There are, fortunately, few instances in the translation industry where the matter at hand is a case of life or death. In the field of medicine, however, the stakes are invariably this high; medical translation services cannot afford to make any mistakes.
There are three major areas of focus within medical translation, though they often overlap: pharmaceutical, technical and all manner of medical documentation. Each area has very real risks attached and having a specially qualified translator is often a non-negotiable, legal requirement. As a result, demand for this service over the last few years has been constant and is an increasingly competitive field. Understanding the importance of quality translators has never been so important.
Without translators, medical advances would grind almost to a halt
Pharmaceutical companies have one of the largest markets of any industry. New medicines are being developed every day to combat diseases and conditions affecting people all across the world. Translation services are, therefore, an inextricable part of the medical industry, without which, much needed medical supplies and clinical research would be significantly delayed or incorrectly distributed. The consequence of either could result in a failure to save lives.
New medicines must be tested through clinical trials, a practise which is increasingly globalised and often takes place in countries separate to the one in which the drug was made. There are, understandably, very strict regulations around pharmaceutical import and exportation. For CTS (clinical trial materials) to be legally transported they must be certified by the native health authorities. Any mistranslations during this process will set the company back time and money, as well as dramatically affecting those in need of pharmaceutical supplies.
In order to guarantee smooth exportation, medical translators must be highly specialised in the legal and chemical aspects of medicine; translating and understanding every detail of the product and relevant legal processes.
Once the trial comes to an end, the participants’ medical history and their responses to the drug must be relayed back to the manufacturer. Again, the medical translator can afford no mistakes. If a serious side effect, past condition or external influencing factor, was mistranslated, our understanding of the product would be warped. This could lead to the drug being prescribed incorrectly, or without sufficient medical instruction. Translators must decipher medical records and patient’s own accounts of their experience – requiring a firm understanding of language outside of technical, medical jargon.
Even correctly translated medical material can be rendered useless without localisation
The lines here begin to blur with medical document translation, which encompasses a huge range of services. Legal certificates, patient consent forms, labeling and prescription/procedure instructions are all examples of highly important pieces of information that need to be correctly translated. A good translator will not only help you market your pharmaceuticals, but will ensure it reaches the right people and has the best possible results. Translators specialising in medical documentation are often required to have a highly developed academic understanding of medicine, as demand for research papers and medical journal translation is always high.
Translators must also be sensitive to differences in culture which could interfere with patients getting the advice and treatment they need. Some countries find topics around areas of the body or health more sensitive, these circumstances may require more discreet labels and packaging, as well as more considered content for online or printed sources of advice. For instance, in countries where birth control or menstruation is still a taboo subject, packaging must be neutral in order to protect the customer. Localisation is an important part any medical translation service, even when the only export is information.
Medical equipment and specialised machinery is dependent on translation services
Alongside advances in medicine, new equipment and machinery is equally important to develop and distribute. This requires translators to have an advanced understanding of technical processes and language. Documentation accompanying machinery, such as user guides and manufacturer information, will be unusable or even dangerous with mistranslated text.
Translation services enable branches of the medical industry to stay up to date with advances happening all over the world. Strengthening connections between countries increases the rate at which new treatments can be uncovered and put to use. The role of a capable medical translator is not to be underestimated.