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Medical Miscommunication

Medical Miscommunication in Translation

Medical Miscommunication

From Poor Handwriting to Google Translate, Medical Miscommunication

Doctors’ handwriting had always been considered a menace around medical wards and general practices until recently a new one surfaced: Google Translate.

Anyone who has ever resorted to using Google’s alternative machine translation tool, even for non-medical reasons, knows what confusion it can cause.And yet this hasn’t discouraged medical staff from using GT during treatments. Typically, medics have to make quick decisions about a patient’s condition where no interpreters are present. In rolls Google Translate. It’s quick and easy allowing medical staff to get the gist of what their foreign national patients were saying.

Lost in Translation

A survey was carried out for the purpose of understanding what GT would return after translating 10 common medical phrases. The auto-translated phrases were then back translated by native human speakers of those languages — the results revealed all sorts of horrors. In one particular case, the medical English word “fitting”, a past participle of “to have seizures” was used: a mistranslation by medical staff whereby the English read, “your child is fitting”, in Swahili, it became “your child is dead”.

Another slightly less terrifying one was the Polish translation of a suggestion offered to relatives of a patient who either deceased, or nearly — “your husband has the opportunity to donate his organs”. To Google Translate and this in turn becomes, “your husband can donate his tools”!

Many other phrases churned out almost poetic translations such as one into Marathi (an Indian language) which read, “your husband had a cardiac arrest”. GT came out with, “your husband had an imprisonment of the heart”. In Bengali, the phrase, “your wife needs to be ventilated” resulted in, “your wife wind movement needed”. Imagining doctors and nurses alike repeating these poetic phrases adds a little humour. Perhaps not so much for the patients and their families.

Google Translate cannot recognise the context of the sentence or phrase it is translating, which results in mistranslations. Anybody relying on GT for formal communication may well find themselves in trouble, despite the hilarity of some of its flaws.

Have you ever come across any embarrassing mistranslations? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

The STAR Team

Funny Machine Translation Errors

Funny Machine Translation Errors

One of the things we find amusing is how machine translation can make some really silly mistakes.

A common misunderstanding is that translation is just about words however context is very important in understanding exactly what the words mean.

Machine translation engines provide free translation, but the quality is often very bad. They translate words and phrases but can never perform like a human in understanding the text.  Here are some fun examples we’ve found in our own research.

“A School of Fish was spotted in the sea”

A school of fish was spotted in the sea

The translation above literally means that a school (schools where kids go) full of fish was in the sea. In French the word école means a physical school. They don’t have the term “school of fish” in French. We also translated – Sharks swim in schools and got the same result. Sharks swim in colleges!

The translation is thus taken out of context since the right phrase to translate “a school of fish” would have been “un banc de poisson”. Google and all the other machine translation engines we tested made the same mistake.

French Machine Translation Errors

Poor French translation example from Google Translate

A interesting French idiom is Se faire la belle”, which means to run away and not to make beautiful!

Another similar idiom would be to to take french leave, which describes when a guest leaves a party without informing their hosts.

Google translates this as Pour prendre un congé françaises” which means to take French holidays and we won’t say anything else about the grammar mistake. However, the correct translation is Filer à l’anglaise.

An example of a bad translation from a status update on Facebook by the Bing Translator

Amanda at Spiderworking spotted this one for us using Facebook’s translation with Bing. The Japanese user was discussing Scotland but we’ve no idea what the translation is meant to say correctly.

Do you have any funny examples of mistranslation? We would love to see them. Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.

The STAR Team

Why Machine Translation is Dangerous

machine translation is dangerousOoops! Machine Translation is dangerous!

We read with amusement this morning an article in the The Irish Examiner. The paper  reports that a mistake has been made by Cork’s local authority translating the name of the world famous  “English Market” into Irish.

The translated sign read “Béarla sa Mhargadh”, which literally means – English in the Market!

We suspect they probably used one of the popular machine translation engines to do the translation.

A quick look at the “English Market” website or a quick call to the team at Star Translation Service would have saved some red faces.
A more appropriate translation would have been : “An Margadh Sasanach”.

Sometimes it is very easy for people with short translations to quickly jump to the internet for a free and quick translation.  Machine translation engines really are only gisting engines, to get the idea of roughly what something says. One of the key factors to quality translation is understanding the context of a word or phrase for translation. You always need to have some further information to fully understand the message. As an example the word “Armed”. Does this refer to a person with a weapon or a burglar alarm that is on – ‘armed’. The translation is very different depending on what you mean.

STAR provide professional translation services to clients in over 40 languages. We help our clients communicate effectively and accurately. We translate documents, websites and signs!.