All professional translators should strive for perfection, but the need for accuracy in medical translations transcends almost all other translation categories. The risk of poor health, serious injury, or even death as a result of a poorly translated medical translation is something unique to this field. How does one avoid these dire consequences?
If you need a medical translation you should the take time to locate a medical translation service that has a reputation for accuracy and that provides a guarantee of its work in the language pair that you require. Good medical translators are not your average translators because of their essential combination of translation and medical knowledge. In particular, they are bilingual or multilingual professionals who have an in-depth knowledge of medical terminology in the medical field you are working in, and an understanding of the culture and target audience for which the translation is aimed.
Why is terminology such an important aspect of medical translation?
Medical translation is very specific in its language. Slight differences in terminology can mean quite different things in medicine or medical practice. The challenge for the medical translator is not just to be familiar with what the terminology means in the source language, but to know what it is in the target language and the situations in which misunderstanding may arise.
There can be no room for guessing the equivalent term used in the target language for a specific medical term. The prospect of a misunderstanding can be devastating for a patient. The translator must be adept at transliterating if there is no equivalent term, i.e. explaining the meaning of the term in the target language without changing the context or use.
Medical terminology also uses many abbreviations and acronyms which may or may not have direct equivalents in the target language. Again, the medical translator’s task is to convert any of these abbreviations and acronyms that have no direct equivalence in a meaningful way without compromising any information.
Translation essentials of the intended audience
All translators understand the significance of adapting the language of translation to suit the target audience. This is particularly important for medical translation services because a particular document or text may be aimed at very different readers. Some translations are designed to be read by medical professionals who will understand the terminology used, while others may be aimed at a general audience that includes many people who are not familiar with complex medical terms. The translator must work with the client to take into account who is reading the translated text and adjust the language accordingly.
Importance of localization in medical translation
Medical translators face the same challenges as any other professional translators when considering adjustments that have to be made for the target culture. However, the importance of localization is particularly important in medical translation. Units must be converted, if necessary, from Imperial to Metric or vice versa. This is particularly the case if translating to or from a U.S. medical source. Few other countries still use Imperial units and confusion can reign if millilitres have to be mentally converted into fluid ounces or vice versa, or Fahrenheit into Celsius, for example.
Cultural nuances are also important when official designations are used. Some cultures have a far higher regard for their medical professional whereas there may be a more relaxed perception of the same medical professional in other cultures. The savvy medical translator adjusts terms and language used to address these personnel because of their in-depth grounding in the two cultures involved.
About the Author:
Alison Williams has been involved in writing with the translation industry since 2011 and has worked with a number of translation companies. Medtrans – Medical Translation Services is one of them, which focuses on medical translation. Over the past few years, she has worked with executives, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and many other professionals in writing and publishing, SEO web content, blogs, newspaper articles, and more.