Medical Translation Challenges

Miloš Matović 9 months ago Comment

The task of language professionals is essentially the same across industries and can always be summarized as helping companies and organizations communicate their messages to the target audiences, partners and clients. In this article we take a look at what medical translators need to know to make this communication possible in the vast and the diverse world of life sciences.

Medical Translation Challenges

Each business or scientific field poses its particular challenges, norms and expectations to the linguists, but medical and pharmaceutical materials are always something special because their content is about the study and improvement of life, which adds another layer of responsibility. Development of language solutions for the healthcare industry includes several aspects that need to be taken into account including:

The Specialization

We often speak about the life sciences industry and medical or pharmaceutical materials, but the truth is that these are all umbrella terms for an extremely wide range of study areas and specializations, ranging from psychiatry to dermatology, from neuroscience to beauty products.

Each sector has its own terminology and processes that need to be accurately communicated from one language to another and this is why the linguists working on these projects need to use the phrases and terms used by the healthcare professionals on the target market.

There are cases when the same term has to be adapted in different ways depending on the sector and the language combination and there are always newly introduced terms that need to be double checked. In every event, regulatory documentation in the target language is always the best resource to be consulted as an additional layer of quality assurance.

The Domain

Medical content comes in all shapes and sizes, from medical software to specific regulatory documents and marketing materials. The regulatory materials, correspondence with regulatory bodies and contract research organizations, clinical trial requests and amendments need to be adapted the certain way, in accordance with the professional, legal and technical requirements of the target market.

Marketing materials, as well as any piece of content developed for general public and users of medical products such as PILs, brochures, questionnaires and more need to convey the expert information in a manner understandable to the end users, while medical software localization has its particular, technical features and limitations that need to be addressed.

There is no one size fits all solution – each domain and medium require specific approaches.

The Language

It is usually not only the perfect right, but also the duty of translator to depart from the phrasing of the source material in order to make it understandable and clear in the target language, but one has to be extra careful when using that translator’s license in medical and pharmaceutical materials.

Medical content is not immune to false friends, as per usual between the more and less similar languages – for example, Russian word for stomach or abdomen is живот (zhivot) means life in Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian and other Slavic languages. Personal titles of medical professionals may and do differ wildly across the languages, just like the names of the drugs.

Once again, being extra careful and exploring the existing medical vocabulary and culture of the target market is what gets the job done – and the job is always to convey the meaning of the source materials between the languages accurately, precisely and appropriately.

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