How good is ChatGPT at translating?

We are almost certain you have heard all about what ChatGPT can do: from providing the answer to almost any question you may have to (apparently) building a Google Chrome Extension. But what about translation? Is ChatGPT able to provide accurate translations? The short answer is yes, but there are pros and cons to using ChatGPT as a translation tool. 


In this blog post, we will explore ChatGPT as a translation tool, including translation prompts you can use, how good it is at translating and how it compares to other technologies such as Google Translate and DeepL. Let’s dive in! 

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a natural language processing system   developed by OpenAI that allows you to have human-like conversations and do many other things such as composing emails and writing code. Simply put, it is a chatbot that uses a huge database to provide answers with real-world information.

Can you use ChatGPT to translate?

Yes, you can use ChatGPT to translate. The highly advanced system has been trained on a large amount of data and is proving to be effective at translating text. It can understand the meanings of different languages and translate text from one language to another. However, like with most automatic translation technologies there are limitations in terms of accuracy and quality. More about this later. 

Translation prompts 

When using a generative language model like ChatGPT, you need to find an appropriate language formulation (aka prompt) to tell the system what you want to do. We asked ChatGPT how we can translate using this tool and we got a concise answer.

screenshot with the question and answer about how to translate using ChatGPT

Alternatively, you can adapt the following translation prompts to your needs: 

  • Translate into Italian “Where is the bathroom?”.
  • Translate the sentence “I love you” into French.
  • Translate the phrase “thank you” into Japanese.
  • Translate the word “hello” into German.

How good is ChatGPT at translating text?

It has been said that ChatGPT is highly accurate at translating text and its results are close to human translation. We ran some tests to see whether this is true and found that it fails to recognize slang words as well as cultural terms that are unique to a specific language, jeopardising the accuracy of translations. Let’s see what happened. 

First, we translated an informal sentence from Spanish to English with the slang word “primo”. The correct translation in English would use the words “brother” or “mate” in English; however, ChatGPT fails to recognize this slang word and provides the direct translation “cousin”, which does not really make sense in this context. 

screenshot with a Spanish into English translation on ChatGPT

When it comes to quality, the team at Ampere Translation observed that ChatGPT uses the passive voice excessively and sentences can be too long diluting the register and tone of the source language. As a language service provider that stands for quality, we would recommend using this tool to perhaps get a first draft and then relying on a professional translator to edit your content. 

ChatGPT vs Google Translate

If you are looking for an online translation tool, you may be wondering whether to use ChatGPT or Google Translate. One of the downsides of Google translate is that it does not always have the technical expertise required to translate specialised texts, such as legal or medical texts. So let´s look at how ChatGPT can handle technical terms

For this evaluation, we are picking up “Magistrates’ court” (A lower court that hears matters relating to summary offences In England and Wales) to see how well these two tools perform. 

screenshot with an English into French translation on Google Translate
screenshot with an English into French translation on ChatGPT

Google Translate successfully translates “Magistrates’ court” into French providing the equivalent term “Tribunal d’instance” (a judicial lower court of first instance for general civil suits in France) in the target language. In contrast, ChatGPT provides an inaccurate word-by-word translation that does not correspond to Magistrates’ court in the French Legal System. 

Is ChatGPT better than Google Translate?

Looking at the previous example, we can see that Google Translate is more accurate than ChatGPT although we acknowledge that more experiments are necessary to better assess ChatGPT’s translation quality.

ChatGPT vs DeepL Translate

We could not leave DeepL out of this blog post. DeepL employs models from Linguee, the largest human translation database in the world, to learn and improve its translation quality, so let’s compare DeepL’s output with ChatGPT

For this evaluation, we are translating the German expression “Ich bin fix und fertig” into English. This German sentence is used to express that you are completely exhausted, and its literal translation would be “To be fixed and finished” (though that does not make sense in English!).

screenshot with a German into English translation on DeepL
screenshot with a German into English translation on ChatGPT

In this case, both translation tools provide an accurate translation, although DeepL offers more alternatives that fit better with the informal tone of the source language. 

Is ChatGPT better than DeepL Translate?

Taking the previous example to evaluate the quality of the translation, we can conclude that ChatGPT and DeepL output is similar in this particular case. There is a lot of information online explaining the meaning of the sentence “Ich bin fix und fertigI”, which means ChatGPT is able to draw its answer from their data that goes up to the year 2021. 

However, ChatGPT does not have access to the internet or information after 2021, so if you are trying to find out the meaning of a new creative slogan, the natural language processing system may fail to provide the correct answer. 

Limitations of ChatGPT in translation

Tests with ChatGPT suggest it is better at translating content into English since most of its training data is in English. But even then, it can’t always understand the context and it is not able to grasp and create the right tone of voice for your audience. 

Since it relies heavily on a corpus of texts, it is unable to accurately interpret the nuances and subtleties between languages, which can lead to inaccurate translations. At Ampere Translations, we believe AI is amazing and tools like ChatGPT can help us. But these tools are still far from perfect and human translators are needed to ensure there are no mistakes.

If you are a business looking for help with your multilingual content, then human translation —perhaps combined with machine translation— is your best choice. Get in touch today and we’ll find the solution that best suits your needs.