The challenges of medical translation

As the world population has almost doubled in 50 years, and the average lifespan is increasing, we are facing new diseases, pushing our biotechnology skills ever further and always going beyond the laws of nature.

pharmaceutical market

Today, it is estimated that more than a third of the global pharmaceutical market is in the hands of ten pharmaceutical companies, six of which are based in the United States and four in Europe. Even if English is becoming a lingua franca in the international scientific community, particularly in the research field, it should not be forgotten that many clinical tests are conducted in non-English-speaking countries and that most medicines commercialized in one country are developed or manufactured in another country.

Patients and practitioners express a real need for access to medicine in their mother tongue, for example when they want to get information about the dosage of a drug or about the use of a medical device. Therefore, pharmaceutical groups must necessarily use the services of a medical translator to provide instructions and manuals for these products in the official language of the market they target.

While online machine translation tools are improving significantly, it can be risky to rely entirely on their performance when a patient’s life is at stake. A misunderstanding of a technical term, an acronym, or misinterpretation of punctuation can have serious consequences.

While many fields in translation leave room for freedom in language, style or tone, medical translators make it a point of honor to be precise and rigorous. In fact, a “medical” text presents a certain number of characteristics that make the translation particularly demanding, especially from the terminological point of view. Medical jargon contains highly technical terms, which, for ordinary people, are incomprehensible.

In addition, medical translation has to respect the many medical specialties (general, oncology, cardiology, etc.). Whether your document deals with virology, host/pathogen relations or biomedicine, you should always work with a translation agency! They will entrust your text to a professional, native speaker who specializes in your sector. Indeed, in addition of being a skilled linguist who masters perfectly his or her working languages, the medical translator must occasionally wear a white lab coat in order to understand, assimilate and translate medical jargon into another language. It is difficult to become a translator without having a solid experience in the field of specialization. Many medical translators have therefore worked in the medical sector, which gives them the theoretical and practical background they need to provide high quality translations.

In addition, every conscientious translator must conduct a deep research prior to the translation in order to better understand the subject and the issues at stake. To facilitate understanding, the translator also has to find equivalents for laws, regulations and institutions in force in the target country since they change from one country to another.

More than just a simple language exercise, medical translation requires translators to have expertise and skills in their chosen field. This is an activity in which there is no room for error, since it can have disastrous consequences for public health.