Medical translation is a subtype of technical translation service and, as it name implies, it involves the translation of documents in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. Medical translation is characterized by a high degree of technical specialization that is inherent to the field of medical science; and by a high degree of responsibility and international regulation due to the fact that the health and lives of patients are involved, and could be potentially affected by a translation error.
Medical translation services can be carried out for general documents such as medical school textbooks, as well as for medical procedures and medical records that are specific to a patient.
- Translation of academic or informative medical documents includes text books for students of medical degrees, research papers, and articles for medical journals. Due to the importance of standardizing and teaching medical terminology in the native language of a country, medical schools normally require that foreign textbooks be translated and then be subject to approval by medical specialists who are native speakers of the local language.
- Procedural translations are for specific medical procedures such as a surgery or pharmaceutical treatment. Providing a high quality and precise translation is critical, since these documents are direct instructions for a medical professional who speaks a different language.
- Record translations are for specific patients, and they are typically used when a patient will receive medical attention out of his or her home country or if the patient will be treated by a foreign specialist who doesn’t speak the local language. A high level of quality and precision is critical to ensure that the patient will receive the correct treatment according to previous medical history.
- Other types of medical documentation that could require language translation services are international regulations, country-specific regulations, pharmaceutical product instructions, and instruction manuals for medical devices, tools or software. Some medical translation projects can have a degree of overlap with other technical fields such as information technologies or electrical engineering, and could require the collaboration of multilingual professionals from diverse technical backgrounds.
The Degree of Specialization in Medical Translation
Medical science is a complex and ample technical field in which professionals typically obtain a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, and then proceed to medical school before specializing in a particular medical field such as neurology, cardiology, dermatology, internal medicine, etc. Due to the high degree of specialization and responsibility involved, a medical translation must be carried out by a qualified professional in medical sciences. For very sensitive and specialized topics, it could even be required that the translator have a postgraduate degree in the respective medical field.
In addition to having professional knowledge of medical science, the translator must also be fluent in the source language, fluent in the target language, and must possess writing skills. Knowledge of medical practice across the involved countries and knowledge of any international standards that apply is also a requirement.
The Importance of High Quality in Medical Translation Services
Given that patient health and lives are at involved in medical translations, using automatic translation software is out of the question and automatic translations will typically be rejected by medical institutions. Generally, medical translations are carried out by highly regulated companies who adhere to strict quality standards and might even have an established quality management system in place to standardize the translation process.
Providing medical translation services carries a high degree of responsibility due to the adverse effects on patients that can result from a translation error. If a problem that is attributable to technical translation errors presents itself, there is even a possibility that the person or firm who provided the medical translation service could be faced with legal consequences.
Due to all the reasons stated above, medical translation services typically have a higher price than other types of translation. However, the benefit is greater that the cost since a professional and high quality translation guarantees patient safety.