Key Challenges in Medical Translation

September 22, 2023

Medical translation plays a crucial role in communicating medical knowledge and information and promoting and sustaining public health. Health professional can provide necessary treatment to their patients who speak another language with the help of translated medical reports, while medical researchers’ efforts in disseminating findings on treatment, technology and vaccine development can escalate through translation.

Acronyms and abbreviations can be a pain in the neck

Anyone who has received a medical prescription or instruction has probably noticed that medical documentation often contains acronyms and abbreviations of medical terms,  such as names of therapies (e.g. transurethral laser-induced prostatectomy), and diseases, (e.g. liautosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease), which patients find it difficult to understand. However, some of the acronyms and abbreviations are not translated in other languages, especially in non-English speaking countries and regions, which is just the reason why a specialist translator is essential in assisting provision of medical services. A translator without medical knowledge is likely to choose a wrong full-form term to a medical acronym and abbreviation.

Medical technology is evolving rapidly

The healthcare technology is changing in the blink of an eye, with which healthcare professionals feel overwhelmed to catch up, let alone those who are not working in this field. Thousands of technologies, equipment and medicines, along with other innovations emerge every day to meet global medical needs amid the continuous evolution of diseases and the prolonged life expectancy, especially during the pandemic that swept the world in past years. Medical translators are therefore required to keep abreast of the times and the latest development of the medical field to understand the new terminologies.

Target audiences varies greatly

Who are your readers? That’s always one of the questions to ask before you start to write. This rule applies to medical translators as well. There are different types of practitioners/service recipients in the medical field and it is therefore vital for the translators to ensure that the rendered work properly delivers the messages toward target readers. For example, medical experts would expect complex and professional terminology, whereas instructions to patients have to be written in less specialised terms. Whether it shall be worded as “Varicella” or, in other words, “Chicken Pox” will depend on whether it is a layman who receives the document.

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