Is the reliability of Google Translate now adequate for the translation of medical journals? (4)

2 November, 2022

Neil asks, "is the reliability of Google Translate now adequate for the translation of medical journals such as Global Health: Science and Practice?". I would join Najeeb Al Shorbaji in offering a "no".

Google Translate is reliable, especially when it is wrong. It regularly mistranslates "evidence is not proof" as "la preuve n'est pas une preuve" or الدليل ليس دليلا

As this example indicates, machine translation software is always weak on short texts and phrases, and better where the translation topic has a restricted vocabulary (early successes were in meteorology).

But there are many other choices of translation software - Moses, Babylon, Microsoft Translate - dozens. GoogleTranslate is far from being the only one.

I started using SYSTRAN as long ago as 1971, when I worked at UNIDO as a translator, and I am sorry to say, the quality of translation is not much better 50 years later. Machine translation software like Google Translate is faster, more usable, easier, and covers many more languages - but the quality of translation is really not much better.

That fact has propelled me into writing a book on AI to try and answer the question - why, despite 50 years of effort, billions of dollars and millions of human hours, and an entire internet full of sample texts, have we done so poorly with translation software?

Having said that, using software as an assistant is the way to go - the standard approach in the translation industry (which has grown spectacularly in the last 50 years - a clue that the software can't do it alone) is to use machine-assisted translation. IMHO this would be the solution for GHSP.



Chris Zielinski

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HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for Global Health, University of Winchester, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme, which supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. He is the elected Vice President (and President-in-Waiting) of the World Association of Medical Editors. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. He served on WHO's Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. He also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Chris has been a director of the UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). chris AT His publications are at and and his blogs are and