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Translating with Deepl and ChatGPT

Translating text with AI / any other tool

  • Okay

    Votes: 1 20.0%
  • Swindle

    Votes: 3 60.0%
  • No opinion / don't care

    Votes: 1 20.0%

  • Total voters


So, I'm usually writing in my mother tongue, which is German, and I started to translate a fanfiction, and also my original fiction, with ChatGPT and Deepl for AO3.
Usually I let those tools translate my text and betaread it a second and third time myself, but it's definitely a great tool and helps me a lot.
Some people told me it's "swindling".

To make it clear: I don't use it for writing text or any creative process, just for the translation a text I beta read myself then.


Myth Weaver
Translation is as much an art as it is a science. Using AI to translate may get you pretty good text in the destination language, but will it get the gist of what you meant to say? Will it understand colloquialisms in the correct way? Will it get word play or puns?
I can see it being very useful to do the "heavy lifting" and I am glad that you re-read the text to see if it is working for you.
But I know too many translators that will probably retire or be fired because AI can do most of what they do. Cheaper and faster but not usually better.
I'm with CupofJoe . Translation tools are useful if you need to find a specific word or a quick idea of what a text is about. It falls short when you're diving deeper. Already because some words are hard to translate because they have no exact equivalent in another language (see our discussion from last week on adding Dutch words to the english language...). But also because you have a lot of words for the same thing that all mean something slightly different. And it's those nuances that make a language. And that's without going into word jokes, sayings and all that.

Having said that, it can be a good starting point. I know a couple of professional translators, and they have already been using translation tools for the past 10+ years. The best (pre-AI) ones, store sentences and parts of sentences as well as single words, which then are served up if they come up again. This speeds up the process. However, a human is still required to go over the text to make sure the correct meaning is actually translated. And for fiction it's even harder if you're trying to make something that's enjoyable to read.

In short, there's nothing wrong with using it as a starting point. So it's not swindling in that sense. However, quality wise, it will still require a lot of work.


Man, you should look up mtl (machine translated) chinese novels sometime. It's a hoot. Honestly using AI for translation is one of the few things I'm okay with using AI for, but it also seems to be an area particularly vulnerable to current AI's flaws.
I can’t tell that English is not your first language. Are you using a translation tool to speak to us on here?

Side note: just ignore what other people say!


Myth Weaver
I dont lnow why it would be a swindle, but i dont suspect it can be trusted. If you dont know the language well, you wont be able to know if its a good translation without real person native speaker help.


Troglodytic Trouvère
Article Team
I voted "swindle," simply because I believe you would be swindling yourself out of learning English. I've used Deepl for translating dossiers and articles for a previous job I had, and while the tool is useful, my German and French were not improved by it. The same proficiency I had entering that job, I maintained when my contract ended. This was not much of issue for that particular job, as my existing knowledge of these languages was sufficient for correcting Deepl's output, but it would have been an issue if my ultimate goal was to write such documents in the given languages, i.e. the boat you are currently in.

It's a far, far better strategy to learn the basics of a given language (in your case English) and then diligently translate words one by one. It's more laborious, but interacting with synonyms, choosing which ones are most apt, and stringing them together correctly will improve your English in ways that relying on Deepl (and gods-forbid, Chat GPT!) ever can.


I can’t tell that English is not your first language. Are you using a translation tool to speak to us on here?

Side note: just ignore what other people say!
No, of course not. ^^'

There are some phrases and proverbs I don't know and unnatural patterns that "sound too German" - apparantly, like someone told me. At least on paper I speak English B2-C1.
I wouldn't translate into a language I don't understand on this level and beta-read / correct the text myself.
Passive and active vocabulary are two pairs of shoes tho and the AIs show me phrases I didn't think of (actively).

Thanks for all your replies.

Mad Swede

Writing this as a non-English writer who's books are being translated to English. It isn't about translation, it's about interpretation. That means far more, and it is to a very large degree all about understanding culture, nuances and context. Most translation tools can do the basics but lose nuances and fail entirely to translate colloquial expressions.


toujours gai, archie
There's plenty of room between fairly stupid mechanical translations and artistic interpretations of Dante.

I for one would have greatly valued some sort of translation service when I was a grad student. Not of literary works but of scholarly historical articles, and even of medieval chronicles, most of which are quite mundane. I was fine with French and German and Latin (this was many years ago!), but having an AI to translate could have opened up whole fields of secondary literature in languages adjacent to my thesis, such as Polish or Russian (or Swedish!). Even in my "known" languages, a transation service would have saved hours by simply translating the scholarly bibliography, to give me a list to scan rather than pages to plow through. And I would look forward to the day when such a tool could be expanded to include pre-modern variants like the 17thc Schwaebischerdeutsch that was my companion for two years. There again, I rarely needed much skill in translation (but plenty in graphology!) when all that was issue was armloads of guild petitions to the City Council. Very formulaic and restricted, though several trade-specific terms remain a mystery to me to this day. But I would have been able to churn through most, and focus my time on the idiosyncratic and exceptional. I regard that as a research win.

I've heard from others similar thoughts regarding scientific journals. I'm sure there are other examples of specialty needs while still leaving the field wide and fallow for those concerned with fiction and poetry and the like.

Also, on-topic, I see no problem with an author using whatever tools they like, so long as it's applied only to their own writing.