Translating medical documentation, unlike most usual translation assignments, is a formidable challenge. On the one hand the reason for this lies in the fact that medical vocabulary encompasses a wide variety of abbreviations which can vary from one language to the other, while on the other hand the translator has to possess additional knowledge in order to understand the specificities of medical procedures and the terminology involved.
On top of everything else, it is absolutely essential that translations of medical documents are completely precise, clear and above all accurate in order to avoid dangerous consequences.
Therefore there are many challenges involved in translating medical documents and we will list only some of them here.
Additional specific knowledge is required
When it comes to translating medical documentation, the translator must be proficient both in the two languages involved, as well as possess a certain degree of medical knowledge. Terms used in medicine are highly specific to each branch of medicine and translating them directly from one language to another is not always possible.
In fact, the differences that may occur across different languages can be so delicate that translating medical texts is not recommended to bilingual medical workers. That is why only experts in medical translations can work on these assignments in a way that completely prevents any errors.
Medical translators undergo special education which is extremely comprehensive and time-intensive, seeing how there are considerable risks involved in inaccurate translations.
The fact that there have been numerous deaths all around the world which have been linked to the lack of quality medical translation goes to show the levels of responsibility that are involved.
What is the purpose of medical translations?
One of the biggest challenges that translators face when working on medical documentation is adjusting the translations so that they are understandable to both medical workers and laypeople.
Depending on the stated purpose of the translation, different terminology is used in the translated medical documents.
For example, the translator will use the term “varicella” if the text is intended for a doctor, whereas if it is done for a layperson they will use the term “chickenpox”.
Errors are unacceptable
We have already mentioned that inaccurate medical translations can cost someone their life. On the other hand, if an error occurs in translations of medical research, for example, an important new medication which could help millions could not be approved, or conversely a harmful substance could make it to widespread use.
Seeing how medical research is constantly moving ahead in every branch of medicine, the translators who work on medical documentation must also expand their knowledge and keep up with new discoveries. It’s the only way they can guarantee that their translations will be accurate and precise and avoid any possible errors.