By Raluca Bourceanu
These days we see that whilst the demands and needs are ever increasing for medicines, simultaneously there is a distinct lack of understanding and appreciation about what is required to make successful medical and pharmaceutical translations.
The amount of medical terms increases year on year. Moreover, the templates provided by health agencies that must be adhered to continue to change and so translating and localizing contents relating to medicine and science has become more complicated.
Like any other specialisation, medical translation requires specialised scientific knowledge and proficiency in languages. So, in the same way that if you had a Ferrari you would only let an expert mechanic look at it, why would you apply a different methodology to something as exact as medical translations? The reason is a lack of appreciation of the issues in translating such material. The truth is that translating medicine-related terms should only be performed by professional and skilful translators.
We see many cases where such translations are performed by medical students who have no experience in translation and as a consequence lack proficiency in both the source and target languages. Furthermore, they are not experienced in how to deal with written texts. Moreover, they do not possess the requisite translation CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools to perform word and phrase management and ensure terminology consistency throughout the translation. These allow you to create, manage and keep your clients’ translation memories up to date, thereby avoiding interpretations or different translation of established and agreed terminology. This is something we feel is a must to work correctly.
We also commonly receive projects that we are asked to rescue where it is evident that the work was performed by translators who have no medical experience and knowledge in the industry. As a result, there are plenty of mistranslated and vague translations and this leads to potential risk to patients. Poor information = poor decisions/outcomes.
The Way Forward
We think that there are a few house rule questions to ask yourself when deciding how to choose your vendor for translation:
Translating medical terms is not just the responsibility of the translator, but it is also the responsibility of the purchaser (whether it be a Pharma company, Doctor Etc.) to seek professional and reliable translation services. The end result should be medical text that supports the patient, not puts it at risk.
Raluca is a Senior Arriello Translation Project leader with over 10 years of experience working as both a translator and subsequently with Arriello. She is fluent in German, French, Romanian and English.