Translating medical content can be challenging due to the industry’s complex language and specialized terminology. In a multicultural country such as Australia or the United States, a hospital can expect to have patients who speak different languages.

The patient needs to understand:

  • What the diagnosis is
  • Which medical procedures they are consenting to,
  • What medication they will be taking, and
  • The possible side effects.
Any small mistake can have serious consequences, so it is important to take care when translating medical documents. There are a few approaches that can make translating for the medical industry easier, whether you are performing medical report translation online or creating printouts:

1. Understanding the Terminology for Medical Industry

We can’t talk about medical translations without talking about medical terminologies. To be able to complete medical translations accurately, you need to have a solid understanding of the industry jargon.
The International Medical Interpreters Association states that proficiency in the translation field requires not only certification in the source and target language but also expertise in the subject matter, knowledge of terminology, and the ability to recognize meaning in context. This is why it takes a specialist to complete these types of translations. They need to not only understand the words but also the concepts behind them.

Tip #1:

If you don’t have a medical background, it is important to consult with someone who does before starting the translation process. This will help you to understand the text and to be able to provide accurate translations. You can also prepare a glossary when translating medical documents. This way, you can be sure that you’re using the correct terms.
Moreover, the medical industry is constantly changing and evolving. This implies that there is a constant introduction of new terminology.

Tip #2:

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Subscribe to industry newsletters or journals. As a translator, it is important to stay up-to-date with these changes. This way, you can be sure that you are using the most current terminology in your translations.

2. Making it understandable to the target audience

When translating medical documents, it is important to keep your target audience in mind. Will medical professionals read it, or will the general population read it? If it is the former, then you can use more technical language. However, if it is the latter, then you need to find a way to make the information accessible to them. One can accomplish this by either utilizing simpler language or by offering explanations for the medical terms utilized.

Tip #1: Use Plain Language

This is a writing style that the general population can comprehend. It is important that everyone has access to the information that they need, regardless of their level of education. When translating for the medical industry, you need to strike a balance between using technical language and making sure that the text remains understandable to the public.

Tip #2: Find someone who is not a medical professional and let them read the text

If the document is easily understandable to them and they have no questions, it indicates that the translation was successful. The goal is to make the final output clear, easy to comprehend, and accessible to everyone.

3. Being aware of cultural differences (especially when it comes to sensitive topics)

A challenge of translating is that you need to take into account cultural differences. This is true for translation work in general, not just translation specific to the medical industry. However, the specific challenge for translation in the medical industry is that these cultural differences can affect people’s health. When translating medical documents, it is important to be aware of any sensitive topics that could be present.
For example, in some cultures, talking about mental health is taboo. This means that a translation might need to take a different approach when discussing these topics.

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Tip #1

If you are unsure if a particular term or phrase could be culturally inappropriate, it is always best to consult with a cultural expert or a community representative. This will help you make sure that the translation is not only accurate but also respectful of the target culture’s values and beliefs. They can also provide advice on how to best approach sensitive topics. By consulting them, you can avoid any misunderstandings or offense caused by your translations.

4. Paying attention to formatting

Medical documents frequently require presenting a substantial amount of information in a specific manner. When translating these types of documents, it is essential to consider formatting. This means paying attention to things like layout, image choice, and ordering of information.

Tip #1

One might need to list a set of symptoms in order from the most common to the least common. Alternatively, one may need to present a list of treatments in order from the least invasive to the most invasive. This is because the medical industry often uses a specific order when presenting information.

Tip #2

Ensure to verify if there are any special characters or symbols required in the translation. These are frequently present in medical diagrams or charts. You also have to be careful when it comes to units of measurement. Different countries use different systems, so it’s important to make sure that you are using the right measurements for your target audience.
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Tip #3

Replace the images from the original document with images that are more appropriate for the target audience.
For example, if you are translating a medical document for an Arab audience, it will be better to use images of Arab doctors and medical procedures. This would make the reader feel that the document was really intended for them and that they are not just an afterthought.

Medical Translation Services

Medical translation services are specialised translation services that focus on translating medical and healthcare-related documents and content from one language to another. These services are crucial in the healthcare industry to ensure accurate and effective communication among healthcare professionals, patients, and researchers across different linguistic backgrounds. Here are some key aspects of medical translation services:

  1. Documents and Content: Medical translation services can translate a wide range of medical documents and content, including patient records, medical reports, research papers, pharmaceutical documentation, medical device manuals, clinical trial documents, and more.
  2. Specialized Expertise: Medical translators are typically professionals with expertise in both the source and target languages, as well as a deep understanding of medical terminology, procedures, and regulations. They may have backgrounds in medicine, pharmacology, or related fields.
  3. Accuracy and Precision: Accuracy is paramount in medical translation, as errors can have serious consequences. Translators must ensure that medical terminology, drug names, dosages, and other critical information are translated correctly.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: Medical translation often involves compliance with regulatory standards and guidelines, such as the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Europe. Translators must be aware of these regulations and ensure that translations meet the necessary standards.
  5. Confidentiality: Medical documents often contain sensitive and confidential information. Medical translation services should have strict confidentiality protocols in place to protect patient privacy and maintain data security.
  6. Cultural Sensitivity: Medical translation involves not only linguistic accuracy but also cultural sensitivity. Healthcare practices and patient expectations can vary significantly between cultures, so translators must take cultural nuances into account.
  7. Interpretation Services: In addition to written translation, medical translation services may also offer interpretation services for medical appointments, conferences, and meetings where language barriers need to be overcome in real-time.
  8. Multilingual Support: Medical translation services can handle translations between multiple languages, depending on the needs of healthcare providers and organizations.
  9. Machine Translation and Technology: Some medical translation services may utilize machine translation tools and technology to assist with the translation process. However, human expertise is typically required to ensure the highest level of accuracy.
  10. Certification: In some cases, medical translations may need to be certified or notarized to be legally recognized. Medical translation services can provide the necessary certification when required.

When seeking medical translation services, it’s essential to choose a reputable provider with a track record of accuracy and adherence to industry standards. Additionally, it’s crucial to communicate your specific requirements and expectations clearly to ensure that the translation meets your needs

Despite the challenges, medical translation is a fascinating and important field. Multilingual medical translation services can help ensure that all patients receive quality care and communication regardless of the language they speak. By following these tips, you can overcome many of the common obstacles and provide quality translations that help healthcare providers and patients all over the world. Do you have any experience in medical translation?
What was your biggest challenge? Let us know in the comments below.

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