The many options available for medical translation services can be overwhelming, but with so many life sciences companies choosing to go global, connecting with new cultures and markets has never been so important. Fortunately, collaborating with a professional language partner you trust can go a long way toward securing your position as a global leader.
This article discusses the options available, dispels some common misperceptions that could lead you astray, and explores the hidden benefits of enlisting a professional translator to handle your medical translation services.
Exploring Your Options
When you need medical documents translated, you have several options to choose from:
- Using Machine Translation (MT) software such as Google Translate
- Asking bilingual employees to help out
- Hiring professional translation services
Which option is best will depend, in part, on your goals. For example, if you simply want to find out roughly what a document is about, the convenience and ease offered by Google Translate may fit the bill. However, if the purpose of your translation is to instruct, educate, or persuade others about a product or service, then you will benefit from finding a professional to handle the job.
When your business’s reputation is on the line, you need someone you trust to complete your translations. So why might companies opt for non-professional methods when they need medical translation services? Well, often it is because of some common misperceptions about what is required to get quality translations.
Common Misperceptions About Medical Translation Services
- Translation is not really a professional activity.
Many assume that simply knowing a second language qualifies one to translate between the two languages. However, even having excellent conversational skills in a second language does not necessarily mean you also have the skill set and the theoretical groundwork required for professional-level translation work. Even a native speaker can lose proficiency being away from her native country and out of societal contexts for an extended period of time.
There is more to the translation process than appears on the surface. It takes years of experience and time spent studying to become subject matter experts. Professional translators acquire the necessary skills to provide accurate and appropriate medical translation services. They also know how to handle any challenges that may arise.
- Translation is simply substituting one word for another.
Many words and phrases have more than one meaning. If you’ve ever learned a second language (or paid attention in English 101), you have encountered idioms. An idiom is an expression with a figurative, rather than a literal meaning, commonly used by native speakers. For example, you might hear a native Spanish speaker say, “Me estás tomando el pelo,” which has a meaning equivalent to the English phrase, “you’re pulling my leg.” But the Spanish phrase literally means, “you’re taking my hair.”
Machines can struggle with idioms and other non-literal translations, whereas professional human translators can easily come up with substitutions that make sense given the context and other subtle clues not easily captured by an algorithm.
- There’s only one correct translation for any piece of text.
Even if a given translation is literally correct, there are political and social connotations in local languages to take into account. For example, “the old and wise man” is often translated from English to Spanish as “el viejo y sabio,” which in Spanish is disrespectful. It’s more appropriate to use “anciano” when referring to the elderly. “Viejo” has a negative connotation similar to the English word “codger.”
Again, machine translation, or a non-native speaker using an English-to-Spanish dictionary, won’t handle tone well. These are the kinds of nuances that professionals will catch and take into account given a particular situation.
Clients and stakeholders who are native speakers may lose confidence in your products or services if they notice translations that sound unprofessional. Remember, “how you do anything is how you do everything,” or at least, this is an assumption that others often make. So, if your translations are sloppy, your potential clients may wonder what other corners you’re cutting.
3 Benefits of Using Professional Translation Services
In addition to having translations that render information appropriately into other languages and represent your company well around the globe, using professional translators provides three surprising benefits.
- You have linguistic, cultural, and translation experts on your side.
Not only are professional translators trained to deliver accurate renderings of technical texts into other languages, they are also experts in language and culture. We know, for example, that subtle differences in how we ask questions and how we instruct patients during clinical trials can make or break study results. Through their years of studying language, professional translators know how to adapt style, tone, and terminology to find not only the right words, but also develop words to bring out important nuances.
Additionally, professionals have a much greater grasp of the purpose of each translation, the origins of the text, its surrounding context, and the intended audience than someone who is simply proficient in a second language.
- Professional translators are bound by certain ethical obligations.
Because professional translators are often members of professional translator associations and are committed to maintaining a certain level of competence, they have added incentives to follow certain ethical rules. Although there is no independent certification or licensing process for professional translators, professional translators take responsibility for the accuracy of their work and uphold standards of confidentiality and impartiality. You aren’t likely to see this kind of commitment working with non-professionals.
- Professional translators are plugged into the translation industry.
Because professional translators are consistently involved in the translation industry, they stay up to date with the latest technology, as well as changes in language conventions and cultural contexts relevant to the languages in which they specialize. Professionals are also committed to their own professional development, which positively impacts their work.
To ensure the medical documents bearing your company’s name are accurate, appropriate, and meet your expectations, you need to enlist the help of translation professionals. At DTS Language Services, Inc., we hire only highly qualified professional translators. These experts have skills, knowledge, and experience that go far beyond linguistic proficiency alone.
If you’re looking for a true medical translation services partner, we’re ready to step up to the plate. Contact us today to request a quote!