Tag Archive for accuracy

Tips for Creating Readable Health Materials in any Language

To help increase readability, consider these 4 tips when creating healthcare materials in other languages.

1. Health materials should focus on key messages and what patients need to know. Best practices include:
• Write clearly and in an active voice.
• Use familiar vocabulary and simple terminology.
• Use short sentences.
• Use graphics, videos or pictures that “show” rather than “tell.”
• Keep materials at a fourth- to sixth-grade level.

2. Employ readability tools to analyze and ensure the proper literacy levels.
• Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word can automatically determine the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and readability ranking.
• Because readability formulas used in English can’t be applied to foreign language documents, professional translators should utilize various other language-specific assessment tests.
• For Spanish, consider the Huerta Readability formula (HRE), an assessment similar to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test designed for analyzing texts in Spanish.

3. Health materials should be culturally relevant.
• Use images and examples that reflect the target audience. Pictures should display people of their own demographic rather than a generic stock photo of an “ethnic” person or family.
• If menu/food recommendations are included, they should reflect items that are relevant to that audience’s daily diet.
• Do not use slang or cultural references that may be unfamiliar to an immigrant or LEP population.
• Initiate a community review to test materials for comprehension and effectiveness.

4. Use professional linguists.
Materials should be translated by professional linguists and reviewed for grammatical inconsistencies and readability, important details that are beyond the capabilities of machine or computer-based translations.



Another take on social media by today’s medical marketers

In the last post, we discussed how social media is gaining momentum among medical marketers, fast becoming a key facet of a complete and effective marketing mix. But only days later I encountered a story about one industry that is moving the opposite direction.

National Public Radio recently reported that due to some recent development many in the pharmaceutical industry are electing to abandon Facebook. Until recently, Facebook allowed these companies to exclude public comments. The recent announcement that that exception will end has led some to shutter their pages.

According to the story, “Take On Depression” disappeared, as did “ADHD Moms” and “Epilepsy Advocate.” The concern among the drug makers is that they are not sufficiently able to police comments to ensure that the information being shared about prescription drugs is accurate. These same companies must also comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “fair balance” requirements.

But the reality is that FDA hasn’t reprimanded a single drug company due to public comments. And many of the community benefits enjoyed by independent social media sites are being lost. Perhaps it’s only fitting that established industries like pharma are still trying to determine if and how to use emerging communication tools. It’s the job of experienced medical marketers to help provide guide them.

Till next time,

Translation glossaries can be helpful, but are not a silver bullet

If you’re translation professional, you’re undoubtedly already exploiting the vast resources available on the Internet. Every week it seems there is some new tool or technique being introduced that promises to help you do your job.

But it can be confusing parsing out the real solutions from the fanciful, the fully realized from the half baked. And then even when you find an online-driven strategy that promises to help, it can take time to incorporate that tool into your communications program.

Among the useful, but still maturing, innovations is the growing number of web translation glossaries. Created by the contributions of users, these resources are becoming increasingly popular with translators. Whether it’s a definition or an entire document you need, it’s possible someone else has addressed it and added it to the glossary’s database.

But as with everything else on the web, it can be both dicey and time consuming to wade through the myriad sites currently available. Linguee and MyMemory have been identified by some as representing the top-tier alternatives. They offer context where others don’t, and permit users to add their own suggested translation and rate the quality of available translations.

No matter which sites you use, bear in mind that there is no replacement for an experienced translation professional. Just think back to your own work. Chances are good that you can cite examples that would require a high level knowledge to even construct a search. And then there’s the little matter of determining the accuracy of the results.

Good health!

When it comes to medical translation, a single word can make a difference

If you are medical translation professional or a limited English proficient (LEP) patient, you know firsthand how important—and how fraught with possible misunderstanding—translation of medications can be.

It can start at the very beginning with many failing to appreciate the difference between such fundamental words as “medication” and “drug.” Contrary to the words’ regular interchangeable use, they are not synonyms. Rather, the former designates those substances that have a pharmacological effect, while drugs, for our purposes here, are the products into which those medications are made.

As a consequence, some medical professionals use International Non-proprietary Names (INN) to refer to medications/drugs when creating their patient materials. Others rely on commercial brand names. Still others use common names that are understood in the U.S. but largely unfamiliar elsewhere. (e.g., acetaminophen is a widely used name in the U.S., though it is known as paracetamol elsewhere around the world).

It is easy to see how such a situation can compromise the accuracy and clarity that is necessary for safe and effective medical translation. More importantly, such a failure can have profound effects on the ability of LEP patients to make informed decisions about their health. And this is a risk we simply cannot afford to take.

Good health!

Machine translation not the silver bullet for medical translation challenges

Much energy and attention has been and continues to be focused on how best to communicate with the increasingly influential Hispanic audience in the U.S. One thing that has been learned is that the Hispanic community is, in many cases, frustrated with those communications. For example, because of the poor quality of so many Spanish translated websites, many deem English sites a better alternative even though not their native language.

A recent post on the Hispanic Online Marketing blog expresses concern that the focus on machine translation, including the much-discussed Google Translate, is unfortunately poised to make matters worse.

The prospect of simply inserting your organization’s website content into Google Translate and receiving in return an effective, accurate translation—and for free—is simply irresistible to many. In reality, it echoes the adage that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Because as Hispanic Online Marketing duly points out, sites that opt to use this tool and others like it tend to carry disclaimers alerting you that what you’re reading may not be accurate or reliable. How, one wonders, is this in any way serving the audience?

Such a move may save you money, but in time, a poorly translated site will cost a great deal more. Language is subtle and as much a product of culture and context as words. The reality is that only a human translator, and one with sufficient experience, can effectively meet today’s translation challenges.

Good health!

Informative resources shine light on the challenges of medical translation

Translation is more than exchanging one set of words for another. As anyone who has worked with translation or translators knows, it depends on the language, the culture, the communication vehicle, and a host of other important details. It is also impacted greatly by the industry for which the translation is being done.

For a variety of reasons, medical translation may pose the greatest number of challenges for the uninitiated language services professional. From the use of obscure medical terminology to the risk to patients if translations are not absolutely accurate, medical translation requires a special knowledge and understanding.

If you are considering joining the industry, or perhaps you work with medical translators and want a window into the work they do, Medical Translation Step by Step by Vicent Montalt and Maria Gonzalez Davis offers a clear and effective study of the discipline.

Published by St. Jerome Publishing, the 250-page book offers a comprehensive and practical look at medical translation, exploring a range of important issues, including medical writing, translation practice, and exploration of different methods for learning.

For another perspective, visit Sarah Dillon’s There’s something about translation blog and her interview with Andrew Bell. Bell, who operates AAA Scandinavian Translation and specializes in medical/pharmaceutical translation services, shares his experience working in the field.

It’s good for all of us to appreciate that what we do is important. And it’s good for those who call on our services to remember that translation is more than a simple exchange of words, especially when it comes to people’s health.

Good health!

How a Greyhound bus can remind us of the importance of medical translation

We often discuss what is at stake when language barriers prevent limited English proficient patients from enjoying equal access to healthcare. The recent stories about the failure of pharmacists in New York and elsewhere to ensure labeling is adapted to LEP patients points up the very real risks.

Sometimes, events outside of healthcare can just as effectively underscore how critical effective, experienced, accessible language translation can be. Consider the recent situation on a Greyhound bus traveling from Maine to New York.

You may have seen the story in the papers. Last week, when passing through New Hampshire, passengers found their world turned upside down by a bomb scare. A standoff followed in which one of the passengers, a man from the Africa nation of Burundi, failed to exit the bus after police officers had it surrounded.

Nine tense and potentially very dangerous hours followed, but was resolved very quickly when an interpreter finally arrived on the scene. According to reports, the man became very cooperative once he heard his language being used and the police immediately realized he was neither a threat nor a terrorist.

In medical translation, it can be easy to get focused on the individual materials or campaigns on which we are working. But incidents like this remind us yet again that the failure to provide language access can have more profound consequences than a simple breakdown in communication.

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