Performance of an online translation tool when applied to patient educational material

Journal of Hospital Medicine

By: Raman R. Khanna, Leah S. Karliner, Matthias Eck, Eric Vittinghoff, Christopher J. Koenig, Margaret C. Fang


Language barriers may prevent clinicians from tailoring patient educational material to the needs of individuals with limited English proficiency. Online translation tools could fill this gap, but their accuracy is unknown. We evaluated the accuracy of an online translation tool for patient educational material. METHODS: We selected 45 sentences from a pamphlet available in both English and Spanish, and translated it into Spanish using GoogleTranslateâ„¢ (GT). Three bilingual Spanish speakers then performed a blinded evaluation on these 45 sentences, comparing GT-translated sentences to those translated professionally, along four domains: fluency (grammatical correctness), adequacy (information preservation), meaning (connotation maintenance), and severity (perceived dangerousness of an error if present). In addition, evaluators indicated whether they had a preference for either the GT-translated or professionally translated sentences.