Tag Archive for medical translator

Medical translation driving translation industry growth in India

Globalization has ushered in unprecedented opportunities to reach new audiences, incorporate new efficiencies, and build new partnerships. It connects untold people to resources and possibilities unheard of even 20 years ago. But there are challenges, and countries across the globe are trying to keep up.

In a recent Global Watchtower post, Vijaylaxmi Hegde explores how one of the increasingly important players in the global economy―India—is dealing with a key challenge: medical translation. What’s more, she points out that this need is helping fuel, inform and further the nation’s general translation and localization industry.

In countries like Sweden and the U.K., the need for translation has been driven by the demands of growing immigrant and refugee populations. But in India that impetus is being delivered in part by what is being called “medical tourism.”

In recent years, patients from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others have begun traveling to India for care, and as they do so they are bringing with them new and largely unfamiliar language and cultural requirements. The medical translation community is scrambling to respond.

As globalization continues to forge connections between far-flung cultures and peoples, and those peoples travel for work, business, or, in the case of India, health, the demand for translation will only grow more acute. Medical translation must rise to meet the challenge if such opportunities are to be truly successful or ultimately sustainable.

Till next time,

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,

Mark your calendar for free medical translation webinar Sept. 16

If healthcare organizations hope to thrive in today’s multicultural melting pot, they have to meet the language access needs of their limited-English proficient (LEP) patients. This is not news to most of you. You deal with that challenge every day. But true success means creating a medical translation program that is economically sustainable, no small thing in today’s world of shrinking budgets and growing demand.

For those who know they can do better when it comes to serving their LEP patients, but aren’t always sure how to pay for the support that requires, viaLanguage is offering a free webinar entitled “Tips to Streamline and Save on Your Healthcare Translations.” Here’s the when:

Sept. 16th at 8:00 a.m. (HT), 11:00 a.m. (PT), 1:00 p.m. (CT), 2:00 p.m. (ET)

As for the what, the webinar will explore new techniques and tips for streamlining your translation process, without compromising the quality or effectiveness of your communications. Topics include:

• Innovative practices for ensuring accurate, readable health materials, including health literacy and cultural assessment
• Recommendations for cutting time and costs while maintaining quality
• Incorporating translation tools and Translation Memory into your projects
• Machine translation today – is it free?

Maybe you’re just getting started with medical translation or perhaps you just want to get the most up-to-date information on today’s best practices. Either way, we hope you can join us!

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!

Study suggests pharmacists too often avoid offering LEP options

After last week’s post discussing the alarmingly high rate of errors in machine translated medicine labels in New York comes another story that suggests the problem might in fact be much larger. According to a recent article in The Oncology Pharmacist, the issue goes well beyond both New York and machine translation.

The report highlights the results of questionnaires completed by nearly 300 chain and independent pharmacists across the country. What did it reveal? Among the lessons gleaned from the study is the understanding that of those pharmacists who do not offer translated information more than half have adopted the position for fear of translation inaccuracies. About 25 percent concede they have shied away due to worries about the legal ramifications of such errors.

Perhaps most frustrating of all are those pharmacies that have limited English proficient (LEP) capabilities and/or resources, but elect not to share that option with their patients for the fears stated above or other reasons, including cost or a perceived lack of qualified medical translators.

Now, mistranslations of labels are admittedly a potentially serious hazard, as underscored in last week’s post, but failure to provide any medical translation options is akin somehow to rolling the dice when it comes to a patient’s health. Neither scenario promotes the necessary level of safety and access required for true and effective health care.

The study concludes that the solution for pharmacists is perhaps little different than that required of other medical professionals: training. This starts by achieving a sound understanding of the cultural and language needs of their patients. And it is supported by learning how and where to secure the services of medical translation experts.

Good health!

Medical translators should keep eye on regulations in China

Last week we looked at the rising prominence of Asia as a participant in the global medical industry. Given the region’s growing healthcare expenditures and aging populations, it comes as no surprise that healthcare organizations are paying close attention to new regulations.

For example, if China figures among your limited English proficient (LEP) audiences, and you’re a medical device manufacturer, bear in mind that certain claims are not to be included in advertisements, including:

  • Guarantees of effectiveness
  • Efficacy or recovery rates
  • Safety of effectiveness comparisons with other products or devices
  • Nonscientific descriptions of the device’s performance characteristics

If you’re a medical translator, the prevailing advertising rules are an equally critical piece. Next time you’re reviewing materials destined for China, consider that the following words and phrases are impermissible in that country:

  • No side effects
  • Refund if ineffective
  • Only
  • Exact
  • Fills a product gap in China

At the same time, certain Chinese disclaimers are required, such as “Contraindications and cautions are specified in the product manual,” a line that must be included in ads when applicable.

The takeaway here is a solid medical translation truism: Translation is not always enough. In China, as elsewhere, advertisements are not ready once they’ve been translated. They must also be localized and adapted. And they must comply with the target country’s regulations.

Good health!

Interest in healthcare translation services continues to rise

Reduced quality of care, adverse health outcomes, and health disparities can persist unless communication barriers are addressed in the delivery of health services. In fact, more than 23 million Americans have limited English proficiency (LEP), which leads to a plethora of healthcare challenges.

A new policy brief from independent research firm, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., assesses emerging national efforts to address language barriers and looks specifically at three states — California, Minnesota, and New York. The study highlights challenges, successes, and implications for future policy and activities related to providing language services.

According to Mathematica, in 2008 all 50 states had at least two laws in place for providing these services in healthcare settings, up from 43 states in 2006. However, the laws vary greatly. California, Minnesota, and New York have been at the forefront of these efforts and are considered leaders in providing language services.

The study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and written by Au, Erin Fries Taylor, and Marsha Gold. To learn more, check out the study here: “Improving Access to Language Services in Health Care: A Look at National and State Efforts.”

Good health!