Advice for Translating Medical Documents

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Have you ever been stuck with a massive medical translation filled to the brim with terms and acronyms which are absolutely alien to anyone without a PHD? Don’t be alarmed. There are many ways in which you can search for information and produce a great medical translation without being overwhelmed by all the strange intense language.

First of all, many medical terms can actually be translated fairly easily due to the suffix –ía at the end of Spanish words always translating to –gy in English such as Biología to Biology and even in larger more intimidating words such as Endodontología translating as Endodontology. You don’t even have to know what it’s about to be able to translate it. If in doubt, you can always search online to see if your translation is correct, so don’t worry about it!

Secondly, many translators dealing with medical documents will have to face a mountain of acronyms such as TTO and MC which are completely unknown to non-doctors. These acronyms are fairly common and with time you will come to realise that they stand for tratamiento and motivo de consulta as in treatment and reason for consultation. My advice for you with these is that you need to search for a glossary of medical acronyms, type in Glosario de siglas médicas into Google, and you will be able to find many glossaries with tons of acronyms and their meanings to help you along with the translation. If this fails, you still have another option, websites such as ProZ have forums with many translators who are experienced in the field having discussions about their meanings in specific contexts, so you can search through these forums and find out what is most applicable to your own translation.

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Thirdly, there may be times when you know the meaning of a word, but it makes absolutely no sense in the context. There are some words such as alta which just looks like the feminine version of tall, but in reality means something different in the medical context. In this case, alta usually translates as discharge as in Informe de Alta Clínica being Clinical Discharge Report. This just requires a little bit of searching on the usual websites such as wordreference.com and linguee.com, and with experience, you will be able to instantly spot these words, and translate them without any issues in the future!

Other than these pitfalls which I have come across during my time as a translator, the rest of medical document translation tends to just be filling in the number of leucocytes and white blood cells in the blood stream etc. and informing the patient to drink more water and stick to a liquid diet. These are a lot less stressful to translate and can even be oddly monotonously satisfying when you get it done. In the end, you should be able to come out the other side with a fantastic translation with a lot less worries about its quality.

 

I hope this report gives you a little bit of courage if you are struggling with a medical translation, and with some time and practice, you will be able to see a medical translation less as an unknown minefield of potential mistakes making you want to pull all your hair out, and more as a calm walk in the park with just a little bit of research to help you to produce something great.

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