The perils of AI translation

Rather excited by the discoveries that AI would translate medieval Greek, I thought I’d try another attempt at that Ge`ez text that I put into Google Translate some time back.  That is a homily on St Garima by a certain bishop John.  I found the text on my disk, and put a paragraph into Bard AI.  Nope.  It wouldn’t play.  Then I tried ChatGPT 3.5.  That churned out the Nicene Creed, as a supposed translation.

You can’t trust AI.  It can and will generate garbage.  You have to be able to check.


7 thoughts on “The perils of AI translation

  1. So I used ChatGPT4 – and specifically, a custom GPT someone built called AutoExpert (

    I’ve been pretty impressed with the results of ChatGPT4 over ChatGPT3.5, and ever more impressed with the accuracy increase I get from the AutoExpert GPT built on top of GPT4.

    Here’s the results of that:

    Copying/pasting the particular translation:
    > And it happened on that day, he took up a book and began to write. And he was raised up for prayer, in earnest. And the angels and the Gospel were with him at four hours, and their interpretation. And the angels of the Lord, and Christ himself, will be interceding for him. And his fame spread throughout all the land. His prayer and his blessing shall be an example for us.

    I don’t have context/knowledge to know if that’s any good, but just wanted to share. Thanks for all you do!

  2. That’s hysterical that it spat out just random Greek it had read, i.e., the Nicene Creed–and not even from the same period!

  3. Absolutely! It had no idea, so it went with something random. This happened the last time; but that time it just generated a random prayer.

    Got to be very careful here!

  4. I work all the time with translations and with AI there are more subtle dangers than that… I am not a quick typer, so AI helps tremendously with speed. But you always have to be on your toes. You do need to know the language you are translating from, for sure. I will give you an example. my Greek author uses the word κατάστασις with the meaning of state (of the soul) and AI surreptitiously puts in “situation” or “condition”. If you are not careful and lean too much on AI, the translation will be inaccurate and not make much sense. I was horrified when I found a few “conditions” and “situations” in my translations just before publishing them. The good thing with deepL is that it accepts polytonic Greek and also you can click on a word in its own translation and then a window opens with many options, some of which are fantastic I find. Thanks to you I found other AI translators in case of need, so thanks.

  5. Apropos of early Church history in the UK, the YouTube channel Cambrian Chronicles has a lot of good stuff about the geography of Wales in late Roman/early medieval times, and various weird hints in chronicles, placenames, etc.

    Apparently there is a site called floodmap that is good for showing the old coastlines before drainage, silting, and so on, which is why a few places in Wales are still officially called islands when they are currently inland hills.

    Someday I need to sit down with some of those old books about early UK saints and just figure out where all these UK places are, on a map. I am terrible about visualizing geography in places I have never been.

  6. The Isle of Ely is indeed inland now, but that’s because of the drainage of the fens. But I gather that much of Kent was under water, and that Claudius camp at Richborough was an island then.

    Massive flooding in the fens a couple of weeks ago revealed some interesting civil war earthworks, highlighted by the flood water picking them out.

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