Medical Translation: how many types are there? | Stillman Translations
Medical Translation: how many types are there?

Coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2? Measles or rubella? Thorax or chest? Finding the right terminology for medical terms can be a difficult in our first language. Can you imagine having to convert them into an entirely different language? Thankfully, that is what the experts are for. However, the quest to hire the right medical translation professional can be quite daunting.

Coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2? Measles or rubella? Thorax or chest? Finding the right terminology for medical terms can be a difficult in our first language. Can you imagine having to convert them into an entirely different language? Thankfully, that is what the experts are for. However, the quest to hire the right medical translation professional can be quite daunting. To guide you in your search, this article covers the must-knows of different types of medical translation. 

Medical Translation Media Types 

As with other types of translation, medical translation has different characteristics depending on its media: are you looking to translate medical documents, clinical data, or medical software interfaces? Or are you looking to create multilingual digital marketing content for your medical institution or product? All of these different types of platforms may be equally translated and localized.  

When working with a specialized language services partner, the quality of the end product should meet the client’s expectations. What will differ in each case is the approach to the project. With medical documents, the focus will be on using the terminology that communicates the same source message in the target language. This can be easily solved through the use of translation memories, glossaries and the supervision of linguists specialized in the medical field. 

As for other media, such as software interfaces or clinical data, your translation partner will need to have more advanced technical capabilities. In order to integrate the complexities of design, file formats and language precision, we may turn to tools such as project management software and other automated systems. The key in these cases is to ensure that the translation partner is brought in to the development process early on.  

Types of Medical Translation 

There are many different types of medical translations. When choosing a translation specialist, you’ll need to ensure that they have proven experience in the relevant field of knowledge. A research paper on anesthesiology will require a very different linguistic expertise than an immunology study, or a text about a new drug for the pulmonology field or a monitoring device for surgery wards. These are some of the subjects Stillman Translations can assist you with: 

  • Cardiology 
  • Dermatology 
  • Emergency Medicine 
  • Genetics 
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology 
  • Oncology 
  • Ophthalmology 
  • Pediatrics 
  • Psychiatry 

Medical Document Types 

The complexities of medical translation are not only limited to determining fields of expertise and/or media formats. There is also a wide variety of documents — both print and electronic — you may not be fully aware of when planning to go multilingual. Whether you are running a healthcare center or hospital, a medical research team or a pharmaceutical company, the need for communicating with speakers of other languages can become pressing. In each of these cases, the types of documents involved can be hard to list in full.  

Before selecting a language services provider, you may want to prepare by considering the following examples: 

  • Scientific Journal Articles 
  • Multimedia Marketing Content  
  • Software and Hardware Manuals
  • Corporate Websites and Portals 
  • Packaging 
  • Labels 
  • Brochures 
  • Dossiers 
  • Test Reports 
  • Clinical Trial Reports 
  • Case Report Forms  
  • Patient Information 
  • Clinical Protocol Documents
  • Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) 
  • Protocols 
  • Drug Registration Documents 
  • Questionnaires 
  • Informed Consent Forms 
  • Material Supplier Contracts 
  • Pharmacological Studies 
  • Training Documents and Videos 
  • Data Sheets 
  • Induction Manuals 
  • Medical Staff Contracts 
  • Regulatory Audit Documents 
  • Legal and Regulation Documents 
  • Manufacturing Process Descriptions 

Medical Communication Types 

An added layer of complexity in medical translation is the wide variety of contexts or interactions where medical knowledge is used. These can range from highly specialized research teams discussing their cutting-edge discoveries to healthcare professionals (including doctors, nurses, practitioners, associates, suppliers, etc.) having daily interactions at their workplace to patients sharing medical information with friends and family.  

In each of these situations, the same conditions are discussed in very different terms. This variation is referred to as differences in “register”, which can range from more technical or scientific to more colloquial language. Translation manuals divide registers into four types: research, professional, educational and commercial.   

In English alone, there are sometimes dozens of synonyms for the same medical term. Take for example, the word “measles” which refers to exactly the same condition as the words “rubella” and “morbilli.” In medical translation, understanding which term belongs to each register is essential. Because of this complexity, medical translators and linguists need to be very thorough in identifying the register they are faced with. This may sound simpler than it is in practice, as different registers are often mixed in different situations.  

In any given case, the translator will need to find the right terminology to create a similar effect in the target language, while also ensuring scientific accuracy and ethical responsibility. This is why, when trusting your medical translation to a third party, we are sure you wouldn’t want to be in the dark about the complexities involved.  

How to manage your medical translation project 

One more tip for the road: timing is of the essence. If your medical information is likely to be translated or localized into other languages, make sure to contact your language service providers as early as possible. This will help them give you a smoother, more efficient service and it will give them time to assign the right specialist to your project. 

Also, make sure you have identified your “types” in advance. You can save a lot time and work by informing your LSP about the medical field, media type and document list before they even quote their services.  

We hope this overview of medical communication and medical translation types can help you prepare for your translation project and save you more than a headache!