Medical translation is a highly complex and technical area. Ranging from clinical research and regulatory documents to pharmaceutical dosage instructions and package labelling, the knowledge and expertise required by linguists is vast.
With the highly regulated nature of medical documentation, translations need to be checked, checked and checked again before they can be distributed to the public in some form or another. In reality, this means that teams of linguists will work on each translation project, and those who do are specialists in their field. Often, they have gained first-hand experience by working in the medical sector themselves before becoming full-time translators.
By keeping up to date with regularly-changing laws and regulations, medical translators ensure they are at the top of their field and that their translations comply with regulatory updates. Given the sensitive and confidential nature of medical translations, freelancers and agencies working in this area must comply with binding Non-Disclosure Agreements and work with secure IT and file sharing systems.
Here at Language Insight, we’ve been thinking about three of the most important aspects of medical translations.
1. Translation need
In most countries, there are requirements that any literature and labelling associated with medical devices and pharmaceutical products are translated into the local language(s). This can range from documents needed to conduct clinical trials to product information for new medical devices.However, in addition to the breadth of knowledge required to translate these materials, the translators must also consider what each translation will be used for. The style and tone of voice of each translation needs to be appropriate for its audience – there’s no point filling a patient-facing dosage information sheet with medical jargon as it will be too complex for the reader to understand.
2. Quality and standards
Given the complexity and importance of medical texts, translation quality and accuracy are absolute priority. A translation that is not up to standard could be devastating for patients’ lives and it’s for this reason that the medical industry is highly regulated around the world. Medical companies who require translations will usually work with translation agencies, rather than freelance translators, who can demonstrate accreditation and compliance with one or more internationally-recognised quality standards.
3. Linguistic skills
Translators and interpreters who work in the medical field must ensure they are fully up-to-date with terminology that is used in the industry. It’s imperative that these linguists are aware of industry changes and have an excellent command of the languages they are translating.It’s important to remember that hospitals can be scary and upsetting places for patients, both at home and abroad, so interpreters and other language professionals who are in direct contact with patients must remain calm and professional at all times to bridge the gap culturally and linguistically between patients and healthcare providers.