ChatGPT: what is it and how does it work?

Machine translation (MT) is yesterday’s news. Make way for the new buzzword in town: ChatGPT. With a rapidly growing customer base of over a million subscribers (in just five days!) since its launch in November 2022, this latest phenomenon is making waves across the digital world – so much so that tech bigwig Microsoft is considering a ten-billion-dollar investment in its American creator OpenAI.


We decided to jump on the curiosity bandwagon with the rest of the world and get to the bottom of all the hype, starting with the basics: what is ChatGPT, what does it do, and, most importantly, what does it mean for language service providers (LSPs) such as Apostroph?

So what is it? ChatGPT – GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer– is a revolutionary technology that uses language processing to generate human-like conversations based on a prompt. It works in tandem with AI algorithms to offer solutions to users just like a normal messaging application (think chatbot!).

OK, now that we’ve worked out its meaning and its origins, how does it work and what does it actually do?

Talk to me, ChatGPT!

Unlike traditional chatbots, ChatGPT does not have access to external information as it’s not connected to the internet. Instead, it relies on the data it has been trained on to … well, … ‘chat’ with you. This data includes an enormous range of texts from various sources, including books, articles and websites. Just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of data behind it, the GPT-3 model, in particular, was trained on a text set that included over 8 million documents and over 10 billion words!

ChatGPT uses this ‘vast’ training data to perform a wide variety of jobs: automating simple tasks and workflows; explaining complicated concepts, processes and phenomena in easily comprehensible terms; and everything in between, such as spitting out rap lyrics Eminem style or writing ad copy for Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds in his own voice.

On the language front, this includes:

  • translating a text into about hundred languages
  • generating content ideas for social media
  • creating multilingual content for websites
  • writing blog posts or articles

 Well, that’s a whole lot, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg!

Should I be worried, ChatGPT?

So, is this all just hype, or should content creators like us be worried about what the future holds? Well, what better way to put something to the test than asking the source itself. Here’s what ChatGPT had to say to the question I posed:

Me: ‘Should I be worried about my job as a translator, editor and copywriter?’

ChatGPT: ‘No, not necessarily. The demand for translators, editors and copywriters is expected to increase over the next few years. However, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest technology and trends in the industry in order to remain competitive.’


Not necessarily … and that’s definitely true. Despite being extraordinarily capable, ChatGPT does come with its restrictions. The main issue is that it’s not continuously learning but has to be pre-trained, meaning it has no long-term memory (its current memory is trained until early 2022). And much like other neural networks, it is unable to interpret and explain why some inputs result in particular outputs. That’s precisely why, depending on purpose and quality requirements, human-machine interaction will continue to play a pivotal role in the form of post-editing – as is the case with machine translation.

And to prove the importance of human post-editing, here’s a question for you: did you spot the error in the answer provided by ChatGPT? If you did, then, well done, you know your grammar. If you didn’t, no worries; that’s what we’re here for.

The answer is: up to date. The phrase doesn’t call for a hyphen in this case. Why? Because it functions as an adverb here and not as an adjective.

You’re welcome, ChatGPT!

If you would like to know more about our post-editing services, get in touch.

Saveen Uthappa-Eck

English translator at Apostroph Group

Since 2016, Saveen Uthappa-Eck has not only been translating texts into English – she has also been working as a copywriter! As a genuine fan of languages, she enjoys doing crosswords and watching programmes and films in foreign languages.

Saveen Uthappa-Eck

Do you have any questions about language technology or a planned project?

I would be happy to tell you more about our development department and our technological possibilities – and introduce you to Apostroph Group.
Philipp Ursprung
Head of Translation Technology

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