The quality of Medical Translation
The quality of medical translation is a complex issue because, in addition to accuracy and proper language use, it includes factors such as customer satisfaction and compliance with contractual requirements, and is mainly determined by the type of text, function and expectations associated with the translation. The quality assurance of medical translation includes designing effective management methods for detecting errors, testing readability and commissioning appropriately competent professionals who can perform medical translation. Consequently, one of the critical problems seems to be what qualifications (and training) are required for professional medical text translators, and what steps can be taken to ensure the appropriate quality of the translation. There are no generally applied instructions for medical translation or interpreter training, however, there are recommendations developed by the translators’ associations to support translators and their clients.
Qualifications of medical translators and interpreters
Specific qualifications that must be required for medical translators and interpreters are subject to debate, and there are disputes regarding medical or pharmaceutical versus linguistic) education of medical translators. However, it is indisputable that processing a medical translation requires certain skills.
According to international standards, medical documents should be translated by professionals who have a native or near native language, a formal level of language skills, analytical capabilities, and profound cultural knowledge in the input and output languages. At least, a systematic education at the college level in relation to the two of these languages, preferably including translation theory and practice. Such professional medical translators should have expert knowledge of the terminology of the topic, understand the source text, have writing skills and appropriate skills in using specialized, professional dictionaries and glossaries. Their professional expertise should also include the ability to conduct a study of terminology.
Translation of medical texts, just like translating any other text, requires writing skills, while writing is usually not the main feature of medical curricula, and does not apply to the translation strategy. Even though this is still widely debated, linguistic skill seems to be necessary because the target text produced by a physician without theoretical training in a medical letter may be sufficiently unfavorable for the reader.
The possession of a medical translator with medical language and writing skills should also include a range of genres and registers. The translator must be able to transmit medical information to patients in a way that will contribute to understanding, i.e. not using unnecessary jargon, complex syntax or a rarely used dictionary. Translation of documents that are written for medical professionals, on the other hand, requires a certain terminology, typical for such texts, created in the output language. Therefore, the linguistic competence of an translator includes general and specialized languages.
One reason why it would be unrealistic to expect that each medical text will be translated by a medical professional with ideal language knowledge is that there will always be more medical translations than can be handled by relatively few doctors who translate and medical translation will be necessarily done not doctors. On the other hand, the level of expertise required to understand the source text can also be so high that cooperation with a professional who specializes in this particular area may be necessary. There is no doubt that a medical interpreter must have some knowledge of medicine to make sure that the message is transmitted without distortion, which is one of the critical problems in interlanguage and intercultural communication.
The validity of a medical translation shows that translators must assume exclusive responsibility for the quality and accuracy of medical translations. In the absence of a medical translation certification system, medical translators themselves must decide whether they are qualified enough to perform specialized translation tasks. On the other hand, it seems that both the medical worker and the medically knowledgeable linguist can successfully translate medical texts if he has sufficient skills, training and experience. An ideal model would involve medical professionals editing texts translated by linguists and linguists editing texts translated by medical professionals, as the quality of the medical translation can be guaranteed through the implementation of special standards or error control procedures to support competent translators.