How accurate is Google Translate?

February 1, 2015

Think twice before using a Web-based translation tool.

Think twice before using a Web-based translation tool. Investigators evaluated the accuracy of Google Translate by using the tool to translate 10 commonly used medical statements into 26 different languages, a total of 260 translated phrases. For scoring, the translated phrases were translated back to English by native speakers of each language. Of the 260 phrases, Google Translate accurately conveyed the meaning of 57.7% and mistranslated 42.3%. The tool was best at translating Western European languages (74% accuracy) and worst at African languages (45% accuracy), with Portuguese scoring highest and Swahili lowest (Patil S. BMJ. 2014;349:g7392). 

Ms Freedman is a freelance medical editor and writer in New Jersey. She has nothing to disclose in regard to affiliations with or financial interests in any organizations that may have an interest in any part of this article.