What is medical translation?
Specialised or technical translation is a branch of translation that focuses on reproducing the text of specialised documents. The translator must have particular technical and linguistic knowledge of the specialised subject matter in order to produce a good translation.
Within this category of specialised translation is medical translation, a branch of technical translation that encompasses a vast range of health-related fields. With its own terminology, sources and challenges, there is a growing push for medical translation to be recognised as a separate specialisation because of the training it requires.
Types of medical translation
There are several types of medical translation, from the translation of informative texts and documents for patients such as leaflets and informed consent forms for medical and surgical examinations or clinical trials, to the translation of clinical summaries and patient records directed at a recipient with no knowledge or training in the healthcare world (normally patients), to the translation of manuals, informative research articles, clinical trial protocols and specialised terminology dictionaries for professionals in different branches of the medical field, and the translation of patents or instructions for installing medical devices in hospitals.
It is a specialisation that covers a broad range of areas in the medical fields which means that the register and style used will vary depending on the type of text or document and who the message is for However, there are three main components to any medical translation: they must all be clear, accurate and faithful to the original.
Medical translation and regulatory authorities
Numerous medical texts are subject to approval by regulatory authorities. To obtain this approval, medical texts must meet a very specific set of terminological and stylistic requirements, and their structure and wording must comply with specific regulations. Some medical texts must also be translated into different languages.
The two most important regulatory authorities in the world for the approval of medication and health technology are the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the USA, and the EMA (European Medicines Agency) in the European Union.
One of the branches of specialised medical translation is pharmaceutical translation. The pharmaceutical industry has many translation needs. From the initial clinical trials in the research phase to the drug’s approval by the authorities, commercialisation and distribution, effective translation is essential at every stage.
The European Medicines Agencies (EMA) provides staff with information about stylistic preferences, formatting, terminology and common phrases that the pharmaceutical translator must use in their translations.
The pharmaceutical industry has been growing steadily in recent decades, but it wasn’t until the outbreak of Covid-19 and the global pandemic that the majority of the population became aware of just how important this sector truly is. With the support of the governments of various countries, laboratories began a race against time to create a vaccine.
At Acantho I&C, our team of translators have the necessary resources, knowledge and experience to offer you a pharmaceutical translation service of the highest quality.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a patent as “A government authority or licence conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention”. The person who registers the patent has the right to commercially exploit the invention for a specified period of time, protecting the invention from being copied.
The demand for patent translation in the pharmaceutical sector has seen a significant increase in recent years. Documents containing technical, legal and commercial information, must be carefully translated by a professional with a high degree of specialisation in these fields, and then reviewed by another professional with the same qualities.
At Acantho I&C, we work with the best professionals in the field of pharmaceutical patent translation. If you need more information or have any questions about this type of translation, we will be more than happy to assist you.
Another growing sector with specific translation needs is the veterinary sector. This sector includes disciplines such as medicine, surgery, food safety, anatomy and biology. As a result, veterinary translations need to be done by a professional with knowledge of multiple areas in the field, from anatomy, physiology and animal behaviour to surgery, diseases and livestock farming, who is also versed in using the field’s specific terminology and the most common abbreviations and acronyms.
Few professionals with exhaustive knowledge of and training in veterinary medicine focus on translating specialised texts from the veterinary sector. At Acantho I&C, we regularly work with numerous farms and companies specialising in animal products, so if you’re looking for an experienced professional translator for medical translation in this context, we’ll be more than happy to help you.
The challenges of medical translation
The World Health Organisation defines health as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Practitioners and researchers in the fields of medicine and public health are dedicated to preserving and understanding health and preventing disease.
Because health is so fundamental for human life, the medical field is constantly developing in terms of both scientific and technological advances. New terms are added to its lexicon every year. Doctors, researchers, scientists and all other Health Sciences professionals must continue to increase their knowledge over the course of their careers in order to care for patients, research new diseases and develop new medical drugs or devices. To that end, they often learn the new terminology in the language it was published in, subsequently using this terminology in their day-to-day work. This leads to the original terminology being used in medical lectures and articles that will later be translated into other languages. This is where some major challenges come in. Because equivalent terms do not always exist in the target language, translating these types of texts poses a challenge that requires great responsibility.
An example of the difficulties that a specialised medical translator, or a medical professional who wants to translate a text, comes across are words known as “false friends”. English-Spanish medical translators encounter many false friends. The English word ‘abortus’ is similar to the Spanish Word ‘aborto’ (abortion), but it actually means a non-viable foetus; ‘disorder’ looks and sounds like ‘desorden’, but the Spanish word means ‘mess’ or ‘confusion’ rather than a medical disorder; the Spanish word ‘fatal’ normally means ‘terrible’ rather than ‘deadly’; and ‘infant’ looks like the word ‘infante’, which means a child under the age of seven rather than a baby under the age of two. These are just a few examples.
If you would like to learn more about false friends in English-Spanish medical translation, have a look at section 3.3 of this article:
Emerging Vocabulary: The Influence of English on Medical Spanish