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Some people still have doubts about whether Google can be useful when it comes to translating. That is precisely what led the BMJ to investigate the use of Google Translate for medical documents. Can Google be accurate in medical translation? The results are worth thinking about.

The authors took 10 sentences, used Google Translate to translate them into 26 languages (8 from Western Europe, 5 from Eastern Europe, 11 from Asia and 2 from Africa) and then asked professional translators (26 native speakers of the target languages) to translate the results back into English. The resulting translations were checked for errors.

Once again, Google showed how ridiculous it can be, and how much fun it can be for those who are not professional translators. It showed that medical translations (and any other type of translations for that matter!) are best left to the professionals if you don’t want to mess up. Let us explain why!

Google translator

Google’s efforts to act as a medical translator were not a great success. A cardiac arrest became an imprisoned heart. In the Marathi language, one of the most widely spoken languages in India, organ donation was translated as tools, and in Bengali, the need for mechanical ventilation became a wind movement.

Google got it right in only 57.7% of the cases examined! According to these results, if Google’s automatic translations were to be used in hospitals, fewer than half of the patients would receive the right care, adequate ventilation, donate their organs or give their consent for an operation.

It is very worrying that doctors have to resort to translating through Google. Health workers should always have access to qualified human interpreters because there is nobody better than a professional medical translator when it comes to translating what the patient needs.



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