Medical Interpretation and Translation. Living in an era of knowledge entails or implies an increasing technical or professional specialization of those who live in a world that is increasingly competitive and accelerated. This situation is fully applicable to translation. It is not enough to master two languages ​​and be an intermediary or serve as a bridge between two or more subjects of different languages, many times, for communication and understanding to be ideal and fully comply with its facts, specialized knowledge is required on the part of the translator, this characteristic It takes on greater importance when the subject to be discussed has to do with the health of human beings. This is precisely where medical translation takes off.

The history of humanity has been characterized by a continuous process, through which the knowledge acquired by an individual or people is subsequently transmitted to other people or communities, which in many cases have different languages. This has been achieved thanks to the valuable contribution of interpreters or translators, who have historically mediated so that knowledge spreads and continues its process of evolution, until it reaches ever better levels.

Translation has greatly contributed to scientific and technical progress, has allowed access to knowledge and has been crucial in the production and distribution of knowledge. In this sense, medicine has been one of the sciences that has prospered the most thanks to translation work. A clear example of this is the translation activity carried out in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, thanks to which the Arabs assimilated the Greek medical legacy and produced original works, or in the role played by classical and Renaissance translators in transmitting and preserving the great works of medicine.

Although medical translation has traditionally been diluted as a subspecialty within scientific-technical translation, the truth is that more and more authors consider medical translation worthy of special attention and insist on highlighting the features that characterize it.

Medical translation refers to the translation of documentation related to a wide range of disciplines, such as the pharmaceutical area and all the elements that make up the field of health (Surgery, Biochemistry, Oncology, Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Dentistry, Psychiatry and many additional medical disciplines, each and every one of enormous importance). In all these contexts, it is crucial to be very rigorous and precise in the terminology, since a small error can have serious consequences for the health of patients. If preparing all the documentation generated by the sector in the local language already has its difficulties, translating it into other languages ​​is a complex process that cannot be superseded by a word-for-word translation, we must pay attention to the meaning of the source text and look for the equivalencies in all the complex terminology used in the sector.

Medicine is constantly advancing, new drugs or medical devices are discovered every day. The vast majority of countries where these products are purchased require that their documentation and labeling be translated into the national language in order to make them available to the public. Thanks to medical translation, most drugs found in pharmacies are converted so that patients can perfectly understand the information.

The translator facing a medical translation for the first time must deal with specific medical terminology. Although a complete documentation process can help, if the translator is not specialized in the field, he will find difficulties with the equivalences, the interpretations and the uses that are given in each language. Currently, there is a very specific pharmaceutical or medical terminology, there is a wide variety of documents that are susceptible to being poorly converted. For all of them, professional translators should be trusted, since the health of the patients, the acceptance of the documents by the authorities of the foreign country or simply the final quality of said documents may be at stake. Starting from this base, the translator faces a series of challenges when making a medical translation.

These are just some of the most important points that a good medical translator must take into account. Consequently, to achieve a quality medical translation, the translator must have the following:

  • Medical training or specific knowledge of the subject
  • Availability of reliable linguistic resources (specialized and/or technical dictionaries, access to forums for medical translators, reference works, parallel texts…)
  • Specialization in the textual discipline/typology in question
  • Time to prepare the original text: documentation and research

            In conclusion, medical translation is a job that must be carried out with high professionalism, because unlike others, a very slight mistake could seriously affect people’s lives and health. It is a specialty that deserves to be taken very seriously.