ChatGPT vs. Google Translate: Which is best for translation?

From content writing and programming to product design and data analysis, ChatGPT has an immediate impact on almost every digital domain imaginable.

One area where ChatGPT could have a particular impact, although it currently receives little attention, is machine translation. Right now, Google Translate is the leader and almost everyone else is catching up.

But with the advent of ChatGPT, could Google Translate’s dominance be challenged? We will pit ChatGPT against Google Translate to see which tool can provide better translations.

What does a good translation look like?

The primary purpose of translation is to convey the meaning of a speech written or spoken in one language using another language. Therefore, a good translation should not just exchange the meaning of words between two languages, but should convey the meaning of the entire text in its entirety.

Also, it should not just be the literal meaning of a speech, but should communicate the meaning intended by the user while preserving the tone, cultural connotation and context.

Unfortunately, a good translation is difficult, even for big translation services like Google Translate. Machine translation is difficult because the languages ​​are not the same in their approach to sentence construction. For example, in a language like English, pronouns have a gender, whereas pronouns are almost entirely omitted in Japanese. Similarly, in Chinese there is almost no difference between singular and plural nouns. In English it is the opposite.

All of this presents a unique challenge when it comes to translating between two languages.

And then there is the issue of context and spoken language. Machine translation tools have difficulty capturing the context of a statement correctly. A statement can mean one thing in one context and another thing in another context.

Likewise, figures of speech involving the use of proverbs, idioms and puns can be problematic to translate.

Since translating text is one of the things ChatGPT can do impressively, we decided to compare its performance with Google Translate. We selected difficult-to-translate texts with common translation problems to compare the two tools.

Google translate vs. ChatGPT: Translate spoken language

When translating spoken language, the translation may not preserve the meaning and intent in a tone similar to that of the original language.

We asked Google Translate and ChatGPT to translate the simple English idiom “Juan kicked the bucket” into Spanish. The two translation services produced “Juan pateó el blade”, a literal translation of the idiom. Even if it works, the meaning or intent would be completely lost on someone who didn’t understand the context.

This is where the help function in Google Translate stops. However, ChatGPT offers more help. Instead of just asking it to translate, you can ask ChatGPT to provide “Spanish meaning” or “give English meaning” depending on the language you’re translating. In this case, ChatGPT will provide a literal translation and an interpretation of the idiom.

We tried several other dialects, and both services almost always provided a literal translation. Although this works, it can provide misleading information in some situations. ChatGPT’s ability to provide an “interpretation” rather than just a literal translation of everyday language is an advantage.

But a single task is not enough to draw conclusions, so we’ve turned up the heat, this time with a Filipino idiom.

“Sa gittana ng kagutumang buto’t balat at butas na bulsang pakuri, mataba ang lupa para sa tagtatagumang ng anakpawis”.

The original translation, which is closest to the source text, should be: “In the midst of hunger and extreme poverty, the soil is fertile for the victory of the working masses. »

ChatGPT did:

ChatGPT tries to translate a Filipino idiom.

And Google did the same:

Google translates a Filipino idiom

Both tools were put to the test, but Google Translate seemed to have an edge.

Of course, things have been made even more difficult, this time by switching to the Malayalam language. The task was for the two translation tools to interpret an excerpt of a fairly popular novel into Malayalam.

ChatGPT has tried it, but complex Malayalam texts are obviously not one of ChatGPT’s strengths.

ChatGPT Malayalam translation

Google, meanwhile, fared quite well.

Google Translate: Malayalam translation

Neither tool managed to translate perfectly, but Google Translate came as close as possible. It’s a close competition. Although Google Translate has an advantage, ChatGPT can provide the meaning of idioms instead of just translation. This can be very useful when translating a larger text that contains an idiom. In this case, the literal translation of an idiom can be confusing when read with the surrounding text.

Google translate vs. ChatGPT: Overall accuracy

Subtle differences between a source text and its translation can completely change the meaning of a text. That’s why we tested Google Translate and ChatGPT to see their overall translation accuracy.

We started simply, a text of Chinese philosophy:

In this society, real people are a rare treasure.

The closest translation of this text means: “In this hypocritical society, true personality is a rare and precious good”. Again, ChatGPT and Google Translate were perfect. No difference in translation.

The next assignment is a Filipino translation.

The oldest baby lamb is the pet lamb.

The source text is a somewhat complex play on words meaning: “The cure for a badly behaved girl is the gentleness of an understanding man.” »

Google found: “The cure for a woman is tenderness from an understanding man. So it wasn’t a complete disaster, but the tone of the message was not good.

Google translate Filipino text

ChatGPT, on the other hand, found: “The cure for a broken woman is the affection of an understanding man.”

ChatGPT translates Filipino

Neither translation is particularly perfect, but ChatGPT has come as close to it as possible.

Google translate vs. ChatGPT: Translate Creoles

Creoles, especially those that borrow many words from other languages, are notoriously difficult to translate. We asked ChatGPT and Google Translate to interpret a creole called “Pidgin English” spoken in West Africa.

Here is the source text:

“It’s going to happen. Ever since you said you’d come help me with this thing, I can’t see your brake light anymore. How’s it going?”

In the source text, the speaker complains to the reader that he promised to help with an assignment but has not shown up since. He then concludes with “What’s going on?”.

Although Google Translate understands “pidgin English” to some extent, it failed miserably at translating the source text. Part of the problem is due to Google Translate’s limited ability to distinguish Creole from English due to the presence of English words.

Although not perfect, ChatGPT’s interpretation managed to clearly convey the speaker’s meaning and intent. Given the highly contextual nature of pidgin English, the results are very impressive.

It’s hard to say for sure. Both translation tools have their strengths. Google has made massive investments in natural language processing (NLP). Therefore, it outperforms ChatGPT in the languages ​​it has given special attention to. However, given the way it works and the nature of the training it has received, ChatGPT represents a unique and exciting approach to translation. Which of the two tools should you use? Both tools are free, so feel free to experiment and decide what works best for you.

Google Translate has made a name for itself in machine translation. ChatGPT, although relatively new, is not an easy opponent. One of the main advantages of ChatGPT is its ability to adjust its translation according to the context or the supplement provided by the user. Google Translate is currently unable to do this.

While we can’t say for sure if ChatGPT will challenge Google Translate’s dominance as the translation tool of choice, the AI ​​chatbot definitely has the potential to give Google a run for its money.

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