While all translation is difficult, healthcare and medicine translation is by far the most challenging of all. Not just challenging, but getting it right also is extremely important compared to other translation areas.
Since human lives could be at risk, medical translation agencies have to practice extreme precaution and consideration in their work. It takes them more than just linguistic fluency to effectively translate a medical text. In fact, they have to face several obstacles in terms of medical terminology, eponyms, acronyms, etc. to deliver a successful translation. Let’s take a closer look at these challenges down below.
One of the key aspects that make healthcare and medicine translation so complex is the medical terminology. Even the slightest variations in translation can have a deadly impact on the care a patient receives.
There will be many words that are specific to the medical field and nobody outside of it will understand them. These could be the names of medicines, diseases, or any particular conditions.
Since the healthcare sector is so vast, you can expect to come across specific terminologies in each area. This demands that healthcare translation companies must employ translators that are not just linguistically efficient but have deep knowledge of healthcare and medicine.
It’s also important that each translator should be a subject matter expert in their specific field. For instance, if a translator is skilled in hematology, they should only focus on this area instead of trying to translate documents related to cardiology. If they attempt to translate outside their specialty, chances are there will be mistakes.
Last but not least, the specialized medical language and terminology also demand experience in medical translation. If the translator has no prior medical experience, they are likely to make significant errors in the documents.
Another problematic thing in medicine translation is encountering eponyms. As a matter of fact, there are numerous medical terms that contain eponyms. Examples include Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Fallopian tubes, among many others.
These eponyms are generally names of various parts of human anatomy, diseases, medical devices, signs and symptoms, and even medical procedures. Some eponyms might also include names of geographical places and fictitious characters.
Now eponyms can present some serious challenges for translators. Because some of the terms and their counterparts in different languages may also be eponymous. It’s common to find an eponym in German or English that will have a different eponym in other languages such as Chinese or Turkish. For instance, Fallopian tubes is an eponym in English but when it goes to German, it becomes Eileiter.
Hence, you’d need to hire an experienced medical translator who can help solve eponyms issues without ruining your medical document.
There are various different sectors that exist within the field of medicine and healthcare. This complexity of the field becomes a huge obstacle for translators to deliver a successful project.
For instance, a medical translator who has good knowledge of cardiology may not be able to complete a project on radiology or oncology. This indicates that only having medical experience is not enough. There will be instances when an experienced translator would know nothing about specific specialisms.
Therefore, it’s vital for companies offering medicine translation as a service, they must call on expert translators with backgrounds in various medical specialisms. Otherwise, they may be unable to deal with a complex medical project. But if they do, it will give their clients peace of mind. Because the companies can let their clients know that each translator working on their project is a specialist in their field. This will not only result in 100% accuracy of the translation but also achieve the highest level of client satisfaction.
Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Compound Phrases
Acronyms and abbreviations are common and abundant in the medicine and healthcare industry. Anyone who has ever received a medical instruction or prescription is likely to have seen such acronyms and abbreviations. The issue is that most of them simply don’t get translated and require the expertise of professional medicine translation services. Translators having zero medical background or less experience are likely to make mistakes. Because they may not be able to find an equivalent for a medical abbreviation or acronym.
Apart from abbreviations and acronyms, there are various compound words and phrases that pose significant challenges to medical translators. Such as heart failure, patient safety, pulmonary embolism, and contrast medium are some of the many examples.
While these compound words are commonly used in fundamental medical English, translating them to other languages becomes an issue. Linguists have to ensure that these phrases don’t lose their meaning in translation.
Additionally, the use of prefixes and suffixes is also very common in medical documents. Most of them are Greek or Latin derivates. And if the linguist translates them incorrectly, the entire meaning can drastically change.
For example, “hypo” and “hyper” are two words that are used as prefixes. While hypo means insufficient but when you add the prefix hyper, it modifies the meaning to be excessive. So you can clearly see that a simple translation mistake that involves a switch between these two terms can cause the diagnosis to be inverse of the patient’s illness.
The Right Line of Communication
When translating medical texts, it’s important for the medical translator to know the intended audience. Since there are many groups that are involved in the medical field, a translator must know who will be the probable receiver of the content or message.
Let’s understand this with an example. If the medical text has to pass between doctors and nurses, it will be worded differently and can include complex terminology. But what if the document contains instructions that need to go to patients directly from the doctor? In this case, the translation will include a different kind of language, one with less technical vocabulary.
Here are a few examples of healthcare translations that require communicative considerations based on the participants involved.
- Patient documents – The patient documents include billing statements, treatment plans, consent forms, insurance information, and more. While translating these documents, the translators must ensure that patients thoroughly understand each and everything they need to. For example, they should be aware of the types of documents they have to sign or the forms or information they receive. Hence, there should be no use of technical information.
- Medical device instructions – The user should easily understand the way to assemble and use a product. Hence, instructions for medical devices should have wording that the target audience can comprehend.
- Clinical trial documentation – Clinical trials involve various information that’s targeted toward both laypersons and experts. So the translation should be clear enough that starters are fully aware of any possible risks in the trial. On the other hand, the trial results can include specialized information for the medical community.
- Academic reports and case studies – These documents are intended for a specialized audience so they require the linguists to translate them with their target audience in mind.
Healthcare and medicine translations are quite sensitive due to the human lives involved. Thus, it’s imperative that medial text should be translated as accurately and precisely as possible.
Having said that, you need experts on your side. Because only professionals with the right experience can help you handle all the translation challenges: from medical terminology to eponyms and communication differences for different audiences.
LST is a medical translation company you may need to work with. We have thousands of in-country linguists who have been working exclusively with medical texts since 2012. Each expert is a specialist in their language pair and specific field.
Since we have subject matter linguists in every healthcare and medicine sector, you can entrust your medical translations to us with confidence. We promise to do justice to your translation needs.
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