Medical Translation – Requirements, Categories and Examples

January 12, 2021

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Medical Translation is one of the most important types of Specialized Translation. Unlike other different types of translations, it focus on subject matter experts to translate the content of medical texts. In medical translation, the language used should be as clear as it can be to avoid possible misunderstanding.

Medical translations should not be considered a general translation, cause it often consists of delicate information, way more delicate information than general texts has. The semantic differences within the translations may cause big time.

In medical translations, small mistakes can cause big risks and, therefore, a medical translator should be careful of what he is doing and must be conscious of the risk that he may cause.

Medical Translation – Requirements, Categories and Examples

Medical Translation Requirements

Now that we understand the importance of medical translation, lets look at the main Requirements that a Medical Translator should focus on if we wants to be good at the job:


1. Knowledge of Latin Language

Medical language is based on Latin, so it is preferable to work with a translator that has some solid education on this language.

In medical translation, the translated text should be as clear as it can be, so it is very important to understand the mother language of medical terms.


2. Technical Medical Knowledge

Having the knowledge to translate medical terms is essential. Medical translation requires highly technical and delicate medical knowledge because words that we use commonly and daily may mean something very different in a medical text.

Lots of abbreviations and medical specific terms are used. Thus, the translator needs to know the terminology that is required. Before beginning to translate it’s a better idea to do some medical literature review.

A Medical Translator might also be required to have a medical translator certification, that means it is well versed in Latin and in Technical Medical Knowledge.


3. Must know his Audience

It is also important to know the audience of the translated document. For instance, a drug description translation may differ whether it is translated for commercial purposes or translated for a doctor.

The language the translator uses must not be the same. For a commercial purpose, a simple and attractive tone would be enough, but it is not the best way to translate it for a doctor.


4. Avoid Ambiguity on the Target Language

The translator must do his best to avoid ambiguity. For example, the word ‘’drug’’ in English mean two different things in Turkish. ‘’Uyuşturucu’’ which means narcotics and ‘’İlaç’’ which means pill.

The translator should be conscious of the context. It is also necessary to proofread the translation before delivery to avoid possible mistakes.


5. Knowledge of Laws and Regulations

This is one of the most important requirements in Medical Translation, because some countries have strict regulations about drug approval and other medical procedures.

It is very important to take these details into consideration. A detail may cause a delay on the drug approval or even cause rejection. For such reasons, the translator must know necessary information about regulations and applicable laws.


6. Real-Time Translation Capabilities

Medical translation can also be used verbally. As an example, a tourist may need to seek medical attention during vacation or a doctor might need his speech translated when assisting a congress or a conference in another country.

Because of medical congresses and conferences, countries are in need of oral translation services alongside document translation. As health tourism is a developing matter, it also makes medical translation more necessary.

It’s also a necessity to get medical translation services to keep abreast of the latest developments on medical research in different countries.


7. Must avoid Machine Translation

For medical translation services, the most important thing is to translate the medical text 100% manually. It’s not a wise decision to use machine translation on a medical translation process. Machine translation may be able to help you translate the main idea, but keep in mind it is not meant to be used when translating specialized terminology, like the one used in a medical text.

As there are no personal thoughts and comments in the medical text, it is not necessary to be creative. Also, it is not necessary to be a doctor to translate a medical document. But it is crucial to receive decent education on how to translate medical documents.

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Medical Translation Categories

Let’s take a look at some of the most common Medical Translation sub-categories. It is hard to choose which are the most important or risky ones to translate, cause even the smallest mistake in translating any of them may potentially cause an accident:

  • Medical reports
  • Test results
  • Prescription: A small mistake in the translation can cause an overdose, so it is one of the most critical Medical Translation Categories.
  • Instructions for medical patents and medical stuff
  • Epicrisis reports
  • Pharmaceutical translation, which can also be referred as pharma translation, includes the translation of instruction for how to use a medicine or a pill. This is one of the delicate translation type among others.
  • Translations of clinical trials and clinical investigations
  • Medical thesis translation
  • Translations of medical certificates
  • Biomedical translation
  • Medical microbiology translation
  • Translation of clinical trials: This may be the longest of all medical translation. They may take months or even years to complete. Which means, a smallest mistake can go all the time and energy for nothing.
Medical Translation – Requirements, Categories and Examples

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Why does Medical Translation Matter?

When it comes to health and medicine, language barriers must never be an issue. Here is an example: Almost a quarter of the population in the US does not speak English. It would be scary to not be able to get a medical treatment when these people feel unwell, don’t you think so? In addition, studies show that patients who communicate in their native language are more likely to respond better to a treatment.

Want to know about the 3 Major types of Specialized Translation?

Healthcare is a human right, so does the medical translation. And it must be accessible for everyone. It makes everyone feel safe and comfortable when the recommended medical treatment is available in the patient own language. This would not be possible without medical translation.


Thanks for staying until the end! If you want to find more free articles on this and other translation topics like: Legal Document Translations, immigration or Language online learning please refer to our Blog.

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1 Comment. Leave new

Charlie Bavister
February 13, 2021 7:39 pm

This is really a piece of great information on medical translation. Medical Translation is very important and can be very helpful in establishing better communication.

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