Novel coronavirus (52) Healthcare information for the general public (9) Multilingualism and Google Translate

24 February, 2020

Dear all,

As you may recall, I had written earlier that there was a problem with the quality of the automatic translation on the Japanese Government's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare website. Last week, a national newspaper also covered this issue (Feb. 18, 2020):

In response to these kinds of criticisms, the Ministry created two additional pages linking directly to English and Chinese sites. These sites offer only selected information (probably what the officials thought were most important) but the language is much better than the automatic translation.

It is also notable that some local governments are now publishing information for their foreign residents, and some have established special hotlines in different languages (Feb.19, 2020):

Finally, I have been experimenting with creating an English website based on the Japanese ministry's information for the public. The experience has taught me a lot of things, including the fact that Google translate is pretty good for Japanese to English, I think about 90% accurate. So this suggests that not all automatic translation softwares are inaccurate; there may be scope for using Google translate as a tool; but also that these translations need to be finally checked by a person.


HIFA profile: Jenny Yamamoto is a Doctoral student at Hiroshima University, Japan. She previously worked on transport issues at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok. Currently, she is interested in mobility and access to health services in rural areas in both developed (Japan) and developing countries (South Asia). As part of her research, she will also consider the ways in which communication technologies and mapping of health information can contribute to better health outcomes. yamamoto.jenny AT