The challenges of medical translation in a health emergency
Medical translation is a type of specialised translation applied to the healthcare, chemical, pharmaceutical and scientific fields. It is highly regulated, requiring great precision due to the delicate nature of the content translated: indeed, an incorrect translation could compromise the health of a patient, the work of a healthcare professional or the results of scientific research. This means that a medical translator’s work must be extremely accurate in terms of form and content.
So what happens when extraordinary situations arise, such as the health emergency we are experiencing due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Language service providers, mediators, interpreters and translators are faced with a real challenge involving the amount of information and scientific research based on new concepts and specialised terminology: crucial data that must be communicated to doctors and patients who speak several languages.
Coronavirus and medical translation: an information epidemic
To get an idea of the challenges faced by the field of medical translation due to the pandemic, simply consider the enormous amount of information deriving from medical research and trials on the new virus, which must be conveyed to both industry experts and patients, all with relative urgency (it is, ultimately, a global health emergency). Added to this is the myriad of new words and concepts related to the pandemic, starting with grammar issues related to the name Covid-19, up to the translation of hashtags such as #iorestoacasa (I stay home), and the rendering of neologisms such as the German “Coronaspeck” (which indicates the extra weight gained due to the forced immobility of the lockdown periods). A real information epidemic that spreads through different languages and means of communication, and which underlines how important it is to rely on medical translation professionals when you intend to communicate effectively, thus protecting the health and safety of patients and workers in the field.
The challenges and difficulties of medical translation
Linguistic and content accuracy in a medical translation is an indispensable aspect, even when the work has rather tight deadlines, as is often the case in emergency situations that require the immediate dissemination of information of crucial importance. There are many tricky aspects in medical translation which, if handled unprofessionally, can lead to errors that would jeopardise the health of patients and the safety of healthcare professionals. Just think of the consequences an incorrect translation of an instruction manual for the implantation of a prosthesis could have, or an error in the transcription of a medicine dosage; medical-scientific translators must also face an enormous amount of abbreviations and acronyms, as well as the frequent appearance of neologisms which follow the constant progress of scientific research and make other terminology in the sector obsolete.
Who can you entrust with a medical translation?
At this point it is legitimate to ask: why not rely on a doctor for your scientific translations? Contacting a healthcare professional undoubtedly guarantees the accuracy of the content, but at the same time could also involve omissions in the transmission of the message. A text edited by a doctor with no experience in the field of translation or linguistic mediation could contain terminology that is difficult for those who working in the field to understand, or it could lack fluency and cause misunderstandings, while the communication between doctor and patient (as well as that between scientific community and healthcare professionals) should be direct, clear, immediate and free of any kind of barrier.
Effectively translating a medical text means making vitally important information accessible and usable, which could make a difference both in a health emergency context such as that following the spread of Covid-19, and in everyday life. It is therefore best to rely on a professional translator who not only has an excellent command of the source and target languages, but also adequate technical-scientific skills in the medical field of reference. Translation Agency’s team of language consultants and project managers can help you find the professional that best suits your needs, to ensure direct and secure communication even if the material that must be translated is highly specialised in nature. We are always available: just contact us to request an ad hoc consultation.