPT mean for the translation industry?
The hype surrounding ChatGPT at the moment feels very similar to what we have seen in the past with Google Translate. Every year or so the latest version of Google Translate is claimed to match the quality of human translators, despite the actual quality of AI translations improving at a slower rate.
With ChatGPT, the hype is even stronger because people aren’t only using it to translate text. They also use it to generate original content from scratch or rewrite passages of text.
It is certainly very impressive and the fact that ChatGPT can function as a translation tool (to a certain extent), providing better translations than Google Translate in some instances, is already an important achievement.
That being said, if the overall quality of ChatGPT’s translations is similar to Google’s, this shows that – once again – progress in terms of translation quality is marginal. This tells us that ChatGPT isn’t going to replace professional translators any more than Google Translate has.
Instead, professional translators will use generative AI tools like ChatGPT in the same way they currently use other AI translation tools to speed up their workflows and generate faster results. In practical terms, this will mean using whichever tool is most appropriate (or a combination of multiple tools at the same time) to automate parts of the translation process. This output is then verified, reviewed and edited by language professionals to ensure that the final output meets the required quality.
In this sense, generative AI tools aren’t going to shake up things in the translation industry but they have a great potential to revolutionise the way language professionals work by becoming part of their toolkit. Plus, as tools like ChatGPT update over time, they’ll likely contribute more and more to the overall translation process.
Although the quality of AI-translated content is progressing slowly, the application of AI technology is developing rapidly.
Are generative AI & AI translation tools the future?
If this question is asked in relation to AI tools replacing professional translators, then the answer is “no”.
However, if the question is more about whether generative AI tools like ChatGPT and AI translation tools like Google Translate will continue to play a bigger role in the future of translation, then the answer is “yes” – and this is already happening.
The wealth of AI tools language professionals have at their disposal will only continue to grow. Even though the output of AI translation is improving marginally, it is surely fascinating to see how the computational application of AI technology is making new things possible all the time.
The future of translation technology is exciting, as such developments and tools will only help language professionals work faster while maintaining quality at more affordable price points.
At translate plus we offer tailored automated translation solutions driven by the power of AI (such as AI plus, integrations with popular MT engines etc.) to better help our clients maximise efficiency and productivity across every translation project – especially when there is a large amount of content involved.