Medical Translations

Medical translation is the translation of documents within the pharmaceutical, healthcare or medical device fields. This includes translation of technical, regulatory, clinical or marketing documentation such as Summaries of Product Characteristics (SmPCs) and Patient Information Leaflets (PILs).

The process requires linguistic skills, specific training and subject matter knowledge in order to translate medical content because of the technical, sensitive and regulated nature of the medical texts in the regulatory documents. To get a good result it is therefore important to include both a linguistic expert and a medical expert in the translation process.

The translator must have a full understanding of the source and target texts and of what the author intends to say and who the recipient is. Furthermore, there are often very specific regulatory and technical requirements for medical texts, which mean that the translator needs to have an understanding of the procedures within the area.

Steps in the translation process include:

  • Translation – the conversion of the source language text to the target language text
  • Editing – reading and revision to assure adherence to approved terminology and the proper style and voice
  • Proofreading – this ensures that the formatted translation displays correctly with no corrupted text, has proper punctuation and line and page breaks are correct
  • In-country review – a native-speaking expert reviews the translation to ensure that it meets all specifications and product or therapy specifics

Medical texts are full of potential pitfalls, which must be identified by the translator. In many cases medical texts are very complicated, and there is no reason to complicate them further by deviating from the normal terms used within the specific area, or by letting the source language syntax influence the target language. Although it is essential to stay true to the source text it is absolutely necessary to make sure that the target text uses the target language syntax and terms. Therefore, in case of English-Danish translations, a word-for-word translation from English should be avoided, and instead focus should be on creating a correct Danish text. The following English/Danish points are among those which should be considered in this connection:

  • Preliminary subjects:  Preliminary subjects are used much more in Danish than in English. The English sentence ‘Clinical studies on fertility have not been performed’ would therefore be translated into ‘Der er ikke udført kliniske fertilitetsstudier’ rather than ‘Kliniske fertilitetsstudier er ikke udført’.
  • Incomplete sentences: In English it is very common to use the present and past participle and not to use an auxiliary verb, e.g. ‘Patients treated with X have reported the following side effects”. This sentence structure is not normal in Danish, and therefore this should be translated as ‘De patienter, der blev behandlet med X, har indberettet følgende bivirkninger’ rather than ‘Patienter behandlet med X…’ The same is the case for ‘Combined excretion in human urine was less than 1%, indicating biliary excretion’ which should be translated as ‘Den samlede udskillelse i human urin var mindre end 1 %, hvilket indikerer biliær udskillelse’ rather than ‘Den samlede udskillelse i human urin var mindre end 1 %, indikerende biliær udskillelse’. 

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