Category Archives: Medical Translation

8 Myths About Spanish To English Translation Debunked

When I first set up my translation practice, I did mostly legal translations from Spanish into British English in a British legal system. Since then, I translate into US English as well, in more specialty areas, and I have discovered and debunked various myths about Spanish to English translation.
Myth No. 1: All source documents contain the same kind of terminology.
Fact: Source documents in Spanish can originate from at least 27 Spanish-speaking countries in the world. Therefore, terminology can differ depending on the document’s country of origin.

Spanish is spoken in at least 27 countries of the world.

Myth No. 2: Native Spanish speakers who are “bilingual” can do Spanish to English translations.
Fact: This is not always the case. Translations into English are best done by native English speakers since English is perhaps the most complicated language, and non-native speakers often have difficulty grasping all the nuances of the language.
Myth No. 3: Since Spanish and English are commonly spoken, Spanish to English translations should be cheap.
Fact: Pricing for Spanish to English translations depends on a number of variables such as deadline, format, level of difficulty or technical nature of the project, and availability of appropriately qualified linguists.
Myth No. 4: Translators can work on any kind of translation project.
Fact: No two translation projects are created equal. There are various kinds of documents, including legal, medical, commercial, corporate, pharmaceutical, financial, scientific, technical, to name a few. Successful translators are expert in the specialty area of the respective project.
Myth No. 5: Spanish to English translations should never be done by native Spanish speakers.
Fact: Some native Spanish speakers have displayed such a strong proficiency in Spanish to English translation that they have earned their qualification to translate from Spanish into English.
Myth No. 6: Spanish to English translators should be able to provide Spanish/English interpreting services.
Fact: Interpreting is the rendering of oral material from one language into another and translation is the rendering of written material from one language into another. Both translation and interpreting require different skill sets.
Translation and interpreting require different skill sets.

Myth No. 7: A Spanish to English translator of documents should be able to translate Spanish audio files into English.
Fact: A translator may have the ability to read and understand Spanish well but may not be able to hear and understand recorded Spanish in the same way.
Myth No. 8: Spanish to English translation can be done using Google Translate.
Fact: Professional translations should be 100 percent human translated to avoid serious errors, especially since words may be written the same way but have several different, unrelated meanings.
Professional translations should be 100 percent human translated.

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Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

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Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English languages of the worldinto thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Obstacles Encountered When Translating Rare Languages and How to Overcome Them

We were recently asked to translate three documents from English into thirteen languages, including:

*        Arabic

*        Amharic

*        Burmese

*        Chin

*        Farsi

*        French

*        Karen

*        Karenni

*        Nepali

*        Somali

*        Spanish

*        Swahili

*        Tigrinya

Such a request is not unusual and whether or not the volume of the project is high, no effort should be spared to satisfy the client.

Before the project was confirmed, we had to evaluate and provide a proposal for the job. Two of the documents were in Microsoft Word and one was in Excel. Even though we have hundreds of vendors in our database, the search had to be fine tuned to meet the specifications of this particular project. A translator and editor/proofreader with expertise in the respective specialty area had to be assigned for each language.

Following are some of the usual concerns that need to be addressed when working with rare language translations:

1) Finding language service providers who are dedicated to quality and not to simply collecting payments. No matter how tried and true a vendor is, we have a saying at the office that “you are as good as your last screw up.” Admittedly, this sounds cynical and puts a great deal of pressure on the agency and on the vendor. However, the translation industry is one in which only excellence is good enough. Therefore strict quality assurance standards must be adhered to at all times.

2) Finding vendors who can work within clients’ budgets. Bidding on projects can be very competitive. A very important factor that clients take into consideration when selecting a language service provider is budget. Bearing this in mind, the right balance must be maintained, on the one hand by asking the client to pay enough to be able to ensure the required quality while on the other hand by asking providers to be willing to negotiate in order to be successful in landing the project.

3) Meeting deadlines. One of the biggest challenges that can be encountered during the course of a translation project involving rare languages is delayed responses due to differences in time zones and other technical factors beyond providers’ control. Some examples are loss of phone or internet service, power outages due to electrical storms and other situations that range from mild to disastrous. From the very outset of the working relationship, as far as possible, language service providers must be made to understand the importance of maintaining constant contact from the time they submit their proposals up to and including after delivery has been made to the client.

4) Ensuring that instructions are understood and carried out. Communication problems can occur, among other reasons, if English is not the native language of the language service provider and there can be other challenges if providers do not share the same work ethic as the project manager. At times a linguist may appear to agree with instructions provided, only to display behavior that proves otherwise. However, the project manager must see to it that instructions are understood and carried out.

5) Making sure that the client is satisfied with delivery. Very often the characters used for rare languages are different from those used in English and it is not unusual for them to be garbled in file formats such as Word and Excel. Therefore, along with those deliverables, pdf files should be provided so the client will be able to properly view the characters in the translations. In addition, the fonts used should be provided. Files should be zipped in a format that the client will have no difficulties opening. At times, a font installer may have to be sent to the client so that the client will be able to work with the foreign Microsoft Office files.

At the end of the day, whether a project is assigned to twenty-six different linguists or to one language service provider, the quality must be such that the client will keep coming back.

Language Professionals and Immigrant Issues

Being multi-lingual may serve as an indicator that some translators and interpreters are immigrants who at one point or another, have had to face some of the very same issues in which they become professionally engaged. Translators and interpreters do well to pay close attention to matters relating to immigrants and immigration since, among other reasons, the profession is involved in many ways.

A few years ago, through professional interaction with the LaGuardia Community College Immigration Legal Services Center, I learned about the services offered by the CUNY Citizenship and Immigration Project, which provides free services at various campus centers located throughout New York City. Services to the public include confidential one-on-one consultations with immigration attorneys and paralegals, as well as access to immigration and citizenship forms, and community and educational activities. and other citizenship and immigration clinics around the country. Usually, after immigrants cross the main hurdle of obtaining the right to live and work legally in the United States in order to make a living for themselves and their families, there are other issues they have to face.

Perception Issues. Through aiding in the communication process, translators and interpreters can help immigrants overcome the negative connotation that the word “immigrant” can sometimes bear. Because of fairly recent events in the U.S., some immigrants now have the appearance of being a threat to the security of the country. Others are often perceived as a threat to the economic wellbeing of U.S. citizens because of their willingness, borne out of their need, to work for a fraction of the prevailing rate in their respective industries. There is a tendency for some people to assume that immigrants have no assets or education and that their motive for immigrating into the U.S. is to take something from the country rather than to make a contribution there. While many immigrants do seek “opportunity,” a significant number have obtained tertiary education and/or professional skills and experience, while others are already property owners before hitting the shores of the U.S. Even though their decision to leave all of these behind may appear questionable to some, immigrants can have a lot to offer when they arrive in some cases at great sacrifice, especially when there are families in the new environment and/or back home to be supported.

Language Issues. Some immigrants who do not speak English tend to remain insulated in an environment where they feel they will be best able to function and be understood. The lesser the extent of the support they receive in their cultural communities is the greater the extent of the difficulties and challenges they will face when dealing with the public since they are unable to effectively integrate into the society, due to a lack of English language skills and cultural understanding. Because of this shortfall, some immigrants face difficulties because some US Citizens do not like the idea of having to accommodate immigrants so much. It is not unusual to hear the complaint, why do I need to press “One” for English when, after all, this is “America” and everyone should learn to speak English! Learning English to an acceptable level of proficiency takes time, nevertheless. Therefore, as long as immigrants are invited to the U.S., language professionals will continue to be called upon to bridge the gap, be it through teaching English as a second language or through translation and/or interpreting in a variety of situations in which immigrants find themselves.

Social Issues. At times, when people immigrate to the United States, they experience a culture shock and, not understanding the diversity that exists, may at times appear to be impolite. This can be very annoying for others when, for example, they may either avoid those who speak English or speak in a different language while in the presence of English speakers. This happens very frequently in places like grocery stores, dry cleaners, restaurants, nail salons and beauty parlors. Because their behavior may appear to be impolite, these immigrants need to be taught not only English but cultural awareness, especially in order to navigate service industries.

Over a two-year period, I observed the reaction of students in an English reading class I established for immigrants at St. Pius V Church, a Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica, New York comprised of a diversity of parishioners from the Caribbean, North America, Latin America, Central America, Asia and Europe. Some forty-one participants enrolled, and classes comprised mainly of Spanish, Portuguese and French speaking immigrants. The participants in the classes had some appreciation for their need to learn English in order to be prepared for life in the United States. A very important component that was added to the class was a cultural understanding of the community in which the students lived.

Other Social Issues. I was once in the presence of some women a few years ago and one very young mother of three told me that she was worried for her young toddlers and that she felt they would have a better life if only they could change her names. I understood her plight and the fact that for decades, some immigrants have changed their names for various reasons, including their need to avoid religious persecution, I cannot imagine a life worth living as someone else and would never consider changing my name, except to use a pseudonym for some artistic purpose. Immigrants from other cultures have had a similar social dilemma and have felt the need to use the anglicized versions of their names in order not to appear socially inferior. Others have felt the need to go to any lengths to look like their Western counterparts and have had their eyes surgically altered to lose their original look.

Health Issues. Immigrants are no exception to the numbers in the U.S. in need of adequate healthcare and healthcare coverage. Not only that, but they face the same concerns as everyone else when it comes to lifestyle, accessibility to proper nutrition, stress reduction and prevention. Because of litigation passed that requires healthcare facilities and providers to ensure that interpreting services are made available to non-English-speaking patients who present for medical attention, foreign language professionals are in greater demand and have more work opportunities than before. It is standard procedure for hospital and other healthcare facilities’ human resources departments to include multi-lingual healthcare providers among their personnel.

Legal Issues. Immigration attorneys deal with a range of concerns, including but not limited to adoption, asylum and protection, business and employment, consular processing, deportation and removal, family-related concerns, general matters, litigation, and naturalization. Some immigration lawyers also specialize in criminal law and human rights issues and immigrants needing support in these areas have to avail themselves of their services. Each of these legal areas entails distinct subject matter and call for informal meetings, conferences in chambers and a plethora of documentation requiring experience and the knowledge of various processes and varied terminology in all languages. Language professionals are required in the legal arena to assist with immigrant issues.

Working with immigrants can be very exciting and rewarding and it is certainly an area in which translators and interpreters can create and find many opportunities to develop their skills and make a difference.

The Importance of Superlative Medical Translation

Caduceo
Caduceo

In addition to attending and interpreting at various appointments, consultations, conferences and even surgeries, medical language service providers are required to accurately convey the meaning of medical documents including doctors’ notes, reports, test results, invoices, outpatient sheets, correspondence between medical practitioners and health care professionals or documentation regarding medical procedures and tests from one language into another or even from an audio-visual format to a written format and it goes without saying that the medical language service provider, be it a medical translator or interpreter or transcriber needs to display a mastery of the terminology used in each respective field of medicine. The medical language service provider also needs to be able to accurately convey information shared between health care provider and patient as failure to do so can result in misunderstanding, misdiagnosis and/or mis-prescribing, which can further result in the patient’s lack of trust in the healthcare provider, the medical facility and the language service provider. This can lead to the exacerbation of the illness and even death. Hence, it is vital for the medical translator to be superlatively qualified and experienced.

Medical chart on clipboard with stethescope
Medical chart

In compliance with legislation requiring healthcare facilities to provide translation and interpreting services for non-English speakers, many healthcare facilities in the United States are now making it a requirement that in order for a healthcare provider to provide translation, interpreting or foreign language services in the healthcare facility the provider must have medical experience in countries in which the foreign language is spoken. Therefore, a medical language service provider who also has a background in the healthcare profession in a foreign country is a major asset to the healthcare industry.

Continuing education is of extreme importance to the medical translation professional since technology and expertise continue to expand at a rapid pace and our global community is becoming increasingly borderless.

Translators interested in launching out into this area of expertise should not be daunted by the enormity of the responsibility that a medical language service provider has to shoulder but should understand the commitment that needs to be made to provide superlative medical translations. Health care facilities do well to continue to employ high-end medical language solutions for their reputation’s sake and more importantly, to enhance the health and wellbeing of the community at large.