Medical translation is a highly specialised discipline and should only ever be carried out by suitably qualified translators. Knowing a foreign language alone is simply not enough. The plain truth of translation is that a text must be understood before it can be translated.
Medical translation is the translation of technical, clinical or marketing documentation, software or training curriculum for the pharmaceutical, medical device or healthcare fields. Most countries around the world require that literature and labeling associated with medical devices or pharmaceuticals sold be translated into the another language. In addition, documents necessary to conduct clinical trials often require translation in order for local clinicians and patients and regulatory representatives to be able to read them. Regulatory approval submissions typically have to be translated as well.
Aside from linguistic skills, it requires specific training and subject matter knowledge in order to translate medical content. This is because of the highly technical, sensitive and regulated nature of medical texts.
Medical translators possess at least a high school diploma, though many candidates seek a degree or complete a medical assistant program. They may also be required to receive certification through an organization such as the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (CMI). Individuals in this profession must be fluent in at least two languages and have an in-depth understanding of medical terminology.
Medical translators are responsible for converting physicians’ advice and diagnoses, written patient information, pharmacological instructions, and hospitals’ informational brochures into a second language. Some medical translators work for companies that produce medical equipment. Such translators are responsible for translating the instructions of use for the equipment.
Most medical translators are required to convey the necessary information in only one other language, and to do so in writing. They act as the written liaison between company and healthcare professional or healthcare professional and patient.
It is not enough for medical translators to be fluent in two languages. They must understand complex medical terminology and concepts. They are also responsible for conveying complex ideas simply so that a layperson can understand. It is important for such translators to remember that, while some diseases and medical terms have a direct translation in the second language, others have adopted the term from English. They should also be aware of cultural sensitivity issues.
Medical translators are also responsible for ensuring patient-physician confidentiality. As with medical interpreters, medical translators may be called upon to convey personal information in a second language. It is the translator’s responsibility to maintain the patient’s privacy when doing so.