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Doctor working at office deskNot too long ago, we helped a time-crunched client who was traveling abroad. He needed to expedite his passport and was in a huge hurry to get medical documents translated and certified. We got down to work and in the end, we were able to provide Gustavo with exactly what he needed.

Keep in mind that the time crunch didn’t give us a license to rush the work.

In all translation jobs, paying attention to detail, context and nuance is high on the list. In medical translations, it’s way at the top of the list. After all, an incorrect translation can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Translating medical documents can be tough. To start with, medical jargon is complicated, and translating it from one language to another requires a very specific skill set. The translator needs to have a qualified medical background in order to understand medical abbreviations, idiomatic expressions, connotations, lexical meaning, terminology and syntax.

Even the slightest mistake can result in serious consequences for everyone involved. In a recent study, authors told of an instruction manual that was improperly translated. The original English text read “non-modular cemented prostheses”, but when translated to German it read, “prosthetics that don’t require cement”. As a result, 47 prosthetics were incorrectly implanted without cement.

When looking for the best medical translator for your budget, be sure to ask these questions:

  1. Is the translator a native or fluent speaker of the language you’re translating to? An answer of ‘yes’ goes a long way toward ensuring that the translation is properly localized and that the intent and integrity of the message remain intact.
  2. How many people will be involved in the translation? Ideally, there should be a native or fluent speaker for the translation, and a local medical expert to proofread the translation.
  3. What research tools will the translator use? Books, dictionaries, leaflets and brochures are key, as are specialized software, and the brainpower of other people.
  4. How strong is the translator’s medical knowledge? Short answer: it should be in-depth. Whatever field you’re working in – whether it’s pharmaceuticals, psychiatry or pediatrics – the translator must be well versed in standard terminologies.

So, if it’s such a hard and demanding job, why exactly do we continue to do it?

That’s an easy answer: Language is one of those things that can bring people together, or tear them apart. We are living in a time of widespread migration the world over, as people escape famine, gangs, wars and persecution of all sorts. When lives are upended like this, it falls on the translator to do all that is possible to ensure a smooth transition, both for the refugee and for the people providing shelter and medical care. We consider it an honor and a privilege to help in every way imaginable.