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Is your latest medical translation project healthy? What do healthy healthcare translations look like when completed? Take a moment to think about how much is at stake when translated medical communications are confusing or misunderstood. When innocent consumers will bear the consequences of a bad medical translation, healthcare companies should review their documents and publications in a medical translation checkup. 

Even if you have visited your physician for a checkup in the past, you are advised to repeat this process regularly. Why? Because things can change over time, and you may have new conditions or maladies developing that will require treatment. Also, new advances in medicine allow for better testing for earlier discovery of many health issues. 

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The same principle applies to reviewing your healthcare translations. Healthcare is an ever-changing industry. As research discovers new treatments and therapies, your published medical documents should reflect them. In an industry where there is absolutely no room for errors or inaccuracies, your documents should reflect the most up-to-date information available. 

What are the essentials of a quality medical translation

Lexical Word Usage in a Medical Translation 

Words can take on different meanings in the context of the language and industry in which they are used. For example, the word “once” in English can be used for “one time,” or to begin a sentence like “Once you pour the water…” It’s important for translators to understand the lexical usage of words in medical translation

Be sure those charged with translating your medical documents know the lexical word usage in both the source language as well as their target language, especially how words are used in different ways within the medical community. Words can have varied expressions, or connotations when used in particular ways. 

Therefore, a medical translation is most accurately performed by a person who not only knows the source and target languages, but also has a deep working knowledge of medical terminology as well as grammar, word usage, and sentence structure in both languages. 

Medical Terminology vs. Everyday Words in a Medical Translation 

In many cases, simple word-for-word translation does not work for healthcare translations. Various medical disciplines sometimes use specific scientific or expressive words to refer to diseases or body parts. This is also true across different languages. Therefore, this elevated register of medical terms must be taken into account in any medical translation

For example, if using a strictly medical word register, a translator might use the word “thorax.” But in a more colloquial word register, the same translator may choose to use a more common word, like “chest.” Both refer to the same area of the body but using different level terms. In medicine and elsewhere, “thorax” is very specific; “chest” can mean

  • The upper body
  • A large, sturdy trunk (like a treasure chest) 
  • A bathroom cupboard used for storing the medicine or first-aid supplies 
  • A piece of furniture used to store clothing (short for chest of drawers) 

Because physicians and patients alike require clear and easily understandable guidelines to ensure safety and health, medical terminology is often employed. However, the knowledge and literacy level of the intended audience must always be taken into account.

Professional Guides to Get You Started with a Medical Translation 

Since 1982, ILS has focused on providing medical translation services for all manner of healthcare industry providers, including device manufacturers. We have compiled some resources to help you get started with a medical translation. Here are just a few of the topics covered: 

In addition, you can download a free guide entitled, “Leverage Translation Memory to Save Time and Reduce Cost in Medical Translations.” 

International Language Services is your premier source for professional healthcare translations for companies of all types and sizes. Our quality control processes are ISO certified to guarantee your satisfaction. We employ only native-speaking translators who are also subject matter experts, so your industry-specific translations are accurate. Contact International Language Services to learn more about how we can help with your next medical translation project.