Can ChatGPT Translate Documents? Tower of Babel or Babble?

Not all of us have been blessed with being able to speak other languages. Of course, if you grew up in Europe you probably speak at least five, but for most of us, if it isn’t in English, we’re not going to understand it.

Luckily these days, there are many apps available that you can use when you’re on vacation or needing to translate any text outside of using the ubiquitous Google Translate, which, let’s face it, could still do with some improvement.

But what about generative AI programs like ChatGPT? Can ChatGPT translate documents? In many cases: yes! We’ll go over ChatGPT’s polyglot power below.

Text in Another Language

It has happened to most of us at some point: you are confronted with a page of text in a different language and you don’t know where to start. It could be a document that you need for your work, an essay that you have to study, or even something to do with a visa application that must be filled out before you leave for your vacation.

But besides heading over to Google Translate to manually copy and paste it in sections to discover what it says on the page, what if there was another way that would be easier, and save you all of this hassle?

Step into the spotlight our new AI chatbot friend, ChatGPT, which has the ability to ‘speak’ in many different languages.

Plenty of people are well aware that ChatGPT is able to answer their questions, work with spreadsheets and data, write and edit text, and even do a bit of research for them. But not all are aware of its translation capabilities.

Can ChatGPT Translate Documents?

So, can ChatGPT translate documents? The answer is a resounding yes, even though it wasn’t specifically designed to be used for translation. However, it has quickly established itself as a useful tool for language translation. 

Because it was based on an extensive dataset using numerous languages, and integrated into a conversational interface, ChatGPT is able to offer users unparalleled versatility when dealing with foreign languages, which has seen it surpass the capabilities of traditional translation tools, such as Google Translate and Microsoft Translator.

So, with that in mind, let’s now take a look at how you can maximize the potential of using ChatGPT to translate documents.

Translating Documents with ChatGPT

When you want the best results for documenat translation with ChatGPT, you will need to get creative with your prompts. Good prompting will sets ChatGPT apart from the myriad of dedicated translation tools that can be found on the internet.

ChatGPT lets you customize translations, and you can give it feedback on any desired adjustments that you might have.

For instance, you can fine-tune the tone of the translation, taking into account regional word variations, and contextual nuance, which a purpose-built translation tool like Google Translate will never be able to do for you.

So you could, for example, get creative with your prompts with something like this:

  • Translate the following text to English from the perspective of a native Spanish speaker. Maintain as many colloquialisms as possible in the translation: [enter text here]
  • “Translate the following text to French. The text to be translated is a medical document, so should use the appropriate terms instead of generic words: [enter text here]
  • “Translate the following text to Japanese. The text is an essay on nuclear waste in Fukushima, so should use appropriate scientific terms: [enter text here]

The aforementioned prompts, or similar ones you create yourself, assist ChatGPT in employing industry-specific context for its translations. And while ChatGPT will occasionally recognize the appropriate terminology for translation, in certain cases, you might need to specifically prompt it to do so.

ChatGPT and Website Text

Of course, depending on the text that you’re translating, whether it’s taken from a website, a Google Doc, or a PDF, there will be slightly different ways in which to get it to do the business.

So, what are the steps to translate a text from a website? Well, to get ChatGPT to translate text that you’ve taken from a website, you can follow these simple steps:

1. Get The Text

Copy the text that you want to translate from the website.

2. Open GPT’s Chat Box

Access the platform where you interact with ChatGPT.

3. Start Your Conversation

Begin your interaction with ChatGPT by pasting the text into the prompt box. If there’s a specific prompt required for activating the translation functionality, such as making sure that you specify the target language, then follow the instructions provided in this blog.

4. Review The Output

Once ChatGPT has generated your translation, proofread the output to make sure that it’s suitable and accuracy. Remember, that while ChatGPT perform translations, it may not always be as accurate, or the translation might not be as specialized as dedicated translation tools.

5. Use Feedback Or Adjust Prompts

If the translation needs more refinement or adjustments, you can give feedback to ChatGPT or modify your prompts, which will help to better guide the translation process. This process can help to improve the quality of the translation.

Translating PDFs with ChatGPT

If you need to translate text that you’ve extracted from a PDF using ChatGPT, it might require some additional steps. Here they are:

1. Convert The PDF

If the PDF contains selectable text, then you should convert it to plain text format, which can then be copied and pasted into ChatGPT’s prompt box. Alternatively, if you have OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software on your computer, then you can use it to convert scanned PDFs or images with text into editable text.

2. Copy The Text

Once you extract the text from the PDF, copy what you want to translate. Ensure that it’s properly formatted, and free from any unwanted characters or formatting issues.

3. Open The Bot

When you’ve done this, follow steps 3-5 as above.

Consider Using Claude 2 to Translate PDFs

As of publication, ChatGPT can’t easily read PDFs without jumping through hoops, but Claude 2 can! You can upload PDF files to the free version of Claude 2, and it will translate for you. It’s definitely a quicker way to go than to use ChatGPT for this task.

For more details on Claude AI, see our article on the basics of how to use it here.

Translating a GoogleDoc or MSWord Doc with ChatGPT

Again, the general steps to getting ChatGPT to translate text from an MS Word or Google Doc file, are pretty simple:

Open The Doc

Access the Google Doc or MS Word document that contains the text that you want to translate. Make sure that you have the editing or copying permissions for the document.

Highlight And Select

Highlight and copy the text that you want translated. Make sure that you include any necessary formatting or special characters.

Open The Interface

Launch the platform or interface where you interact with ChatGPT, then follow steps 3-5 mentioned above.

It’s important to note that the specific steps we’ve outlined above can vary, depending on the platform or interface that you’re using to interact with ChatGPT, but by following the basics, you’ll be getting your translation in no time.

Use Style Transfer to Tweak the Output

In certain instances, when translating text, the resulting translation might come across as too technical or, perhaps, it’s not suitable for the intended audience. If this is the case, they you can use ChatGPT’s style transfer techniques, which will give you adjustments in the style and tone of the output to better suit the target audience or industry. 

In certain instances, when translating text, the resulting translation might come across as too technical or, perhaps, it’s not suitable for the intended audience. If this is the case, they you can use ChatGPT’s style transfer techniques, which will give you adjustments in the style and tone of the output to better suit the target audience or industry.

For example, if you need a legal document translated, you can get ChatGPT to maintain the original meaning in the output while also employing language that’s easier for non-experts to understand. With style transfer, ChatGPT will give you translations that strike the right balance between accuracy and appropriate communication.

Here are some prompts that use style transfer techniques:

1. Translate [enter text] to [target language] using simpler language for a more general audience.

2. Translate [enter text] to Japanese with a focus on readability for a [grade 7] level audience.

3. Translate [enter text] to Polish while applying style transfer to ensure suitability for the intended audience.

In Summary

In some situations, it may be that you don’t need a complete translation, you just need to get the core of the message that the writer is trying to convey. Luckily, ChatGPT can also help you will this. 

To get just a summarized translation, you can ask the AI chatbot to provide a “summarized” or “condensed” version. Here are some examples of prompts you could use:

  1. Provide a descriptive, but condensed, translation of [enter text] into German.
  2. Summarize the translation of this [enter text] in Spanish.
  3. Give me a summarized translation of [enter text] in English.
  4. Translate this article [enter text] into Dutch, but only focus on the main points.

Finally, while ChatGPT is definitely an impressive tool when it comes to translation, remember that it’s still artificial intelligence, so may not always produce the best translation. Therefore, it’s not recommended that you rely solely on it, especially for sensitive and important documents. 

Instead, use a combination of tools, especially if you know someone who speaks the intended language, or get a professional translator to proofread it for accuracy if the text is important. So, can ChatGPT translate documents? That’s a definite yes, so what are you waiting for?

Have you ever needed text translated, but Google Translate isn’t giving you what you want? Can ChatGPT translate documents? Click here to find out how the AI chatbot can be your personal interpreter.