Accuracy of Google Translate in a medical context


It is frustrating to find the “perfect” article only to discover that the full text is not in English. Have you ever used Google Translate to convert an other-than-English medical article into English for one of your nursing assignments? Have you ever wondered how accurate the resulting translation was?

In December 2014, BMJ published an article evaluating the accuracy of Google Translate when used to translate common medical statements (Use of Google Translate in medical communication: evaluation of accuracy). The results? Google Translate only had a 57.7% accuracy when used for translating medical phrases. The results, I would have to assume, would most likely be even lower for complex medical statements.

Here is a sample of a few of the phrases that the authors chose for their experiment:

  • Your wife is stable
  • Your wife needs to be ventilated
  • Your child will be born premature

When verified by native speakers, Google Translate had provided the following translations most often for those phrases:

  • “Your wife is stable” —  Your wife cannot fall over
  • “Your wife needs to be ventilated” — Your wife needs to be aired
  • “Your child will be born prematurely” —  Your child is sleeping early

Bottom line: Google Translate should not be trusted in a medical context.