Health care translation services: why translators work with doctors

Correct medical terminology is part of good medical translation. Image of a stethoscope next to someone typing on a laptop.

Health care translation services: why translators work with doctors

Correct medical terminology is part of good medical translation. Image of a stethoscope next to someone typing on a laptop.
Photo by the National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

When you need to translate medical documents, you’d ideally rely on someone who is both a pro in their language and has medical expertise. Unfortunately, this is rare.

While medical translators spend a great deal of time improving their subject expertise in the health and social care sector, they may not be able to keep up with all the developments in this fast-changing subject area.

And, while doctors or other health care professionals might have some foreign language skills, they normally don’t have the time — or inclination — to also become professional translators.

The best solution is to draw on both experts. Here are a few reasons why!

Language experts create better copy

Good localisation services are needed for the best medical copy. Image of various medical books on a shelf.
Photo by Photouser23 on Pixabay

Always hire a translator who completely understands your original medical documents/terminology and the language they’re translating into. (This also goes for interpreting services, of course.)

A high-quality medical translator will:

  • hone their linguistic skills through study, CPD, and work experience,
  • have (at least temporarily) lived in a country where the target language is spoken,
  • regularly practise their skills by listening to relevant podcasts, talking to experts, and reading relevant news,
  • fully understand your requirements,
  • ask for clarifications if certain wordings in medical translations could be misunderstood,
  • suggest small edits to make your text flow better, and
  • have easy access to a medical expert in case of any questions.

If you’re still in doubt whether they’re a good fit for you, just ask your medical translator to jump on a quick call or book an online consultation via their website. After all, good translators will always be happy to learn more about your medical translation needs.

Medical specialists make great reviewers

Health service professionals are best placed to review healthcare translations. Image of a doctor in a laboratory.
Photo by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Doctors routinely scrutinise medical literature. They know what good copy sounds like and they can definitely spot a clunky translation of your medical text!

Typical medical copy may include medical records, leaflets, doctors’ letters, reports, patient information or consent forms, and material for pharmaceutical companies.

So, to make sure you’ll get your message across in a different target market, your translator should get it proofread by a medical expert. A doctor will ask questions a translator probably wouldn’t, and spot passages that might need to be rewritten or clarified.

Consider any questions as proof that your translator and medical consultant care about your material — and your target audience.

Trustworthy medical documents are key

Correct interpreting and translation services are crucial for informed consent. Image of a patient about to sign a consent form.
Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

Medicine has many specialisations and sub-sectors, so it’s impossible to expect a healthcare professional to know everything. However, they’ll find the best external resources to deepen their (and your translator’s) knowledge of a certain subject area.

After this research, medical experts can scrutinise even highly technical or specialised material. (This is something you can’t always take for granted, unfortunately.)

Your translator will then integrate their comments in your medical documents.

Your target audiences will get the right message

Patients need to get the right message before making an informed medical decision. Image of a man receiving an injection.
 Photo by CDC on Unsplash

In the medical field, you need to address your readers differently: a patient information leaflet will use easier terms than a patient record or medical report aimed at a physician. This is called a “difference in register”, and it’s something your translator must consider when working for you. Their job is to overcome any language barriers in health-related information.

A good medical translator will ask you questions like “Who will read this material?” or “What is the goal of this text?”. Your answers will help them inform, convince, and even warn your audience in the most appropriate way.

Medical jargon will be difficult to understand for lay people, so your translator will help you identify this and get your message across.

Cultural context means better communication

It’s crucial to communicate with patients sensitively in primary care settings. Image of a doctor comforting a patient.
Photo by fernando zhiminaicela on Pixabay

Health information, questions, prompts, and instructions have to be worded correctly for your target audience. They’ll need to understand, answer or act in the way you want them to.

Cultural context plays a huge role here: in some cultures, patients prefer to be told exactly what they should do, while in others, a more subtle call to action is required.

Think about sensitive subject areas in the medical sector, such as women’s health, cancer, or sex education. Aligning with the mindset of the audience you’re communicating with is essential to convey your message.

That’s where a translator comes in: they (like me) will normally have lived in the countries of the languages they work with. This way, they understand hidden nuances of words and will save you from alienating or even losing your audience.

A doctor + a translator = a win-win partnership for you

Medical translators and doctors are a great team for patients and the healthcare industry. Image of two people shaking hands.
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

We’ve seen that health professionals and language experts working together on your medical documents is a great idea. You won’t only get your text checked by a second person, but you’ll also receive the best of both worlds: linguistic, cultural and medical knowledge.

That’s why I collaborate with a trustworthy doctor in all of my medical translations.

Do you have questions about professional medical translation services?

Image of Chiara Vecchi, an Italian medical translator. She is standing at her desk and is smiling at the camera.
Photo of Chiara Vecchi by Letizia Cappella

All of the above factors are important when creating your shortlist of professional medical translators. If you have more questions about these, or if you need a trustworthy and experienced Italian medical translator who works with a medical expert, let’s chat by email or in an informal call.

Get in touch!