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Medical translations made easy – Our 7 steps to flawless medical translations

Medical translations require highly specialised skills that must be learned over many years.

Although you may think that you know all there is to know about medical translation, there are, however, some crucial points to consider when translating medical texts.

Getting started with general knowledge

Translation is a complex process with numerous challenges. Every language carries similar, yet different difficulties. In addition, every field is specific and requires an individual approach.

Some translation errors may be amusing in certain circumstances, but this is certainly not the case when dealing with sensitive medical content. Errors in medical translations can have devastating consequences and can cause serious harm to people’s lives. In addition, misunderstandings or misinformation caused by poorly performed translations can affect the public image of any medical organisation marketing or promoting its services in the healthcare sector. Medical translations require a highly specialised skill set that takes many years to master. Apart from linguistic expertise, expert knowledge in a given field is essential to ensure the quality and accuracy of the translation.

Not surprisingly, medical translations are among the most complex areas of the translation industry. This blog focuses on the main challenges and gives you the tips that will help you overcome major problems.

The challenges of medical translations – How to do it right!

Es gibt viele Aspekte, die bei medizinischen Übersetzungsprojekten zu berücksichtigen sind. Die offensichtliche Herausforderung liegt in der Komplexität der Medizin an sich. Vom Tagesgeschäft pharmazeutischer Unternehmen und Krankenhäuser bis hin zu klinischer Forschung und medizinischen Studien: Die Branche befasst sich mit hochspezialisierten und sich ständig weiterentwickelnden Inhalten. Dies ist eine Konstante, die leider nicht verändert werden kann. Mit ein paar Tipps und Tricks lässt sich diese Herausforderung aber trotzdem meistern. Wir haben eine umfassende Checkliste mit sieben Schritten zusammengestellt. So kommen Sie zu besseren Resultaten und fehlerfreien medizinischen Fachübersetzungen.

The challenges of medical translations – How to do it right!

There are many facets to be considered when dealing with medical translation projects.

The obvious challenge is the complex nature of the medical field itself. From the daily business of pharmaceutical corporations and hospitals to clinical research and medical studies, this industry deals with highly specialised and constantly evolving content. This is a constant variable that, unfortunately, cannot be altered. There are, however, tricks and tips that help make things easier. We have put together a comprehensive 7 step checklist that will guide you to better results and flawless medical translations.

7 Steps to flawless medical translations:

1. Input equals output: Check the quality of the source material. This includes factual, terminological, stylistic and grammatical inconsistencies. Always keep in mind that the output (finished translation) will only be as good as the input (source text). If need be, consult with an expert to clarify doubts or to double check information.

2. Choose your LSP carefully: Select a language services provider (LSP) with experience in managing demanding translation projects and with the proper expertise in using CAT tools. In addition, the LSP should always select appropriate translators for your project.

3. It’s all about context: Ensure the contextual quality of the translated material is checked by an expert of a given field (this can be a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, chemist, medical engineer, medical student etc.) and the linguistic quality is checked by an editor.

4. Plan ahead: Do not rush the process due to unreasonable time     restrictions. To avoid unnecessary complications, it is advisable to factor the time required for the translation, feedback with the translator, proofreading and editing. Specialised LSP will propose reasonable timelines for the completion of a medical translation project considering the volume and the complexity of a text and the language pair.

5. Don’t skim on proofreading: After finalising, the text should be proofread. Proofreading itself implies correcting errors in orthography, grammar and punctuation. This step is very important, because sometimes seemingly innocent errors can change the main concept under translation significantly.

6. Also, don’t skim on editing: Depending on the type and purpose of the medical material, this step is sometimes omitted. Reason could be the assumption that the end reader will understand the text anyway, so skipping this step seems to be a time/money saver. On the contrary, people spend more working hours figuring out the content than performing other tasks. This situation may arise when the material has to be translated into various languages for the daughter companies of the same organisation.

7. Consider your target audience: The recipients of a medical text can be both, people without any medical background or specialists of a particular field of medicine. If we are translating content for the general public, we need to ensure that it is not translated literally and that it follows the original aim and tone of the text.

How LSPs and CAT tools add value to your medical translation

The selection and collaboration with the language services provider is the key to any professional medical translation. LSPs with experience in managing medical translation projects and offering vast array of language services, including the efficient use of software solutions such as Computer-aided -translation, will ensure that your projects will run smoothly. CAT tools represent the cornerstone of the modern translation industry. Their main purpose is to improve accuracy, consistency and the speed of translation. However, we should not forget that CAT tools assist translators and linguists to manage their translations better but they donˋt translate the content themselves. The best recipe for success is still human + machine, as opposed to either one of the two in isolation.

If you have materials in your pipeline yet to be finalised but intended to be translated at a later stage, it is advisable to not waste time and to seek assistance from a certified LSP right away.

Main takeaways

Ensuring the high quality of medical translations is a demanding task. Nevertheless, correct planning and a thought-out approach with assistance from an experienced LSP such as SwissGlobal Language Services AG will help you overcome the hurdles.

So, what you need to consider is:

  • never skip the language quality check of the source material
  • review the translation and don’t skip proofreading and editing
  • review the translation and don’t skip proofreading and editing
  • consider who will read your translated document and adapt the language to your target audience.

These steps will ensure that the translation process will run smoothly.

Do you have your next medical translation lined up already?

Feel free to speak to one of our experienced project managers today or simply contact us today for a non-binding price quote.