The accuracy of medical interpretations: a pilot study of errors in Japanese-English interpreters during a simulated medical scenario


  • Ryoko Anazawa The University of Tokyo
  • Hirono Ishikawa The University of Tokyo
  • Takahiro Kiuchi The University of Tokyo


medical interpreter, error analysis, Japanese-English interpreter, simulated scenario


Abstract: The role of interpreters is significant, and the accuracy of interpretation is the most critical component of safe and effective communication between clinicians and patients in medical settings characterised by language and cultural barriers. Japan has an increasing number of foreign patients, and we report on the results of a pilot study of errors made by 20 Japanese–English interpreters during a simulated medical scenario. Communication was recorded and transcribed for error analysis. Interpretation errors were categorised using five error types: omission, false fluency, substitution, addition, and editorialization, and three kinds of communication content were investigated. Participants with less interpreting experience tended to make more errors. Omission-type errors occurred most frequently. More errors tended to occur in the utterances related to socio-emotional contents. Utterances which express assurance or confirmation were especially likely to be characterized by omission-type errors. Participants’ interpreting experience appeared to be a contributing factor on making errors. The result suggested implications for an integrated training programme to reduce interpretation errors and future research.