The Importance of Superlative Medical Translation


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.

Choosing Your Language Service Provider

Choosing your Language Service Provider

How do you choose a language service provider when there are so many clamoring for your attention? It goes without saying that you have a lot on the line and require an error-free product that is appropriate for your language needs. Below are some guidelines to take into consideration when choosing a language service provider.

Your language service provider should be knowledgeable and adept
at meeting your needs, be they:
Translation: the transference of documents into a second (target) language so that they have the same meaning as the documents in the first (source) language. Source documents may come in typed format as well as in audio or video format.
Interpreting: the transference of speech from one language into another.
Editing: the revision of a document that has been translated by a second person comparing the translation against the source document. Translation projects should be edited by a second language professional for missing text, missing lines, missing or inaccurate numbers, dates, etc., errors in spelling, grammar and style and inconsistencies in formatting.
Proofreading: the revision of a finished project to ensure that the language flows and is flawless. Only the target document is reviewed and no reference is made to the source document in the proofreading process.
Transcription: the transfer of audio material into a document. This can be in any language.

Experience: Your language service provider should have a proven track record providing the services you are seeking. However, the length of time in the business will not always guarantee that the work being done is accurate since a language service provider can repeat the same mistakes in each project. Your language service provider will be able to provide you with references who should attest to the good service they have provided.

The cost for the service should be within your budget. Try not to cut corners, though. The lowest price should not be your sole motivation for selecting a language service provider and the highest price does not necessarily mean that the quality of the service is the highest.

Your language service provider should keep you informed. A good vendor will explain to you the details of your project and provide you with options and give you an idea of how your project will be completed, if necessary. You can ask for as much information that will make you comfortable that your job is in the right hands.

Timeline: Every project has a beginning, a middle and an end. You should be provided with a schedule for the completion of your project. This should be realistic and it should serve your corporate goals.

Team: You can ask for details about the team who will be handling your project. Remember that all work should be handled by native speakers of the target language(s) and experts in the area of specialization under which your project falls. For extremely rare languages, this may not always be possible but language service providers should have near native proficiency in the target language through solid experience, time spent living, being educated and working in a country where the target language is spoken. They should also have a background in the area of expertise of the project.