For many companies in the medical industry, translation may seem like just another “checkbox” in a long to-do list to get a product ready for market.

However, the majority of people within the United States—and across the world—are health illiterate, meaning they don’t understand basic health information. One way of overcoming health illiteracy is to provide consumers with materials in their native languages.

That’s why it’s vitally important for medical-related documents, including instructions for medical devices, to be localized to reflect the culture and the language, making them easily readable and understandable for consumers.

You can have an amazing product and a great distributor, but if the translation is poor, it can hurt sales or damage your company’s reputation.

Even more significantly, poor translations also pose a liability risk, as a misunderstanding can lead to improper use of the device by the end user, potentially causing serious harm or even death.

Here’s a look at the essentials for effective translation localization.

Effective Translation Localization Includes Subject Matter Expertise

When you’re translating documentation, you can’t simply translate text word for word. Doing so can skew the meaning of the information, making it unclear or inaccurate in its new language.

Language contains many ambiguities, so simply knowing the “right” word in the new language won’t work if the context itself is not fully understood.

That’s why it’s important that the person translating not only understands the language he or she is translating, but also has expertise in the subject matter. At International Language Services, our translators have demonstrated experience translating in the industries in which they specialize.

Effective Translation Localization Takes the Audience Into Consideration

No matter what is being translated, it’s important that the target audience stays front of mind. This is particularly important when translating medical information that will be utilized by a consumer audience.

Medical information, including device instructions, can be difficult to understand. This means that translators working within the medical industry must pay attention to two keys when translating. They must first literally translate the text in front of them, and then they must also determine whether what they’ve translated will make sense to the audience, given the culture and environment, among other factors.

Without taking both of those steps, you run the risk of translated content being literally correct, but leaving gaps in understanding for the audience.

Effective Translation Localization Requires A Human Element

Many companies looking to shave costs on technical translation services may consider engaging with low cost translation services or even turning to machine translation.

While this may sound cost-effective, it may cost more in the long term when it isn’t effective at capturing the actual meaning of a technical or medical document. A machine translation may literally translate the words, but it takes a linguist with the necessary background and subject matter expertise to translate its full meaning.

Translation localization plays an important role in most translation services, but it’s of particular importance in the medical industry. Having meaning or understanding lost in translation in the medical industry can be not just costly, but also a dangerous liability. Effective translation localization can help to mitigate that risk.


The Manufacturers Guide to Technical Translation

Learn all you need to know about technical document translation, key questions to ask, and critical pitfalls to avoid.