I asked ChatGPT to translate my sermon from English to Chinese. This is what ChatGPT did…
Today I tried ChatGPT for the first time. I had written a sermon about Good Friday titled “Four Dead People” and I wanted to ask ChatGPT to translate into Chinese for me. I was using this opportunity to compare the results of translation by Google, Microsoft (from within Word), and ChatGPT.
I gave the following requirements to ChatGPT: “please pretend that you are a Protestant Christian minister who uses a tone that’s not too complicated for common people, does not deviate from Biblical teachings, but is willing to speculate about what happened a bit in order to draw out deeper lessons for the audience.”
I then copied and pasted my sermon into the chat box. It all went in one chat. Almost instantaneously, ChatGPT wrote me a summary of a big portion of my sermon.
It seems that ChatGPT’s interpretation of my request to “translate” my sermon is to write it in its own words. (Just now, I looked up the meaning of the word “translate” and “to explain in terms that can be more easily understood; interpret” is indeed one of the meanings.).
Due to a mistake on my part, our conversation got cut off, and so I tried again.
This time, I gave the same request with the same requirements. Then the interesting thing happened…
ChatGPT asked me a question that clearly showed that it understood my sermon and more importantly, one of the most important parts of my sermon. I asked ChatGPT if it feels that’s an important issue and should I do another sermon just to cover it. It says it does not have personal beliefs or opinions, but it’s generally “important to thoroughly cover topics that may have significant impact on your audience”. So clearly ChatGPT feels that is the most impactful portion of the sermon. I have to admit that particular part was not intended to be the most important emphasis of this particular sermon when I wrote it, but looking back, it is probably the most important issue to the audience I am speaking to – existing Christians.
But my original plan was to get a Chinese translation of the English sermon, and so I stated my request again with very clear instructions: “can you translate that sermon for me into traditional Chinese characters.”
What ChatGPT gave me shocked me. It wrote a very brief sermon in Chinese based on the important issue that it discussed with me, not a literal translation of my sermon. The sermon is very concise and it is not stating the same issues that I wrote. It gave the sermon a different title: “Three Traps of the Devil” and mentioned lies, greed, and pride as the three traps. I had mentioned wealth, power, and bodily satisfaction as the three traps in my sermon. In short, it is a completely different sermon. ChatGPT’s sermon is something that another “person” could have written, but I am not sure if its logic is completely smooth. Somehow I feel like it’s something that some very deep-thinking people may consider BS, but for the common audience, they’ll just nod in agreement and accept.
But ChatGPT’s sermon was cut off in mid-sentence. I’m not sure why. I asked it to finish, and it did, but in English. Then I asked it to write it in Chinese, and it wrote something different and shorter in Chinese that concludes the sermon. Even put “Amen” at the end which I didn’t do. It’s clear that ChatGPT had read some sermons to know how they usually end.
The following paragraph was added on March 12:
After pondering about this for another day or two, I realized that ChatGPT got something right that I actually missed. I wrote the sermon without too much planning as I normally do because it was a previously used sermon, and I put an emphasis on the issue of salvation like an evangelist. I told ChatGPT to pretend to be a minister, and it focused on Christians’ choices and the danger of losing their focus on God. In a sense, ChatGPT is more correct than I was in creating a sermon for a Christian audience. I was a bit more like an evangelist instead of a minister preaching in a church.
To be honest, I was shocked by this chat session. ChatGPT clearly understands at least some parts of my sermon enough that it picks out what it thought was the most impactful part to my audience. It has its own ideas about how that important issue and although it articulated its own ideas, I don’t find its logical flow to be completely smooth. In some places, it feels like college-level BS that’s good enough to pass as a Sunday sermon.
As for being a literal translation tool, it clearly is not. Stick with Google or Microsoft.
How would I use ChatGPT? I may give it my sermons and ask for its opinions. Maybe it can see some things from a perspective that we don’t have as human beings already biased due to our experiences and prejudices. Maybe A.I. can help us understand God and the Bible in ways we can’t. If I encounter something truly shocking, I’ll report back.
Here are the saved chats:
1st session: http://sundayschoolteachers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Intro-and-sermon-trial-2023-03-04.pdf
2nd session: http://sundayschoolteachers.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/second-attempt-at-translation-2023-03-04.pdf
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