Common Problems Faced in Medical Translation

Common Problems Faced in Medical Translation

Accurate translation is a challenge for any industry. Even a small error can make a critical difference. It can be even more challenging in the healthcare and medical field. An error in the translation work can cause a misunderstanding, which may lead to severe complications. It can even become a life-threatening condition. Even the translation of medical reports and reports needs to be 100% accurate. They may have to be translated into various languages for patients and doctors who speak a different language. Medical staff and doctors these days from different parts of the world are now regularly co-coordinating for various procedures and reading up each other’s reports.

Medical terminology can be different as the spellings can vary in different languages, sometimes meaning something completely different. This can cause confusion. The abbreviations may also differ from one language to another. The field of medicine is constantly changing because of technological and scientific developments. Many new terms are being constantly added, which makes the job even more challenging.

The stakes are higher compared to other fields as the lives of people are at stake. Even a single word that is translated wrongly can cause a fatal error.

Here are some of the most common issues faced in medical translation –

The medical terminologies can be complicated

A common problem faced in medical language translation is in the various terminologies. Even a small change in the wording may considerably affect the care or treatment a patient receives. The terminology is almost always in the parent language and there is almost never a direct correlation with a foreign language. This poses a problem for the translator. The person has to find the right or the closest word that will fit the original meaning.

The healthcare industry is huge with each area having its own terminologies for particular medical conditions, which makes the issue even more complicated. Hence, it pays to have a translator who is a subject matter expert. In other words, it will always help if the translator has good knowledge of a field like cardiology instead of a person having to learn about it, which is almost impossible for someone who is not an expert. But finding such a person at the right cost is a problem.

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Acronyms and abbreviations

If you look carefully, you will see that medical prescriptions often have abbreviations and acronyms. The linguist trying to translate them must already know what they mean. Only then will the person be able to accurately translate them into the new language. It will be very difficult for those who don’t have a good understanding of the field.

It is not easy to translate the names of the drugs

The translators face issues with documents having medical conditions. They also face challenges when dealing with pharmaceutical names. To resolve such issues, WHO or the World Health Organization has assigned the INN or International Nonproprietary Name for several pharmaceutical products. It is assigned for generic drugs based on the active ingredients of the drug. The INN provides clarity regarding the name of the drug, but the translating agency still needs to understand the pharmaceutical drug to be able to do a good job.

There is another factor that makes it difficult to translate the drug names. New drugs must be approved by agencies in different countries before they can be sold in the market. This is happening all the time as new medicines are coming out regularly. So, the medical translators need to constantly update themselves.

The risks of machine translation

There are now various machine translation tools out there like Google Translate and others. However, using such a tool can be risky as they often make errors. Even the smallest inaccuracy or mistake can have a grave consequence. It can cause wrong diagnosis and incorrect treatment, which can severely affect both the patients and healthcare providers. As things stand now, there is no alternative to a human translator who is an expert in translating medical documents and texts.

Top 3 Must-Have Capabilities of a Good Medical Translator

  • The person must have a good knowledge and understand of the medical topic that is being translated.
  • The translator should be able to read and understand the original language very well to understand the intended meaning of the text.
  • The person should be able to express the meaning accurately in a foreign language.

These three capabilities are all equally important and are connected to each other. Medical translation has become very important in the healthcare industry as more and more doctors and medical staff is working together with their colleagues from other countries, exchanging notes, sharing prescriptions, diagnosis reports, and treatment modalities. This sharing of knowledge and ideas is helping the patients immensely. Without an expert medical translation job, it will be impossible for them to reach out to the far corners of the world and share their knowledge.