Parles-tu Français?

Image courtesy of Chat GPT

Later this summer I will be presenting at an international conference in Boston. One of the requirements is that my Power Point Slides be in two languages, English and either French, German, or Spanish. The problem for me is that I’m presenting on what was the Austria-Hungarian region, particularly what is now Croatia, so I already have two languages on most of my slides – English and Croatian. Adding a third language makes the slides overly filled with text but it is a requirement so it is what it is.

The next issue is I don’t write well in any of the languages so I decided to use AI to help me out.

I had learned at the National Genealogical Society conference that Transcribus was an excellent source to use for translation. Funded by the European Union, it was used throughout Europe.

I created an account easily but had extreme difficulty in getting it to work. It is in English but I didn’t find it to be intuitive to use.

I first tried to upload my .ppt but it can’t read that as Chat GPT can. I then typed the text I wanted translated into Word to upload. It wouldn’t take a .doc so I had to convert to .pdf. It uploaded fine but when I tried to get the AI to learn it I received a message that I needed to add more pages, at least 20. Sigh.

I had little time to watch a YouTube video, not even sure one exists, so I decided I would upload my .pdf to Claude, Gemini, and ChatGPT. Interestingly, I received some very different translations.

As I said, I don’t write in French so I couldn’t be sure what I was getting was correct. Since the syllabus was due I didn’t have the luxury of having a human translation. Plus, to be honest, I didn’t want to spend the money on it.

So, I decided to try to rationalize the correct responses. Here’s how I did that:

The first difference was in translating the English word JOURNAL – as is a professional magazine. I received Revues and Journaux as my choices. I selected journaux as a revues is mostly associated with theatre.

Another difference was translating the term Coat of Arms. I received Blason from Chat GPT and Armoiries from the two other AIs. I went with Blason because it means heraldry and that was what my intention was. Armoiries can be a symbol or design varying from a crest to a family badge to a coat of arms as we think of in English.

Now I would not have thought I would have gotten diverse responses for the request to translate “Thank you for attending” but I did. Attending was the problem word – the responses were assisté (no, no one was helping me), votre presence (for your presence) and votre participation (no, no one was participating unless you consider listening as participating). So, I went with votre presence. Thank you for showing up.

We don’t really think about meaning when we are speaking. We know what we mean and just say it intuitively. AI has helped me realize that the words I use may not be the best choice in getting my message across. I believe in working to perfect the AI prompts so that I obtain exactly what I want. I believe it has helped me to improve my own speaking and writing skills. Not what I would have ever expected could be considered as an AI bonus!