Archive for March 31, 2009

Obama administration helping protect language services

We had hoped that the new administration would show language issues the time and attention they warrant, and things are looking promising so far. The Department of Justice just reminded all those receiving federal money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including private companies, that they must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Act prohibits national origin discrimination, “including language access for limited English proficient persons.” If you’re receiving funds and have a language services provider, ask them what this means for you. They should help ensure that you’re compliant.

If you’re receiving federal dollars but don’t have an LSP, this is a good time to think about bringing on a language services partner as non-compliance can mean hefty fees and penalties. This applies to state and local government agencies as well, many of which also expect to benefit from the monies being dispensed as part of the President’s stimulus package.

The real beneficiaries are, of course, the LEP audiences. Because even with the belt tightening happening everywhere these days, language services, which are critical to the understanding of so many, will be protected.

Good health!

Language? Check. Culture? Check. Formatting?

As anyone who has been through a healthcare translation process knows, getting the words right is just the beginning. We also talk a lot about the importance of cultural nuances and subtleties, slang and idiom. But to achieve an effective, truly accurate translation there is also the matter of the formatting to consider.

Details like fonts, line breaks, graphics and other elements can have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, italicizing Japanese will only confuse most Japanese readers. To convey importance or impart respect, it’s better to use additional punctuation marks or double-width characters. Bolding, underlining, stylized character sets, etc. are also issues in Japanese. They should be used sparingly.

Those designing and publishing your materials need to be aware of these issues. They should work closely with your healthcare translation partner to ensure that the format of the translated page is culturally appropriate for the audience. You would hate to get this far only to have your message lost in the formatting.

Good health!

It’s always best to rely on experienced healthcare translators

Spanish is spoken in at least 23 countries and by more than 450 million people worldwide. Not surprisingly, working your way through the often subtle regional differences during a healthcare translation can often lead to misunderstanding.

At viaLanguage, our clients communicate with Spanish speakers from around the world. So we have to be vigilant that every healthcare translation we undertake is accurate for that particular audience. It’s not easy, and that’s why picking the right translator is so important.

Experienced medical translators know not to get tripped up by connotations or expressions that, while commonly used regionally, simply don’t make sense universally. For example, as one of our translators recently had occasion to point out, the word “guagua” means “bus” in Puerto Rico, but means “child” in Chile, and is virtually unknown in other Latin American countries.

This kind of understanding is vital to navigating the various forms of Spanish spoken by your audiences. So, make sure that your language services partner has the experience necessary to ensure that you always “say what you mean.”

Good health!

Building a sound healthcare translation process is step one

Your healthcare translation projects can only run as smoothly as the translation process you have in place. And our experience has taught us that such efforts are most successful when one person in the organization owns the process and serves as a single point of content management.

Once that has been established you can begin to explore other fundamental questions like the following:

* Where do the translations get stored?
* Is there a version control protocol or plan?
* Which materials can be reused from project to project?
* Can we bundle projects together rather than use a piecemeal approach?

Answering these questions helps you look more strategically at your content use and healthcare translation needs. Spending the time up front will contribute to more accurate healthcare translation projects, completed more quickly and at a lower cost.

This all should start by engaging with the right language services provider. Having them on board is a key step as you begin to consider your healthcare translation process. Their help and experience can save you time, energy and money.

Good health!

The importance of getting every word right in healthcare translations

The best of us can fall prey to the pitfalls of poor language translation. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found herself in the middle of a bungled translation when she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red “reset button” to symbolize improved ties between the two countries.

Unfortunately for Secretary Clinton, her translation team mistranslated “reset” into the Russian word “peregruzka,” which actually means to “overcharge.”

Now this was a casual conversation and the gaffe only prompted some good-natured joking. But it nevertheless points up how easy it can be to get it wrong. In another situation, the results could have been a great deal more serious.

When it comes to healthcare translation, attention to every word as well as the subtle nuance of that language’s culture is critical to ensuring equal healthcare access. In this environment, there’s little room for error as a patient’s life and health could be at stake.

Good health!

The power of a single word in your healthcare translations

Achieving an accurate translation is not easy. Aside from the obvious challenges, there are innumerable subtleties bound to culture and usage that can undermine an otherwise sound translation.

Our experience has taught us that in many cases it can come down to a single word. Meaning one thing in one context the word can have a different meaning in another. Here are a couple of Spanish examples:

1. Drug — “Droga,” a common translation, can often be taken as an actual threat to health. “Medicamento” is usually the preferred translation in a healthcare context.
2. Balance — It is very common to mistranslate as “balance” in Spanish, which means “equilibrium” and is not quite accurate. The better translation is typically “saldo.”
3. Hospice — The temptation is to translate “hospice” to “hospico,” but in Spanish this is a place for the underprivileged especially when maintained by a religious or governmental institution. The better translation for a healthcare audience is “Centro de cuidados paliativos.”

Understanding these subtleties comes with experience and overlooking them can be costly. So make sure when approaching translation projects you are working with a knowledgeable language services partner.

Good health!

Adding social networking to your healthcare translation efforts

Social networking sites like blogs, Facebook, YouTube and others have today become the preferred source for information, entertainment and communication for an increasingly large portion of the population.

Recent studies on who is using these social networks have proven to be very revealing. Current numbers suggest that ethnic minorities and Hispanics specifically, are the most regular consumers of social media. Nearly 30 percent are identified as Spanish-preferring Hispanics, even higher when you focus on those under 35 years of age.

Experts explain this by pointing to a tendency among these groups to favor community-oriented values, looking to one another for help and support. Social media tools make this sharing of information easier than ever.

Clearly, social media can be a powerful way to promote healthcare access among your LEP audiences. But the challenges faced online are little different than those encountered with traditional tools: You must ensure that you say what you mean and account for the cultural nuances that are critical to being understood.

Good health!

You can pay now or you can pay later for healthcare translation

State legislatures know that when it comes to healthcare we too often fail to adequately communicate with limited-English proficient (LEP) audiences. They also know that as a result LEP speakers are less likely to have a primary care provider or receive preventative care and more likely to experience medical errors.

The State of California addressed this issue with SB 853. The legislation, first passed in 2003, mandated that by January 1, 2009, every healthcare plan in the state must have established and implemented a language assistance program. This includes translation of all vital documents into “threshold” languages and making interpretation services available at all points of contact.

Recently, the State of Washington attempted to do something similar. With nearly half a million citizens relying on subpar English skills, the State conceived SB 5140 to help ensure equal access to all.

Sadly, the bill failed due in large part to budgetary concerns. Experience has taught us that this is short sighted. States see time and again that failure to clearly communicate with LEP audiences only leads to higher long-term health care costs down the road.

Good health!

Drive accuracy and quality by using a glossary and style guide!

Imagine the consequences if healthcare and medical terms were not translated and presented accurately. For example, the word “intoxicado,” meaning “nauseated,” if translated as “intoxicated,” could result in the patient being treated for drug overdose, which may result in a brain aneurysm.

The precarious use of these terms can be risky and not only result in inaccurate translation but also misdiagnosis, which in certain instances can be life threatening.

One way of reducing these risks is to ensure the use of glossary and style guides. A glossary is a comprehensive list of commonly used terms, phrases and product names specific to the healthcare industry. A style guide provides advice on writing style, convention, and formatting preferences and is essential for consistency of documentation.

It’s important that your LSP understand the necessity of quality and innate consistency in translations. They know that addressing these issues can go a long way toward achieving near “zero defects” in the finished translation product.

Prakalpa Bastianpillai
CSP Director

Preparing for aging boomers includes medical language translation

We all know America’s baby boomer generation is reaching the time when they will become eligible for Medicare benefits. This is true for Medicare-eligible LEP populations as well. Reaching this important market sector requires, and in many states demands, translating into their native language.

Medicare Marketing Strategies 2009 is geared to help healthcare professionals address new regulations, while growing and retaining market share. Among the presentations, Francisco Garbayo, Director of Emerging Markets and Corporate Performance with Regence Group, a long-standing viaLanguage customer, will discuss “Medicare Marketing to the Latino Population.”

The Regence Group won the 2008 “Best of Blues” award for their marketing program nationally,  so Francisco is sure to have some great ideas to share.

The conference will take place March 24-26, 2009, at the Holiday Inn Crystal City, Washington, DC. We look forward to seeing you there!

Nancy Pautsch
Strategic Account Executive