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The Effectiveness Of Machine Translation In Medical Communication

Efficient and accurate communication is central to medical industry in terms of medical staff interacting with patients and the ability of people to comprehend medicine and pharmaceutical guidelines. Doctors have the task of listening to patients, taking account of their views before providing an honest answer and providing the best course of action. While translation services are available in many hospitals across the United Kingdom, medical staff, sometimes face a language and cultural barrier when communicating with patients. Where available, the translation services on offer are often very expensive and inaccurate. Situations arise where doctors need to explain medical procedures or have ethical conversations with the patient or family whose knowledge and understanding of the local language is somewhat limited. Even native English language speakers may require an element of translation of medical terms into lay terminology.

The Dangers Of ‘Just Google It’

On average, Google deals with more than 40,000 search queries every second and a large majority of these are related to translating words or phrases. The popularity of Google Translate can be seen with more than, one hundred million Google Translate Android App downloads. With apps and services like Google translate providing basic insights into the translation of foreign languages, web based and machine translation tools may seem like a quick fix solution to medical communication issues. Whilst many people know of the inaccuracies of Google Translate especially for complex medical phrases, some medical professionals turn to it in a time of need. However, it is by no means a replacement for a professional human translator and indeed presents a great amount of stress, risk and confusion for both the medical team and the patient involved. Using statistical matching rather than using a dictionary or grammar rules, Google Translate often leaves its translations open to error and nonsensical results.

Overcoming The Language Barrier

Today, Google has become the first port of call for queries and is often seen as holding the answer to everything. Google Translate remains the most easily accessible and free initial mode of communication between a doctor and patient where language is a significant barrier. However, health related issues should be treated with a great degree of caution with Google Translate not being an appropriate replacement for a human professional translator. Despite the advances in translation technology and applications, the demand for technical and medical translations necessitated by international and local businesses is likely to continue to feed the demand for professional human translators. This is especially true with medical and technical translations where small errors can cause significant and sometimes detrimental problems. A professional translator can use their knowledge and understanding of the specific industry, target audience and the target language to provide a more accurate translation taking into account the required industry terminology as well as local colloquialisms.

Do Machine Translation Tools Signal The End Of Human Translators?

Although some translation professionals have taken a negative stance against machine translation tools, many are embracing the technological advancements. Businesses which previously only operated on a local or national scale have now begun to extend their business reach due to the new possibilities of working with overseas clients. While these translation tools may aid business travellers to get basic information across, a human translator is required for anything more critical such as translating medical documents or business contracts. Machine translation tools are by no means a threat or eradicating professional human translators but rather translation technology is in fact making human translators more efficient and effective in the high quality work that they produce.

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