Archive for December 30, 2010

Effective medical translation is not only about the words

Medical translation demands getting it as absolutely close to perfect as possible. The words have to be right, but they are just part of the equation. The nuances and subtleties, slang and idiom that distinguish one culture from another are other important facets. Truly effective medical translators know this. What some may not know is that even the formatting of your materials can have an impact on how well you are able to reach your patients.

Apparent incidentals like fonts, line breaks, graphics, and other elements can actually have different meanings in different cultures. In Japan, for example, italicizing will only confuse most readers. And if you wish to identify something as important or want to show respect, it’s best to use additional punctuation marks or double-width characters. Other characteristics like bolding, underlining, and stylized character sets are also issues in Japanese and should be used sparingly.

These are important considerations. Overlooked, they can impact the effectiveness of what might be an otherwise accurate language translation. Identifying and responding to these details is one of the places your language services provider (LSP) can really add value. Work with them to make sure the design of your materials is strengthening, and not undermining, your message.

Till next time,

Medical translation aided by emerging smart phone apps

In an astonishingly short period of time we have graduated from cell phones to smart phones. Aptly named, the latter devices make their predecessors seem like the communication equivalent of the game Pong.

In the last year, with the spread of the iPhone and competitors like the Android, applications for smart phones have exploded, including development of a number of promising translation tools. Apple’s AppStore alone boasts more than a dozen translation applications. Two that deserve special attention are those from Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

The Jibbigo application converts English speech into Spanish or the other way around. Users speak into the phone in one language and the phone answers with the translated version. PicTranslator employs the phone’s built-in camera. You simply take a picture of the text you wish to translate, choose the desire language, and the application does the rest. It can also help with guidance in pronunciation.

The tools are not designed specifically for healthcare environments, and they are in no way a replacement for trained medical translation professionals. But it is easy to see how such applications could prove useful—and perhaps even critical—in circumstances where time or resources did not afford medical staff any other option.

As mainstream technology continues to evolve, we should be on the lookout for those tools that can help medical personnel ensure that they are always saying what they mean to their patients.

Check out these links for demos of Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

Imagine, now your mobile phone could tell you if you have an STD

In a recent post on the Foreign Exchange blog, company president Andres Heuberger provides a roundup of how medical translation has changed over the past 12 years. He points to four principal drivers: regulations, technology, globalization, and measurable quality.

I was reminded last week of the dramatic role the second piece, technology, has had and continues to have on healthcare and medical translation. Consider this recent example: In a story in the British newspaper The Guardian, it was reported that a new test could soon enable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to be diagnosed using your mobile phone or computer.

True. The innovation, which is hoped will cut the rising rate of STIs in the UK, will operate much like pregnancy testing kits. People simply place a urine or saliva sample onto a computer chip about the size of a typical USB drive and then plug that into their phone or computer. They then receive a diagnosis, identifying whether they’ve contracted one of a range of STIs—and informing them where to go for treatment.

The devices are based on nanotechnology and microfluidics, and are expected to be sold for as little as 50p to £1 (about 80¢ to US$1.50). Like condoms, they are likely to be available in pharmacies, supermarkets, and nightclub and bar vending machines.

Though no mention is made of the language in which the diagnosis is delivered, it seems reasonable to guess that a product of such potentially great benefits won’t be adapted for users of numerous languages. Viva la technology.

Till next time,