Should translators be worried or excited about the future of ChatGPT?

Whether you’re interested in technology or not, it’s been hard to avoid hearing about ChatGPT in recent months. The AI chatbot has been all over the news and social media, leaving some people feeling anxious about the impact it will have on our jobs and education. Even key players in the AI sector called for training of AI systems to be temporarily suspended back in March of this year, arguing that they pose a threat to our society. Others, however, are embracing the technological advances that ChatGPT has to offer. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, it’s certainly an interesting topic and one that isn’t going away any time soon.


With the ability to produce text that could’ve been written by a human, it’s understandable that ChatGPT has also got the translation industry talking. We’re going to take a look at what ChatGPT is and how it’s likely to affect the translation industry in the future.


What is ChatGPT?


You’ve probably heard lots about it, but you might not be entirely sure what ChatGPT actually is. Well, ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer. And if that doesn’t help, it’s essentially a very advanced chatbot that uses artificial intelligence to produce human-like text. It does this by identifying patterns in huge quantities of data from sources like books, journals, websites and news articles. ChatGPT is also known as a large language model (LLM), which is basically a computerised deep-learning model that’s trained to generate text that reads as if it’s been written by a human.


You can ask ChatGPT anything you want. You can ask it to plan your next holiday for you, write a poem for your loved one or prepare your to-do list. But it’s not just trivial matters that ChatGPT deals with; it can also write computer code and essays. It doesn’t always provide the right answers though and there are certain things it can’t do. For example, it is currently limited to analysing data up to the year 2021. Users have also pointed out that it often reproduces racist bias that it finds in its source data and the technology can even ‘hallucinate’ sometimes. This term is used to describe AI giving answers that sound as if they could be correct but that are actually wrong. So, it certainly has its limitations.


Can ChatGPT produce translations?


The simple answer is yes. Currently ChatGPT is able to understand and produce text in around 95 languages, so you can certainly ask it to produce translations for you. One advantage that ChatGPT has over other online translation services, like Google Translate, is that you can provide the chatbot with more information or context to give it a helping hand to produce an accurate translation. For example, you could ask what a sentence means in a certain context or explain that what you’re trying to translate is an idiom. This should help ChatGPT to produce a more accurate translation. You can also provide more information on the style and tone you want your translation to have.


However, as mentioned previously, you can’t fully rely on ChatGPT’s output being correct. Even ChatGPT itself will tell you that the translations it generates might not be accurate and might need proofreading. Issues with its translations may be linguistic, whether it’s the grammar or vocabulary, or they may be cultural. Like other machine translation tools, ChatGPT can’t fully understand idiomatic expressions and cultural nuances yet.


How will ChatGPT affect the translation industry?


It’s still too early to say exactly how the translation industry will be affected by ChatGPT. As we’ve already explained, the quality of its output is not yet reliable enough for us to trust it to produce accurate translations. If you were to use ChatGPT to translate content that would be seen by your clients or that would appear on your website or in other publications, you would most certainly need a qualified human translator to proofread the output. ChatGPT’s linguistic knowledge is limited to the data it’s been trained on and although it certainly has access to a huge database of written texts, humans are still able to access a lot more information. For particularly niche topics, for example, ChatGPT might struggle! Similarly, translations for industries with strict regulations, such as the legal and medical sectors, would need to be adapted by professional human translators to ensure they are in line with industry standards. Another concern when relying on ChatGPT for translations relates to data security. While it does have some security measures in place, anything you enter into ChatGPT is ultimately saved by OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, in order to improve its output. ChatGPT could also be susceptible to cyberattacks if hackers were able to access and edit its code.


So, with all these limitations, is there any way that ChatGPT could have a positive influence on the translation industry?


Despite the fact that large language models like ChatGPT can’t yet produce accurate translations in a range of subject areas, the translation industry is still open to embracing the technological advances it has to offer. In fact, the German Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators, the BDÜ, recently published a press release explaining that new technologies like ChatGPT are simply changing the way the translation industry operates, disputing claims that they are putting professional human translators out of work. They argue that the role of human translators is changing thanks to the huge technological developments we’ve seen in recent years and are calling for professional linguists to be compensated fairly and not burdened with unrealistic expectations, especially as the role of a translator has in some ways become more complex due to changes in technology.


The benefits of ChatGPT are likely to be similar to those of MT (machine translation) methods that are currently used in the industry. Machine translation post-editing (MTPE) is already widely used by professional translation providers. This involves a machine or piece of software producing the initial translation output and qualified human translators then adapting the output to make sure it’s suitable for use. MTPE tends to be most effective for more straightforward texts without any cultural nuances, such as technical documents. It’s also important that the source text itself is clear and free from any errors. This approach to translation combines the speed and reduced cost of machine translation with the skill and accuracy of a human translator, making it very popular within the industry. The MT output is also constantly evolving and being improved. In this sense, ChatGPT could produce lengthy translations within a short space of time, meaning that clients don’t have to wait as long to receive their final translations. Of course, time would still need to be factored in for proofreading by a professional linguist. ChatGPT might also change the current requirements of MTPE to include additional tasks such as fact checking.




While ChatGPT is not yet close to producing accurate translations that match those of professional human translators, it could still offer some benefits for the industry in terms of speed and reduced costs, especially as the software develops and becomes more advanced. It’s likely to take on a similar role to other machine translation software tools and its output will still require proofreading, editing and potentially fact-checking by a qualified human translator.


Navigating ‘false friends’ in German and French communications – our top 10

If you’ve ever studied a foreign language before, it’s likely you’ll have come across a fair few ‘false friends’!


What is a false friend?


A false friend is a word or phrase that sounds or is spelt the same as in your native language but has a totally different meaning in the other language.


There are plenty of examples and while they are certainly amusing, they could potentially lead to some rather awkward or embarrassing situations or even cause offence.


You might think the German language is particularly straightforward with its English-sounding words like ‘Kaffee’ (coffee) and its very logical compound nouns like ‘Handschuh’ (hand + shoe = glove), but be warned! There are some words that are designed to trip you up.


We’ve put together a list of our top ten French and German false friends that everyone (not just translators!) should be aware of.


  1. Gift (German)

Before telling one of your German friends that you’re giving them a ‘gift’, make sure to check its meaning first – the German noun ‘Gift’ actually translates into English as ‘poison’! This is a classic false friend and one that you’ll need to be aware of if you don’t want to scare away any of your German colleagues, friends or family. If you do want to give someone a gift, the correct German translation is ‘Geschenk’.


  1. Rat (German)

Following a similar train of thought, you might feel shocked or even disgusted if you hear that your German friend wants to thank you for your ‘Gift’ by giving you some ‘Rat’… but don’t panic, they’re only trying to help! The English translation of the German word ‘Rat’ is ‘advice’. If you ever need to know the correct German translation for the pesky rodent, it’s ‘Ratte’.


  1. Handy (German)

If you want to talk to your German friends about how useful you found the guidebook they lent you for your summer holiday, don’t assume that the correct German word is ‘Handy’. This word actually translates into English as ‘mobile phone’ (and is pronounced more like ‘hendy’). This should be an easy one to remember, as mobile phones do come in handy a lot of the time! There is some debate around the origins of the German word. Some believe it’s a short version of the early German word ‘Handfunktelefon’ while others say it came from ‘handie-talkie’ – a handheld walkie talkie that was used in World War 2. Either way, it’s shorter and easier to say than the German alternative: ‘Mobiltelefon’. If you do want to describe something as useful, you can use the German word ‘nützlich’.


  1. Mist (German)

Be careful if you want to comment on the weather in German. You might think the German word ‘Mist’ can easily be used to describe the fog in the sky on one of those grey winter days. However, you’re actually more likely to hear Germans using this word when they’re annoyed. ‘Mist’ can be translated into English as ‘rubbish’, or less politely as ‘crap’! It’s also the German translation of ‘manure’. If you want to talk about the fog or mist in the sky, use the German word ‘Nebel’.


  1. Chef (German)

If you want to pay your compliments to the chef in a German-speaking country, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you could use the German word ‘Chef’. Unfortunately, this is another false friend that catches people out! The English translation of the word ‘Chef’ is actually ‘boss’ or ‘manager’. If you want to thank the chef for a delicious meal, you’d need the word ‘Koch’ or the feminine form ‘Köchin’.


  1. Journée (French)

If you’re speaking to a French person about your recent travels and want to tell them about the journey, make sure not to use the French word ‘journée’. Although this certainly looks like a French version of the word ‘journey’, it actually translates into English as ‘day’. If somebody wishes you a ‘bonne journée’, they’re not wishing you well on your travels, they’re simply wishing you a nice day. The correct French translation for the word ‘journey’ is ‘voyage’, hence ‘bon voyage’ – a term that we often use in English as well.


  1. Blessé (French)

Make sure you brush up on your French vocabulary before declaring to someone how lucky and ‘blessed’ you are. While the French word ‘blessé’ (past participle of the verb ‘blesser’) might seem like the obvious choice, you’d actually be saying something that’s rather unfortunate instead – that you’re injured. This false friend trips people up quite often. The correct French translation for the verb ‘to bless’ is ‘bénir’.


  1. Passer (French)

Another French verb that catches a lot of English speakers out is ‘passer’ in the phrase ‘passer un examen’. An English speaker might be thrilled to hear this news, thinking that they’ve passed an exam. However, somewhat confusingly, ‘passer un examen’ simply means ‘to take an exam’. The French verb ‘réussir’ is the one you’ll need to listen out for to find out if you’ve passed or not. A very cruel false friend!


  1. Déception (French)

As you’ve seen so far, false friends can be very deceiving. You might want to talk about this in French using the word ‘déception’. However, this is a deceiving word in itself. ‘Déception’ actually means ‘disappointment’. Both terms have negative connotations but they’re not exactly interchangeable. If you want to use the correct French word for ‘deception’, it’s ‘tromperie’.


  1. Bras (French)

We’ll leave you with one last French false friend that could lead to some rather awkward encounters! If you see or hear the word ‘bras’ from a French speaker, don’t assume that they’re interested in your (or somebody else’s) underwear… ‘Bras’ is the French word for ‘arm’. The French language actually has some interesting idioms using this word, such as ‘les bras m’en tombent’, which translates literally as ‘my arms fall off’. This phrase translates along the lines of ‘I just cannot believe it’ and can be used if you’re really shocked by something and left speechless. If you do need to know the correct French translation for the undergarment, it’s ‘soutien-gorge’ – slightly longer than the English word!


We hope that you’ve enjoyed our list of German and French false friends and that you can use it to avoid any potentially awkward language encounters. We’d love to hear your favourites, including in other languages too.


How to prepare your documents and website content for translation: our top tips

At the start of any translation project, it’s important to establish the format of the documents you need translating and the format in which you’d like to receive your translations back. Ironing out any issues at this early stage is crucial, as it will make the translation process run a lot more smoothly and will help your provider to understand your requirements and expectations from the start. Your translation agency should be able to advise on the best course of action depending on the type of document you need translating.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a short guide covering the main document types with tips on how they can be prepared for the translation process.

It’s worth remembering that a lot of translation agencies and translators make use of CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools. These help to break texts down into manageable segments and store/create translation memories to make sure that your documents are translated consistently and in line with your style and terminology requirements. Repeated text can also be translated for you at a discounted price. CAT tools work best with editable documents, as they can extract the readable text and prepare it for the translation team.

Let’s take a look at some of the different document types and how these can be prepared for the translation process.

  1. An editable file is a CAT tool’s best friend

If you already have the content you need translating in an editable format, such as a Word or Excel file, the good news is that you probably won’t need to do much more in terms of preparation! Our top tip here would be to make sure that you send your translation provider the final version of the document you need translating without any track changes or unresolved comments. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you’re happy with the formatting of the original document, as the translation will follow the same layout. Make sure to check for any pesky uneditable text that’s lurking in an otherwise editable file, such as images that have been copied and pasted, and check if you have the original versions of these to send to your provider if they do need translating.

  1. How to handle PDFs

PDFs come in all shapes and sizes. More often than not, the document will have originally been created in some other software, such as Word, PowerPoint, InDesign etc. and it will have been saved as a PDF along the way to make it easy for everyone to access. If you have the original file format of your PDF, make sure to send this to your translation agency. It will be easier for them to work with and will reduce any preparation and formatting costs that might be involved. If this is not possible, most translation agencies will work with specialist typesetters who can convert PDFs into Word or InDesign files, for example.

If your PDF is a scanned document, this can make things a little trickier but not impossible! Usually, the translation of a scanned PDF would need to be typed up in a new file, e.g. a Word document, which can take more time and means the translator won’t have access to the CAT tools they would usually use. It’s also possible to type out the source text into a Word document and then run this through a CAT tool for translating. Again, this does take time and will involve some additional costs. It also means that any formatting will be lost and the translation may need some work afterwards if you would like the layout of the original document to be replicated.

The main thing here is to try to make sure that the scan can be read clearly. You can do this by ensuring that the original document is scanned at a high resolution so that the text can be read more easily. Make sure to avoid any blurred edges or anything else that might distort the text and make it difficult to decipher. After all, your translator will need to be able to read the document well to be able to translate it!

  1. Website content

Nowadays, more and more companies are translating their websites to target new audiences overseas. A professionally translated website is key to maintaining your brand reputation, building trust on an international scale and engaging with new clients and customers. But where do you start with getting your website translated?

If your website is fairly small and you already have the content saved in, for example, Word files, these can easily be translated using CAT tools and you can then reinsert the translated content into your website. You could also copy and paste the content from your website into Word or Excel files and follow the same process. This approach is great for smaller websites or if you only need a few pages from your site translating. If you do choose to go down this route, make sure that the files contain everything from your website that needs translating; occasionally things like menu items can be missed.

The other approach is to export your website content in another format, such as XML or HTML. After some preparation, these files can then be opened and processed using CAT tools. Usually, a software developer or website admin will have access to your website content and will be able to export the relevant pages for translation. If your website was created using WordPress, there is also a plugin that enables you to export the content in XLIFF files. This is a well-known CAT tool format and will make the translation process run even more smoothly, as the files shouldn’t require much additional preparation.

Whichever format you choose, your provider should always run a test and send you a pseudo translation to try importing back into your site to check that everything works properly before translation begins.

Our top tips here are to think about which content you need translating from your website. There might be blogs, for example, that won’t be relevant to your target audience and won’t therefore need to be translated. Also, make sure to communicate clearly and openly with your translation provider to ensure the project runs smoothly and your requirements are understood from the start.

  1. InDesign files

InDesign is a well-known desktop publishing software programme that can be used for creating marketing content like flyers, brochures, posters etc. Some clients like to copy and paste the text from their InDesign files into Word to get the content translated and then will reinsert the translations themselves. Most translation providers, however, will work with professional typesetters who can take care of the entire layout for you, so that you receive a fully formatted print-ready translation back. If you’re not familiar with the target language, this can be particularly helpful, especially if it uses a different alphabet or reads from right to left instead of left to right! If you do decide to get your translation professionally formatted by your provider, our top tip here would be to make sure to send them all the relevant files. This includes the .idml file, which is compatible with CAT tools, and the original .indd file, as well as any fonts and links. Also make sure to check if there is anything that’s uneditable within the InDesign files, that’s been copied and pasted from a different source, for example, and let your provider know if such text will need translating.

  1. Tips for all documentation types

Whether you need a simple Word file or a complex PDF translating, there are some tips that apply regardless of documentation type. As we mentioned earlier, make sure to send the final version of your document to your provider to ensure the quote for your project is accurate. If you make changes to the text while the translation process is underway, it’s likely that this will incur additional charges. Check for any text that might be uneditable in otherwise editable files and decide whether this needs translating and let your provider know. Similarly, make sure you’re happy with the layout of your document and discuss any issues or specific requirements with your translation provider at the start of the project. If you have short texts that need translating, it’s best to group these together for your translator to work on at once, as most agencies will charge a minimum fee for each smaller text to cover project management time, research, translation and proofreading.

We hope this short guide has given you a useful insight into how to prepare your documents for translation! As you can see, there are lots of factors to consider, but a good translation provider will be able to talk you through your options and help you along the way. Spending some time preparing your documents for the translation process and discussing your requirements with your provider at the start of a project will save you valuable time and costs in the long run.

If you’d like to discuss getting your documents translated, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us:

ecls caravan pic

Keeping Germany on the move this Easter – A for ‘Automotive’

We’re kicking off our new A to Z of Translations with A for ‘Automotive’!


We’ve had our second busiest ever quarter after completing a 700,000-word project for one of Germany’s largest distributors of camping and caravanning equipment.


The holiday season is nearly upon us, and our client needed help translating their entire website from German into UK English to get caravan and motorhome enthusiasts back in the outdoor spirit! From cooking utensils and camping tents to bike racks and awnings, our team of experienced translators completed this extensive technical project in just six weeks.


After the project, our team came together to reflect on the challenges it had presented and how we had solved them to ensure that our client received high-quality, consistent and accurate translations just in time for the Easter holidays.


Challenge 1: Consistency

As this was such a large project with a tight deadline, it was assigned to five different team members. This meant that collaboration was key to maintaining consistency across the translations. After all, no two translators will have the exact same style of writing! The content involved a lot of specialist terminology and lengthy product names that incorporated key technical details. These had to be translated accurately but also had to read well in English.


Solution: We had regular discussions to ensure all the team were following the same approach. When it came to lengthy product names, for example, we decided to introduce commas to separate product details and aid readability. We also agreed on general guidelines with regards to other aspects, such as capitalisation. This led to us creating a style guide that can be used for future projects. We were also able to access other team members’ translations in the project TM (translation memory) as they were confirmed in real time, so we could regularly check that terms were being translated consistently.


Impact: Our in-depth team discussions allowed us to ensure that the client’s website was translated consistently. This ensures professionalism on the website and helps to create a trusted brand. Consistent translation of technical terminology also means that visitors to the website can easily navigate their way between similar products, in turn leading to more sales and more satisfied customers – a great user experience on our client’s website is also more likely to lead to customers returning!


Challenge 2: German-specific concepts

Despite the technical nature of this project, we still came across some more cultural concepts that posed a challenge when translating for an English-speaking audience. This could be anything from an e-scooter product description that described the relevant German road regulations to the different categories in the German version of the game Trivial Pursuit. And just to confuse things, the UK automotive brand Vauxhall is actually called Opel in Germany!


Solution: As a team of native UK English speakers, we were able to pick up on concepts that would cause confusion for a UK audience. We discussed our processes as a team and also checked with our client how they would like us to approach certain aspects, for example whether to localise Opel. We provided adaptations for an English-speaking audience where necessary; for example if a travel guide was written in German, we specified this in the product description to avoid any confusion.


Impact: Localising product names and descriptions where necessary, and if agreed with the client, meant that we could produce translations that wouldn’t make the target audience feel alienated by concepts that they are unfamiliar with. A UK-based visitor to the website would therefore be more likely to feel an affinity with the client’s brand and could feel sure that they had made an informed decision as to whether a product is right for them, leading to increased sales and greater customer satisfaction.


Challenge 3: Volume

The sheer volume of a project like this can present obstacles. With 700,000 words to translate for numerous products from a variety of brands including Truma and Dometic, it was inevitable that there would be some issues in the source text, especially when the texts had been extracted from the client’s website.


Solution: Attention to detail was crucial for this project. Our team managed to spot any incorrectly spelt brand names and inconsistencies in measurements and made sure that these were researched, queried if necessary and correctly translated. Splitting the project across a team of five experienced translators meant that we could go the extra mile and flag issues to our client where necessary.


Impact: Our client is a long-standing customer who trusts the quality of our work and was therefore more than happy to place the entire project within our own team rather than further splitting the project between other teams to meet the deadline. This meant that we could ensure that the website content was consistently and accurately translated and could also provide an additional service in drawing their attention to any typos or inconsistencies found on the website. This in turn helped improve on the original German text, boosting our client's reputation online for both their German and English-speaking customers.


Challenge 4: Acronyms and abbreviations

Acronyms and abbreviations are often used in technical texts to ensure that readers can quickly access the key information they need. The challenge in this project involved understanding whether acronyms and abbreviations were part of brand names and therefore needed to be kept the same in English or whether they needed translating and if so, what they meant. We also sometimes came across very short product descriptions with little context and no images to assist us with our understanding. Anyone who has worked with translators in the past will know that context is everything!


Solution: We carried out thorough research on our client’s website and in their catalogue and accessed other reliable sources in the caravan industry, including technical product manuals, to help us gain a better understanding of the products in question. When necessary, we queried abbreviations and acronyms that were unclear with our client. We also kept a structured, smooth query process within the team to avoid any duplicated questions.


Impact: Our in-depth research meant that we provided accurate translated content for retailers and customers to make informed decisions on their purchases. Accuracy is essential when translating technical content; an incorrect measurement for a caravan roof cover could lead to serious issues for our client. We made sure that any potential issues were avoided by being thorough in our research and clarifying abbreviations and acronyms with the client if they were unclear.




The busiest start to any year in the history of ecls translations gave us the opportunity to translate the content of an entire website from German into UK English. Our technical translators were able to demonstrate their outstanding attention to detail and deliver accurate, consistent and thoroughly researched translations.


The project was varied, covering everything that could possibly be needed for a camping trip or caravanning holiday. We enjoyed working together to discuss ideas and terminology and thanks to our in-depth research, our client can now present a professional, accurate English version of their website to customers and retailers to highlight their growth and increase sales by tapping into a whole new international market.


We’re looking forward to seeing what the rest of 2023 will bring but for now, we’re going to have a well-deserved Easter break!


If you’re going camping or taking your motorhome out on the road this Easter, we hope you have a brilliant time!