Errors in Medical Translation Can Seriously Damage Your Business ─ This is Why

Errors in Medical Document Translation Can Seriously Damage Your Business ─ This is Why

Medical Translation Services. Is there anything special about this type of translation? Is it exceptional, or out of the ordinary, in a way or another?

These are natural questions that usually pop up whenever we consider the vital role of medical document translation within the umbrella industry that encompasses medical, clinical, pharma, and healthcare businesses.

Let’s put it outright. The answer is a big yes. Some translation categories are more demanding than others; and one translation type is particularly special.  It is medical document translation.

Why? Again, it’s self-explanatory. In the case of medical document translation, the linguist is not translating a simple essay or a newspaper article, but he or she sometimes translates a medical diagnosis in which just one error may cost the life of a human being!

However, out of curiosity, we might wonder what kind of errors that could cost the lives of people.

Where Do Medical Document Translation Errors happen?

When it’s time to translate medical terms, the accuracy of translation is not just a requirement, but probably an issue of life or death. So, before giving a few concrete examples, let’s start with having a look at some of the areas where common mistakes in medical document translation usually happen.

1- Synonyms and Coined Terms

In the medical field, scientists, researchers, doctors, and other medical professionals consistently create new terms and words at a very fast rate so that it’s too difficult to keep medical dictionaries and references up to date. This often results in medical document translation errors. It’s hard for medical translators to follow through on every newly coined medical term. However, they need to do their best if they wish to be described as qualified ones.        

2-The Recurrent Problem of Abbreviation

This is one of the frequent issues that cause the majority of medical translation errors. The same term may often have multiple abbreviations whereas one abbreviation might also be used for various terms. This often puts translators in difficult situations. Yet, still, a qualified translator would always keep abreast of not only abbreviation updates but also of each new medical terminology.

3- The Tough Choice of Doctor or Translator?!

Medical institutions may sometimes take the shortcut of entrusting the translation to doctors, preferring text accuracy over text quality ─ a tactic that often backfires!

Based upon hands-on experience, translation errors are not only due to lack of knowledge of specific terminology but also to issues related to punctuation, syntax, and grammar – which means that outsourcing professional medical translation services is ultimately the right solution! 

4-The Dilemma of Go Literal or Go Creative!

It’s a real dilemma that has been creating intense controversy in the language services industry, especially in the field of healthcare, for decades. Translators are frequently advised not to translate word for word. On the other hand, medical industry experts usually advise the same translators against using much creativity and particularly against using “figurative language”, which might, they insist, do more harm than good.

All in all, Compromise and discretion are the only ways available for translators to meet this big challenge!

And now, it’s time to dive a little deeper and see some of the real mistakes which have happened and resulted in tragedies. Let’s take 2 examples only.

Poor Francisco, where are your kidneys?!

It happened 10 years ago in one of California’s hospitals. Francisco, a Spanish-speaking man was being operated upon. As he was regrettably bad at English and was not at that moment provided with any English-Spanish translation, he signed a document consenting to have his diseased kidney removed. The surgeons, alas, took out the good kidney, and then moved on to remove the diseased one, leaving poor Francisco with no kidneys at all. Kidneys matter!

Don’t’ Be Sad Sandra, It’s Benign!

Five years ago, Sandra, an elderly Macedonian who neither read Shakespeare nor understood the hits of Madonna, sought help for a tumor on her vestibular nerve.  She used a friend, instead of a professional interpreter, in the first consultation ─ who erroneously told her that her tumor was cancerous. The fact is, it wasn’t!

Later, a surgeon unintentionally damaged Sandra’s nerve during the surgery, resulting in palsy on one side of her face. However, Sandra also knew that the tumor was never malignant. Poor Sandra, you should have used a professional interpreter!

And now, given how tragic the consequences of these translation mistakes could be, how on earth can companies avoid and prevent them?

How to Prevent Medical Document Translation Errors?

After 12 years of helping big brands in the medical, clinical and healthcare industry, we’d like to give medical companies a few tips about how to avoid medical document translation mistakes

1-Provide Good Source Content!

Ideally, there’s an important job for a medical business to do before they submit the translation project to their medical translation services partner. To carefully prepare their source files!

You’re supposed to provide your translation agency with source files that are comprehensive, concise, and perfectly proofread. Otherwise, they will waste a lot of precious time and effort in fixing your source material errors!

2-No Machine Translation for Medical Documents!

Will a successful healthcare provider use free online translation tools to have their medical reports and documents translated? Since the answer is big no, let’s move on to the next point!

3-Go to the Experts!

It’s logical that a successful company in the medical, clinical, pharma, and healthcare industry will not deal with amateurs, but will partner with a professional medical translation services vendor. This agency will certainly deliver accurate translation with high quality.

However, we have not yet drawn the outlines of what this professional medical translation services provider looks like. Let’s see!

What Does the Right Medical Translation Services Provider Look Like?

When you need to have one of your teeth filled, you’ll go to a dentist, not a gynecologist. Further, you’ll be looking for the best dentist in town, won’t you?! So, we, at AfroLingo, have a few tips for you to select the right medical translation services partner. Here they are.

1- Passionately Search for the Best!

Don’t take it easy. It’s tough.

You have to search for a medical document translation vendor with rock-solid experience in translating a broad diversity of medical content. Don’t go for a great translation agency with great expertise in translating, say, legal or technical materials.  

Also, you need to have a full picture of the translation process that this company follows. Select the translation vendor that has put in place a rigorous quality assurance system. Further, you should have an idea about this company’s turnaround time. Faster is better provided that speed goes with quality! And, prices matter. Continue searching until you settle for the most competitive price.  

2- ISO Certification

Back to quality assurance, you should choose a provider of medical document translation with relevant ISO certification, preferably ISO 17100, which means that this company has the resources, processes, and business methods that enable them to deliver high-quality services.

3-Project Manager is Essential

Since the area of medical translations needs a high standard of accuracy and precision, you have to select the translation services vendor that provides you with a project manager dedicated to your project.

And now that you have a rough idea about what a good medical translation services provider may look like, let’s see why hundreds of medical businesses choose the shining brand ─ AfroLingo?

Why AfroLingo?

A South Africa-based localization services company, we deliver medical translation services in South Africa and Kenya into almost all major African, European, and Asian languages.

The medical industry is our first specialty. Hundreds of big companies in the pharmaceutical, medical, clinical, life sciences, biotech, and medical devices rely on AfroLingo to provide them with a clear, accurate translation of their high-value medical content.

All of these top-notch clients put their trust in our quality translation which is guaranteed by our rigorous quality assurance system and our ISO 17100 certification. They choose us also for our fast turnaround time and affordable, competitive prices.

Last but not least, we, at AfroLingo, take pride in our highly qualified, in-country, medical industry-specific team that comprises expert translators engaged in the medical field on a daily basis, with extensive, hands-on experience in the medical industry.

At AfroLingo, your medical translations are in good hands. Contact us today for a free quote.