Archive for February 27, 2009

Remember to incorporate reviews into your medical translation process

Translation is more than simply exchanging the words in one language for those in another. Every language is defined in part by its nuances, subtleties and contradictions. These are as important in communicating with your LEP audiences as the vocabulary you use.

That is why it is so important during the translation and localization process to include a review by program managers or qualified members of the target audience. Selection of the reviewer is important. Here are some things to look for:

Skill set — The reviewer should be a native speaker of the target language, preferably live in the target country, and be familiar with the product, terminology and end user.

Role — The reviewer should look at only the technical accuracy of terminology, unless asked to do more.

Schedule — The reviewer should have time to develop a glossary or write a style guide in advance, while incorporating adequate time for review.

Those three items can go a long way toward helping you find the right person. And finding the right person can make a big difference in your next translation project.

Good health!

Prepare for new health IT and electronic health records requirements

Working as we do with so many healthcare professionals, we were encouraged by the attention paid to healthcare needs in President Obama’s stimulus package.

In what is now called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there are, for example, new requirements for health IT and electronic health records. It requires that the Health and Human Services Health Information Technology (HHS HIT) Policy Committee make a recommendation about the use of “electronic systems to ensure the comprehensive collection of patient demographic data, including, at a minimum, race, ethnicity, primary language, and gender information.”

As an LSP working with the healthcare industry, we were glad to see that information about primary language will be gathered as this is vital information to have. And we look forward to December 31, 2009, which is the deadline for adoption of an initial set of standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria.

To read more about this piece of the act, go to and click on Bill Text – Division A (pg. 307).

Good health!

New SCHIP bill promises expanding healthcare translation needs

With all the attention being paid to President Obama’s multi-billion-dollar stimulus package, many may have missed the landmark step made by the new administration on Feb. 4: the extending of healthcare coverage to 4 million uninsured children.

The bill, which President Obama calls a “downpayment” on his commitment to universal health care, seeks to spend an additional $32.8 billion on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP.

The bill brings the total rolls for the decade-old program to about 11 million children. Significantly, of the 4 million new children, fully one-third is expected to be Hispanic, according to the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

If you have an established translation program, then it is a matter of preparing for the influx of new people, understanding that many will be entering the system for the first time. If you do not yet have a translation and localization services partner, this might be a good time to start thinking about adding that piece to your communications effort.

Good health!

Save time, money and effort with a translation memory

In my post on February 9 about healthcare translation for Spanish speakers, I referred to developing a “translation memory.” As this may be a new idea for some, here are few more details on this important healthcare translation tool.

A translation memory is a valuable asset no matter what language is being dealt with. As a database of previously translated documents, the translation memory should ideally account for all the languages spoken by the communities with which you operate.

Documents best suited to inclusion in your translation memory include those that do not change much over time such as order forms and technical instructions. Large documents that go through new editions on a regular basis are also good candidates.

The benefits can be dramatic. Not only does a translation memory help build efficiencies into your translation initiatives, it promotes consistency across documents, and can cut up to 25 percent from future translation costs. That’s a healthy savings.

Good health!

For a smoother healthcare translation project, start with the technology

Technology can play a critical role in translation and localization projects, and both Flash and XML are important pieces of that technology puzzle. To make life easier it’s best to acquire a good understanding of what they are how they work.

XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and allows the creator of XML Web pages to be more creative and extensive when setting up a Web site. To correctly localize XML documents your language service provider (LSP) team needs to know which elements and attributes are translatable.

Flash files are designed for video, graphics and animation and are editable with Adobe or Macromedia Flash software. Flash often reads text from resource files, which are often XML, so your LSP team can translate the XML files associated with the Flash file.

Both Flash and XML files can sometimes also include subfiles and reference material that you can provide to your LSP in order to make the localization process even easier.

For more, check out “Speaking Your Customer’s Language”.

Good health!

Let’s hope the President’s plan stimulates cultural diversity healthcare

Anyone following the news cannot help but be swept along by drama surrounding President Obama’s stimulus package. After passing the House, it squeaked by the Senate yesterday by a single vote.

All agree a key to the puzzle is health care. While paralyzing businesses on the one hand, it is bankrupting families on the other. So the package includes about a portion in proposed health care spending for the next two and a half years.

The money would be directed at development of new information technology for the industry, support for Medicaid and COBRA, and significant funding for expansion of community health centers, among other provisions.

As these programs move forward, part of the challenge will be to communicate these changes and opportunities to limited English proficient (LEP) Americans. More than ever, healthcare translation, localization and cultural adaptation will be necessary as a means for ensuring that all can participate in the conversation.

Good health!

Don’t forget cultural elements in your next medical translation project

Vocabulary and grammar are just two parts of effective medical translation. Accounting for the cultural makeup of your audience also plays a key role in determining if you’ll be understood. Ignoring it can be costly for you and your patient.

We call this step “cultural adaptation” and it provides the lens through which your non-English-speaking communities view your healthcare organization, your products and services, and ultimately your value.

Colors, symbols, images — all are part of your message. In fact, they are often responsible for the initial response in your audience before even a single word is read. So it’s imperative to adapt the entire communication, not just the words, to ensure the desired result.

The right translation partner can help you understand the protocols and taboos for effectively communicating with all your healthcare communities.

Good luck!

Managing healthcare translation for all Spanish speakers

In the U.S. one in seven people is Hispanic, according to the latest estimates. That’s 41.3 million, making it the largest ethnic group in the country, as well as the fastest-growing.

The complication for medial translation services is that these people come from at least 23 different countries, and the Spanish they speak includes variations that can often lead to misunderstanding. What to do?

1. Go neutral: “Neutral Spanish” tends to disregard local grammatical and vocabulary differences in order to standardize the language.

2. Start a glossary: Think of it as a dictionary of healthcare translation terms and how they should be translated and presented.

3. Start a style guide: This is a reference guide to capture specifics for your community such as literacy level, geographic region, voice and tense, fonts and formatting preferences.

4. Create a translation memory: This is a database of earlier translations you can leverage or recycle for future translations.

5. Review it: Get feedback from in-house reviewers, translation teams, and your community to help with accuracy and consistency.

Good health!

Cheers to Tennesseans for voting down all-English proposal

A quick bravo to the voters of Nashville for rejecting a proposal on Jan. 23 to make English the mandatory language for all government business.

Proponents claimed that passage would “unite the city.” But in a city where 10 percent of the population speaks a language other than English in their homes such a move seems like it would have very likely had the opposite effect.

Business leaders, academics, the city’s mayor and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen all opposed the effort. The governor even called it “mean-spirited.”

It would have, at the very least, been expensive, costing the Nashville health department alone about $25 million in federal funds. And this is despite the fact that public health and safety translation were exempted from the proposal.

The U.S. is more a melting pot than ever, and it’s simply unrealistic, and maybe even a bit mean-spirited, to ignore that.

Good health!


Save money on healthcare translations for your organization in 2009

Whether you celebrate the Chinese New Year or the Western New Year, it can be a good time to plan your organization’s healthcare translation budget for the months ahead. Here are a couple of ideas to help you save money:

  • Right away budget for those documents that require medical translation as part of governmental compliance or federal funding.
  • If you receive fund and grants to serve LEP families and individuals, focus on the languages spoken the most in your area. If Spanish, choose a neutral form.
  • Ask your Language Service Provider (LSP) to archive past projects in a translation memory. Then next time a document needs to be translated, you can just make minor revisions and cut costs.
  • Only do desktop publishing for important documents. A fancy format is not critical to most projects.
  • Pool your resources and documents within your organization or sister-organizations.

For more ideas, take a look at “Budgeting for Translation.”


Good health!
Chanin Ballance, CEO