What is proofreading and why is it necessary in translation?

What is proofreading and why is it a necessary step in translation?

Every translator and translation team has their own process in place for delivering what they feel is top quality work. While some translators follow a two-part process that involves translation and proofreading, at Terra Translations we suggest a three step process that includes editing. At first glance, editing and proofreading may seem somewhat redundant, so let’s look at why that isn’t the case, how these steps vary, and why proofreading is such a necessary step in the translation process. 

The Difference Between Editing and Proofreading

The point of undergoing both editing and proofreading is to ensure accuracy and create a quality translation, so it’s not surprising that many people use these terms interchangeably. However, there is a difference between editing and proofreading, and they should be treated as separate activities. 

Editing is when you execute changes to the translation and make suggestions to improve the overall quality of the product. Ideally, editing will lead to the translation becoming more consistent, sharper, and error free. An editor typically takes on the following responsibilities: 

  • Doing a bilingual review between the original text and the translated version
  • Identifying and correcting any translation errors
  • Pointing out inconsistencies and adjusting to better suit market and audience needs
  • Ensuring the correct use of language
  • Confirming that the translated message is conveyed correctly in regards to both language and culture
  • Double check that the style is correct and make suggestions to improve it

Proofreading focuses on correcting any superficial errors in the translated content, such as spelling or grammar errors, formatting, punctuation, or syntax. The proofreading process begins once you have a potential “final” version of the content to work with. As this is the final step of the process, the proofreader should read the text and try to make sense of it as if they themselves were the target audience. This is especially helpful as they are the final pair of eyes on the content before submission to the client or publication.

The Importance of Proofreading

Proofreading is such an important step because during translation and editing, your original text can undergo many variations as it is reworded into a different language. When translating, the goal is not to translate word by word but to think how the same message would be said in the target language. During this process, translators may copy structures seen in the source language unintentionally and when the editor is fixing issues like this, they may introduce unintentional mistakes such as typos, double spaces, a missing word, repeated articles, and misplaced commas. These are the type of mistakes that ideally a proofreader will spot and fix.

Proofreading is a valuable step in the translation process and helps lead to an error-free translation product that illustrates how carefully translated the work is and what high quality work the translator does. 

When Should You Proofread?

The proofreading step should be the last part of your quality assurance process. You won’t dive as deep during proofreading as you did during editing. Proofreading gives you a fresh opportunity to catch any mistakes not found in the editing stage and as you’re more focused on looking for superficial errors than making massive changes to the language and expression, it can be easier to catch small errors such as grammatical or spelling ones. 

Ideally, you’ll have a second translator carry out the editing and a third translator take care of the proofreading process, as a fresh set of eyes can more easily spot errors that the first translator and editor may have overlooked. Proofreading is a challenging task and it can be tempting to make changes relating to personal preference, but at that stage the translator should focus on just fixing mistakes and syntax issues.

Multilingual Solutions Meet Multilingual QA Managers

Global Needs, Multilingual Solutions: Meet Multilingual QA Managers

Due to the fact that some language service providers offer integral solutions for globalized markets or products, they sometimes tackle projects that don’t involve a unique language pair, but rather multiple combinations. To assist in these endeavors, there are specialized reviewers that know how to perform quality checks in multilingual projects: the Multilingual Quality Assurance Managers (QAMs). Like any other QAMs, Multilingual QAMs review the material and manage resources and instructions, but for projects with more than one language pair—three, ten, fifteen or more! This doesn’t mean they master all the potential languages a project may involve. Multilingual QAMs rather use their linguistic knowledge from the languages they do speak to comprehend glossaries or instructions for other combinations. In addition, they use Quality Assurance (QA) automation tools in their favor.

We talked to two of our most experienced Multilingual QAMs at Terra to offer expert insight on this challenging task.

The Three Functions

Both Verónica Ríos (Senior Multilingual QAM) and José Antonio Buzón Carbajo (Multilingual QAM) agree that the position has three main functions. On the one hand, they perform the final quality checks before delivery. They use QA features in CAT tools or specific software to do so. “We have the capability of searching for severe errors or incompliances with client’s instructions or glossaries in any language,” José explained. Stylistic or preferential changes are not under their scope, since that’s what native editors review.

On the other hand, their second function is to make all the client’s preferences, style guides and instructions easily accessible to vendors. As Verónica said, “We manage and update all the resources and instructions regularly, because our job is both corrective and preventive. We try to define guidelines for issues that we know may pose challenges among vendors. By doing so, we try to avoid mistakes or incompliances before they happen.” Because of this, Multilingual QAMs need to be very rigorous and organized to correctly classify and update the materials and instructions for every language pair.

Lastly, QAMs manage feedback. They receive and analyze clients’ evaluations, and try to translate them into clear instructions for the teams. However, they also provide feedback to vendors. “At this point, building a solid communicational approach is key for us,” José added. As he explained, it’s the basis to provide constructive feedback to receptive linguists, who likewise help QAMs when they have questions about text in their native languages.

QAM Starter Pack

QAM in general and Multilingual QAM in particular rely on specific IT resources, such as CAT tools’ features or QA software. These are mandatory tools that ensure quality by avoiding or detecting evitable errors that the human eye may fail to catch. “We as QAMs take full advantage of the resources memoQ offer,” Verónica explained. Term bases, translation memories, QA rules, auto-translation rules, non-translatable lists, all allow integrating important guidelines into CAT tools, and that reduces the margin of error or incompliance.

Moreover, José and Verónica recommend collaborative online resources to share information, like Google Spreadsheets. If supervised, updated and organized, they allow sharing in real-time valuable information with vendors around the globe. They can be helpful for many uses, like Q&A sheets, instructions or feedback.

Curiosity and Imagination

Regarding the skills needed for Multilingual QAMs, Verónica thinks that experienced editors “have a trained eye to know what to correct and what to prevent,” she explained. Furthermore, being enthusiastic about QA automation and organized with time management and resources are, for her, mandatory assets.

Apart from that, as José sees it, a Multilingual QAM must be creative and willing to find new solutions to the projects’ needs. “Too much imagination is never enough in this role,” he concluded. Any challenge is a new opportunity to search for ways to boost a team’s capabilities, always with QA tools as allies.


Translation of Summary of Benefits and Coverage 101

All professionals in the medical industry should have their consumers’ best needs at heart, this includes insurance companies. Generally they do, which is why so much importance is placed on the translation of Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) in the medical industry. 

The role of a SBC is to ensure that consumers are aware of the health benefits and coverage available to them through their healthcare plan. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) typically requires that any group health plans or health insurance company provide a summary of benefits and coverage that can accurately describe the benefits and coverage available under the plan. While that definition will give you a quick glimpse at why SBCs are so important, let’s dive a bit deeper into this complicated topic and how medical translation comes into play.

What is an SBC?

Alongside helping consumers understand their health plan’s features and offerings, an SBC also covers the costs associated with the plan. An SBC can cover very complicated topics, such as cost sharing rules or limits and exceptions to coverage, in a way that is easy for the average consumer to understand. One way that a health insurance or plan company can do this is by providing consumers with a “Uniform Glossary” designed to clearly explain any medical or insurance-related terms that may apply to a plan. Not only are all plans required by the ACA to provide a SBC to their consumers, but they must follow a a uniform template that is customized to reflect the terms of a specific plan. 

Why do SBCs matter? 

It is of the utmost importance that consumers have access to an SBC. Not only does this access help them understand their plan features and the costs associated with it once they’re enrolled, but they can use the SBC to answer some of their general questions regarding a health plan before they choose to enroll in it. This knowledge helps consumers make informed decisions about their health and finances. 

Why does an SBC need to be translated into other languages?

Because we live in an increasingly global world, diversity must be kept in mind by health plans and insurance providers. A minimum of 350 languages are spoken in homes throughout the United States. While providing SBCs in each of those languages wouldn’t be possible, or even necessary as many of these languages are spoken by bilingual citizens, there are compliance regulations that dictate which languages providers must accommodate. Vital plan information must be available in the 15 non-English languages most commonly spoken in a state or languages spoken by at least 10 percent of a county’s population. The ACA, and other related statutes and regulations, currently have strict language requirements. For example, qualified health plans insurers that have been registered for at least one year are required to provide oral and written translation services to consumers in a minimum of 150 languages.

It is important to remember that the translation of Summary of Benefits and Coverage is not just a matter of compliance, but of inclusion. Providing resources for a growing and diverse population should always be a priority.

Why the Translation of Medical Insurance Claims Matters

Why the Translation of Medical Insurance Claims Matters

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, can it also keep the medical insurance claims away? Nobody enjoys paperwork, but medical insurance claims are a vital part of the healthcare system. If patients don’t want to pay out of pocket, and medical providers want to receive swift payment, it’s important that everyone works together to properly file these forms. There is one major roadblock insurance companies can encounter. This process can be disrupted without the proper translation of medical insurance claims. 

What is a medical insurance claim form? 

Medical insurance claim forms are necessary when a patient needs to request reimbursement or direct payment for any medical services they’ve obtained. Basically, they are of the utmost importance for making sure medical service providers get paid. In order for these payments to come from insurance companies, either the patient or the provider must submit the proper medical insurance claims. There are two options for submitting a medical insurance claim. The first option is generally the most convenient. The medical services provider will directly submit the claim for the patient to the insurance company electronically. Another option is for patients to personally fill out a health insurance claim form and send in the paperwork. Most insurance companies offer electronic forms that patients can download and submit online. This process more commonly occurs if the health service provider is not in a patient’s health insurance network and therefore can’t file a claim on their behalf. 

What information does it contain?

Generally, medical insurance claim forms will include the following information. To start, the insurance policy number, group plan number, or member number is very important as it is required for identification purposes. As is identifying if the recipient of services is the primary-insured member or a dependent. Dependents are generally children, spouses, or domestic partners of the primary insurance holder. The form may also clarify whether or not this policy is a form of co-insurance or offers dual coverage. And the reason for the visit will be noted as well. 

The importance of the translation of medical insurance claims

The stakes are high when it comes to the translation of medical insurance claims. If a claim form is not in the native language of the claimant, there is always the possibility of misrepresentation on the insured’s part. Or potentially, the misunderstanding on the insurance company’s part. Claim forms can be considered critical documents for health coverage access. Not providing translated claim forms into different languages can limit the ability of LEP-speakers to properly complete their forms for claim processing. Mistakes can be made and misunderstandings can occur. Once the claim is filled out by the LEP-speaker, the insurance company could require translation services to process it properly.

Insurance companies must comply with regulations regarding insurance forms, as many are considered to be critical documents. Critical documents that help obtain health insurance coverage or access to health care services can be required by state or federal law to be provided to the following people: qualified individuals, applicants, qualified employers, qualified employees, or enrollees. In most states, the top 15 languages spoken by the LEP populations of that state must be translated. 

Generally, it’s vital that insurance companies act in good faith at all times in regard to the insurance policies they write. Insurance policies are contracts. Insurance companies must do their best to uphold these contracts, including providing the necessary translation of medical insurance claims to guarantee patients’ access to healthcare coverage.


The Translation of Discharge Information 101

If only an apple a day kept the doctor away. Dealing with any type of medical issue, big or small, can add stress and discomfort to a patient’s life. Even worse though is when a patient can’t understand their discharge information, which is a vital part of physician-patient communication. When a patient has a poor understanding of their discharge instructions, they may be negatively affected after leaving the hospital. This information is imperative for properly managing their diagnosis, medications, and follow-up appointments. Oftentimes, non-English speaking patients (or those without high literacy levels) are the ones who struggle with understanding discharge information. The proper translation of discharge information can help provide patients with the best possible level of care. 

The Dangers of Misunderstood Discharge Information

When a patient can’t understand their discharge information, confusion and less than desired medical results can ensue. Even worse, this lack of understanding can lead to death. In 2015, a patient in Houston, Texas was discharged from a hospital and experienced a stroke. According to the lawsuit against the hospital, the stroke was caused because the hospital did not translate the patient’s discharge instructions into a language that the patient’s caretaker could read. Not only did this lack of proper communication harm the patient, but if the hospital loses the lawsuit, they can expect to pay more than $200,000. One way or the other, both parties have been harmed. Because of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare providers are forbidden from discriminating against patients because of their “national origin”. Which means healthcare providers generally have to provide proper translation for patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

The Lack of Translation of Discharge Information

How common is a lack of proper linguistic access to discharge information for non-English speakers? More than it should be. A study by the University of California, San Francisco learned that patients with limited English proficiency demonstrated a weaker understanding of their discharge information regarding medications than their English-speaking counterparts. It was also found that only about half of hospitals translate discharge instructions properly. 

Some hospitals only provide select access to discharge materials in languages aside from English. They may translate standard discharge instructions for a few common illnesses, but the materials aren’t personalized for each patient. Which means the discharge materials aren’t addressing those patients’ individual needs such as medication dosing or accounting for a combination of health conditions. While some hospital staff interpreters will provide patients with oral discharge information, they don’t necessarily provide written instructions the patient can reference at home. Only professional translators should handle written translation as they specialize in that skill, it is not something an interpreter is trained for. 

Why the Translation of Discharge Information is So Difficult

Generic discharge information handouts are not the solution and neither are oral instructions. Medical facilities should provide access to written hospital discharge instructions in the language spoken and read by the patient. Most hospitals have a written translation policy for select hospital documents like consent forms, but discharge instructions are not guaranteed at every hospital. 

Machine translation is another flawed solution. Machine translation options, such as Google Translate, that may be available to medical professionals can lead to errors. Complicated instructions and medical jargon can be difficult to translate properly using machine translation. Only a skilled medical translator who is familiar with both languages can safely translate this type of medical information. 

It is possible for hospitals to partner with a translation service provider. While they won’t work from the hospital premises, hospitals and translation service providers can come to an agreement that guarantees quick turnarounds. Time is generally the most pressing challenge of translating discharge information, as a patient can’t wait for their discharge information, so it’s important to arrange a translation timeline that works for both parties.


The Importance of Language Access During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During this difficult time, one small source of comfort is knowing that we are all in this together. The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting communities from around the world and it is important that we work across borders to beat this pandemic. Knowledge is playing an indisputably important role in overcoming the health and financial challenges that have arisen because of COVID-19. In order to share the knowledge that will help us progress past COVID-19, it is more pressing than ever before that we break down language barriers. This is why it’s important: 

To Enact Proper Safety Measures

Our current landscape is changing rapidly right now and it is important that both individuals and business owners have access to the latest safety information and regulations in their native languages. In regions where many languages are spoken, this is especially necessary. For example, in Orange County, CA, confusion occurred when new ordinances regarding social distancing and business regulations were announced. A poorly worded message was partly to blame for the mass confusion, but a language barrier was another reason there was a lack of understanding across the Orange County community.

Orange County officials are attempting to remedy the situation by introducing updates in more languages, but the initial confusion caused fear and concern. For everyone to do their part in maintaining safety regulations and slow the spread of COVID-19, access to properly translated materials is vital. As the United States in general has a population that speaks many languages, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Language Action Plan that they recommend for scenarios like this. The plan suggests providing access to vital information in 19 different languages in order to properly confront a crisis.

To Make Progress Together

Alongside the countless individuals working to slow the spread of COVID-19, there are many researchers aiming to find a vaccine or medication for treatment. As always, it is important that medical researchers have access to the latest advancements. The translation of medical research is of the utmost importance for increasing our ability to work towards vaccines and treatments more efficiently. 

Typically, English is considered the go-to language for the medical community, but increased language access to COVID-19 research could help us make progress quicker. With proper translation, researchers can share updates on the outcomes of social distancing, expected health care costs, disease trends, the best treatments and care plans, and risk factors. Patients will also require access to translated materials such as pharmaceutical packaging and instructions for use. 

To Strengthen Communities

It is clear now, more than ever before, how important a strong sense of community is. If members of a community do not feel like they have access to the resources they need and are not being assisted, this could damage the strength of a community. Working together can only happen if we all feel united and valued. Proper language access during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important step towards strengthening the bond of a community.


The Translation of Instructions for Use (IFU): A Breakdown 

Every member of the medical profession should first and foremost prioritize patient safety. One such way to be successful at protecting patient safety is to dedicate resources to the proper translation of “instructions for use” (IFU). Essentially, the term IFU refers to the patient labeling found on many prescription medicines and medical devices. The manufacturer of the drug develops the patient label. But the FDA (a United States government agency) is in charge of approving it. IFUs are especially important when a medication has complicated dosing instructions and the patient may need help using the product properly.

As we live in an increasingly global world, medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies will require assistance with the translation of IFUs into other languages. Quality translation not only improves patient safety, but helps get medical devices and medications approved for distribution throughout a variety of regions. 

Why IFUs Matter

From a consumer standpoint, IFUs are of the utmost importance. The information included in an IFU helps provide the proper use of a medication or device, as well as any necessary precautions. The FDA requires that medication guides, such as IFUs, come with certain medical products. Usually they do so when they’ve determined that: 

  • The consumer requires specific information to prevent serious adverse effects.
  • A patient has the right to be aware of serious side effects before deciding to use this product.
  • Proper usage of the product is essential to its effectiveness.

Medication guides, including IFUs, must be given to consumers each time the medication is dispensed. It is worth noting that not all medications will provide an IFU. If a consumer ever has questions about a medication, it is best that they consult a healthcare provider or pharmacist. 

Where Translation Helps

Now, looking from a business standpoint, European regulations can provide an example of the importance of translating IFUs. The translation of an IFU is necessary for sale in Europe. Medical products in Europe must have a CE Mark. This mark guarantees that the safety and authenticity of a product is verified and translated properly. 

A CE Mark allows a manufacturer to sell a product throughout the EU. In order to obtain that mark, all materials (such as an IFU) are translated into each of the 24 official languages of the European Union. In Europe in particular, all products must have a CE Mark which enables manufacturers and traders to commercialize them in the European Economic Area (EEA). 

The Future of IFUs

The standards for medical professionals and products evolves and adapts over time. The digital age is of course having an effect on patient safety regulations. Those who wish to market their products in the European Union should prepare for the emergence of the eIFU (electronic information for use) in 2020. The aim of the new eIFU requirements is to increase medical device safety and effectiveness by providing users with the most current information. An eIFU can include video and audio files which will make it easier to demonstrate how to operate and handle medical devices. eIFUs will allow companies to bring revisions or changes to the market faster. This extra content will require translation services to ensure all consumers can understand a video or audio file. 

New regulations will be in place in 2020 that medical device manufacturers in the European Union need to prepare for. Manufacturers should be prepping for the change now, including getting ahead on any translation needs.

An Insider’s Guide to the Role of Editor

An Insider’s Guide to the Role of an Editor

Accuracy is a vital pillar for our business. At Terra, we achieve the highest accuracy on projects through a critical review process and workflow that includes the role of the Editor. The Editor is imperative in achieving quality deliverables. After the translator has finished their assignment, editing is the next step in the process. Editors are first to revise the translation and the second team member to work with the source text. They compare the target language content against the original to ensure meaning and context are not lost. In addition to this key responsibility, editors must also review and answer queries from translators and Quality Assurance Managers (QAM), evaluate and score quality, and provide constructive feedback to the translator.

A Typical Day in the Role of an Editor

A day likely begins with the Editor checking on new assignments or urgent queries that need to be answered. This typically dictates the pace for the rest of the workday. After deadlines and priorities are sorted, the Editor will dive into an edition. When an edition is completed, the Editor will pass along the project to the next team member in the workflow, the QAM. At Terra, no two days are the same in the role of an Editor. Projects vary in length, difficulty and subject matter because each project requires a different set of linguistic and communication skills.

Why is the Editor Important?

The Editor’s role is valuable because he or she improves the overall quality of the translation with a focus on vocabulary, grammar, semantics, style and punctuation. They review the entire translation comparing it to the source to ensure the original content is rendered accurately in the target language. The Editor also makes certain the target text reads naturally and fluently as if it were not a translation. When large projects are split among multiple translators, the Editor is responsible for keeping consistency across the project that includes terminology and style. Additionally, the Editor certifies that the work complies with the client’s requirements and guidelines.

“The value added to the translation process by the Editor is accuracy, consistency, coherence, compliance and quality,” explained Alejandro Kochol, Editor for Terra. “The translation is polished and the quality of the deliverable is enhanced by the Editor.”

An Editor’s Core Skills

The top skills of an experienced Editor include dynamic linguistic prowess, source and target language knowledge, cultural and subject knowledge, attention to detail, flexibility, adaptability, ability to research and multitask, advanced knowledge of computer and CAT tool software, and excellent communication. 

Discernment is another crucial skill for the Editor. A large component of an Editor’s role is the ability to leave out personal preferences. The Editor should avoid imposing their own style and over-correct the translation. This can pose a challenge because it’s tempting to make changes due to personal choices. If the style used by the translator is appropriate in every aspect, the Editor should recognize this and respect it. 

Common Misconceptions of the Editor

A common misconception is that editing and proofreading are the same tasks. This is not the case. Editing involves improving a translation by comparing the source and target text. Proofreading involves revising the translation alone. The source text is used only as a reference if it is absolutely necessary.

A Love for Language

Most editors have a true passion for linguistics. They also appreciate that every day brings a new set of challenges and they find joy in creating solutions. There is a great power in words and a proficient Editor is meticulous in the use of every word in order to improve the quality of the translation. 

“I love working with texts and languages,” said Alejandro. “I enjoy meticulously examining every part of the translation to adjust errors and ensure nothing is missing. Being an Editor allows me to use my talents to improve the entire translation process.”


Translation of Informed Consent Forms: An Introduction

Clinical trials are undoubtedly important. Without them, little scientific or medical progress would be possible. But even more important than the trials themselves, is the welfare of the human participants. They are an integral part of the clinical trial process. Their rights and wellness should always be a priority. One way to ensure all participants are fairly treated, is through the proper translation of informed consent forms. 

What is an Informed Consent Form?

An informed consent form is a requirement, not an option. A human can not partake in the research process during a clinical trial without signing one. These forms obtain a participant’s consent to participate and inform them of their rights. A participant should expect to find the following information on an informed consent form in a clearly described and understandable way.

  • A summary of the procedure or study.
  • The purpose of it.
  • The duration and schedule.
  • Expected procedures.
  • Potential benefits and risks.
  • Alternatives to participating.
  • The rights and responsibilities of those involved (the participant, study administrators, sponsors, etc.).

The requirements of an informed consent form ensure that a subject’s participation is voluntary. Informing participants about all aspects of the trial required both ethically and legally. 

Informed consent forms consist of two parts. One part is the information sheet that includes the aspects outlined above. The second part is the certificate of consent. Participants receive a copy of their informed consent form and information sheet. 

Where Does Translation Come In to Play?

Ensuring all research participants are properly informed of what a medical study entails is vital, or else you risk violating a participant’s rights. Being prepared to overcome language barriers can be necessary to ensure no violations occur. A language barrier or poor translation efforts can derail a clinical trial. A barrier can also harm a participant. Particularly if they do not understand what they are agreeing to.   

The proper translation of informed consent forms is a more pressing need than ever before due to the increase in medical research conducted in developing countries. These locales are often chosen as the site of clinical trials because they offer reduced costs. As well as access to affected populations who may benefit from the trial. For some, these trials are the only access to medical care they have. 

What is at Risk?

These trials can lead to new treatments, vaccines, and medications. But they can also violate the ethical rights of the at-risk populations found in developing countries. These violations can occur in first world countries too. Particularly, in locations like the United States where different cultures and languages frequently mix. Working with a seasoned translation expert can help avoid these violations and contribute to the success of a clinical trial.

It is not appropriate to exclude a participant due to their inability to read or understand a particular language. Doing so violates the governing principles of human subject research. Respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. Researchers must communicate directly with a subject or provide a trustworthy alternative to ensure they understand their rights, risks, and what their participation will entail. 


The Translation of Medical Documents into Spanish & Its Challenges

When it comes to languages, Spanish is a global powerhouse. Over 442,000,000 people around the world speak Spanish. There are 20 states and territories that consider it the majority language. In these territories, Spanish is the language children learn in school. And the language of official documents. In the United States, the Spanish language is also prevalent. Despite not being the official language. Spanish is the most predominant language spoken by immigrants and U.S.-born Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals. With 64% of the total LEP population speaking Spanish. Considering these vast numbers and the regulations regarding health care accessibility for everyone, it comes as no surprise that there is a growing need for the translation of medical documents into Spanish. The needs of medical translation are various, but when translating from English to Spanish and vice versa, medical translators must be prepared to solve a number of challenges that may arise. These are a few of them:

Medication and Drug Names

One of the first missteps in the translation of medical documents into Spanish is confusing medication and drug names. Names can easily be mixed up because drug and medication names used locally are different than internationally. Both brand and generic drugs can have names specific to the country in which they are sold. For example, acetaminophen is a name used in the United State for what is internationally known as paracetamol.

Mistranslating names can lead to dire consequences. Especially when it comes to dosing. Scarily, the FDA estimates more than one million people each year experience physical harm from medication misuse. This is why translating medical text requires a specialized translator trained to deal with medical vocabulary.

Units of Measurement

Even without the need for translation, measurement mistakes are easy to make. Parent medication administration error rates is an example of this issue. More than 40% of parent administrators make dosing errors involving oral liquid medications. Units of measure conversions can be difficult, so linguists have to be very careful when translating them. In some scenarios, conversions are necessary. Other times it is okay to leave the unit of measurement as is. In general, medicine and science utilize the metric system as it is more accurate. Hispanic countries also use the metric system, but U.S. citizens more commonly use non-metric units. It is of the utmost importance that medical translators are aware of who the target audience is (general population or scientists, for example) and the system used in particular countries. This helps them determine whether conversions are necessary or not.

New Terminology

The medical field is ever-changing. Progress is a good thing, except when it causes misunderstandings. Occasionally, there is not a recognized translation for a certain term. It is challenging for bilingual dictionaries to keep up with new concepts, technology, research, and medical terms. Many bilingual English-Spanish medical dictionaries are direct translations from English. They don’t always take into account the actual terminology used in the target language. 

Translators also have to be wary of what is known as “false friends”. These are words that sound very similar and appear to be the equivalent of two words in different languages. The word “severe” is an example of a false friend. Severo is a term in Spanish which means ‘strict, tough, harsh in treatment or punishment’ and describes the character of a person. But this word is easily confused with “severe”. A word that can have many meanings, such as grave, intense, or strong. Such as a severe pain, a severe blow to the head, or a severe problem. The English word “condition” serves as another example. In Spanish the word for condition can vary depending on the usage intended. When the word “condition” refers to a defective state of health, it is translated as enfermedad. When it refers to a particular state someone or something is in, it is translated as estado or situación. But at first glance, the Spanish word condición sounds like the proper word.

How Medical Translators Can Improve Accuracy

It is important that the medical translator keeps in mind the limitations of scientific and medical dictionaries. Some may find it necessary to purchase additional medical dictionaries to create a comprehensive knowledge base. Furthermore, skilled medical translators must read the latest journals and scientific papers to properly understand the current medical landscape, as well as recognize and translate new terms.