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Off topic: The eternal dilemma for the medical translator - how do others cope?
Thread poster: liz askew
liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Jul 7, 2009

Hello fellow medical translators

No matter how long I have been in this job I still get frustrated!

Yes, I have many years' experience as a linguist, yes I have many years' experience working with medical terminology, both in the translation and interpreting fields, but hey, have you ever received one of your proofread translations littered with errors (OK mostly verb tense errors, but also terminology ones)?

Well, this has just happened to me. May I say, for the first time:-) Seriously.

Admittedly I had never, ever dealt with the subject (Odontology and Implantology) and it concerned a clinical study (I had only ever translated one of these before).

Call me irresponsible, yes, I don't think I should have taken this on, as an afterthought. Seriously, though, I accept all types of medical translation work and this is the worst one I have ever done/come across. You may say I should specialise in one or two fields, but the problem is is that the clients I work for send me all types of medical stuff to translate. Also, you probably all know how difficult it is to keep receiving medical translations in exactly the same field:-)

To set your minds at rest (and mine) I have told this client that it would be best not to ask me to translate Clinical Study/Odontology-related medical texts again, and of course I apologised to her for my cock-ups.

The other thing that always nags me at the back of my mind is that no matter how much medical experience I have, [and as I said, I DO have this], I don't have any medical training as such, and don't have a family background with any doctors:-). How many of us actually do?

Kind regards
Liz Askew





[Edited at 2009-07-07 09:17 GMT]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
Italian to English
+ ...
Confused Jul 7, 2009

You littered the translation with errors, or the reviser littered it with errors that you hadn't put in to start with?

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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
My errors not the reviser's Jul 7, 2009

To clarify:-)

Liz


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Fran Cesca
Italy
Local time: 05:22
English to Italian
+ ...
Medical translations Jul 7, 2009

Dear Liz,

I understand you, I am a medical translator too, with lot of experience and no medical background...Actually I think that Odontology and Implantology is the worst field to deal with, a real pain for me and fortunately I do not work in that field so frequently....Also there is to add that in Italy there is no reliable medical dictionnary to use, in my opinion the only one available is completely useless.

How do I cope with this? I try to see all the medical dramas on TV to improve my vocabulary (I know that some of them are not reliable at all:() and I try to keep updated as much as possible reading any kind of medical materials I am able to find on the net and publications.

For the rest each time that I deal with an 'uncommon' topic I double-triple-quadruple check all the terms and choose the most frequent ones googling a little and the ones mentioned by 'official' sources. Plus I have the chance to know many doctors to refer to in case of urgent need.

Good luck for your future projects,
Francesca


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Plus I have the chance to know many doctors to refer to in case of urgent need. Jul 7, 2009

Hello Francesca

Thanks for your answer!

Lucky you!.. I am fortunate enough to receive answers from doctors who use the Proz site and who are translators too...don't know what I would do otherwise.

I am one of those people who search and search for terminology [hence my many contributions on Proz] but there are some terms only a doctor knows:-) this is the eternal dilemma, but, hey, I can live with it

Bye for now!

Liz


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 13:22
Japanese to English
Group learning opportunity? Jul 7, 2009

Hi Liz

I don't know if the sort of relationship you have with the client would permit this, but it seems like an opportunity to learn about a field that you're not currently familiar with.

If there's a reviewer who knows about it, surely it would be in everybody's interest to get you teamed up with that person. Presumably the demand for those kind of translations is not going to go away, and the client may not have anybody else to turn to.

While you often hear the advise to specialize, it may not actually be possible or desirable. Apologizing for turning in something unacceptable is no doubt the right thing to do, but following up with a suggestion for an improvement would also make you look good.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Group learning opportunity? Jul 7, 2009

Hello Rod

I see you are a person who is pretty positive and not easily discouraged!

Well, the client you mention does sometimes ask me to do "stuff" I am not necessarily well-qualified to do, but as you say, maybe they have nobody else to ask!! Certainly Odontology is a difficult area and this was my first experience of it....I did apologise to the client and they told me not to worry in the slightest, in fact I even suggested they pay me half the amount due, but they wouldn''t accept the idea:-)

So, as long as they do send me other work I believe things will work out. [I have been working for them for over a year and this was the first translation which contained an unacceptable number of errors].

I take your point about not having the medical translators available to do minority areas; time permitting I would put myself forward for teaming up with this proofreader and learning from him/her. Trouble is I have loads of job offers at the moment and have just been taken on by a client in Israel who was pleased with my French into English work, and another one in Paris....

My policy is one of honesty, so hopefully my Sp-En client will take heed of my comments and just send me work which is more in "my area". In the meantime, we shall see.

I think there must be a lack of medical translators worldwide:-)

Bye
Liz

[Edited at 2009-07-07 11:25 GMT]


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
French to English
I can help Jul 7, 2009

Hi Liz,

I was an (Emergency Room) Doctor for several years in the 1990s.

Feel free to ask whenever you have any medical questions.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Ken! Jul 7, 2009

Hello there Ken!

Nice to know you would help me out!

I do post queries on Proz too, so please look out for those.

But, if I have too many queries, I will send you one now and again.

Thank you again!

Liz


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Ken Fagan  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
French to English
please don't be cross with me Jul 7, 2009

Hi Liz,

Truth be told, it was George (not I) who was an ER Doctor in the 1990s:-)

What else?


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Elizabeth Joy Pitt de Morales  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's a big topic Jul 7, 2009

Hi Liz,

I used to be a Certified Medical Assistant and I worked for several years in a clinic specializing in treating complex neurological disorders...the program I worked in was designed exclusively for people with multiple complex medical issues. I also spent years paying my husband's way through university working the night shift as a medical transcriptionist for the local VA hospital (they treat lots of different kinds of medical problems). Even after all of this, I still have problems with medical translations.

In fact, I'd rather translate just about anything - anything at all - than a medical report:-)

It's a big field and I don't think that you should feel bad in the slightest about your last translation.

Luckily, like you, I have lots of job offers in other fields. Nowadays, I only take on medical translations if they don't look too complicated, it's a favorite client, or I'm in a rather masochistic mood.

Life is too short to suffer while you work!


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:22
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Who the hell is George? and Ken for that matter? Jul 7, 2009

Dear Ken, George or whoever you are,

I have just looked at your profile (should have done it earlier)...

I fail to see the point of your contribution...sure I can take a joke, but it all seems a bit weird offering to help somebody when you are just joking?

What is going on here?
L


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chica nueva
Local time: 17:22
Chinese to English
The eternal dilemma ... Jul 7, 2009

[ The eternal dilemma of the good translator ... is "Have I been too 'free' here?"
http://sicilyscene.blogspot.com/2009/01/et-maintenant-plus-bit-of-rant.html
(Warning, it's a translator's blog, and it's about translation ...) ]

Hi Liz

'George Clooney, from E.R. I presume' ... Did you realise you have posted this as 'Off Topic'? ...

Lesley

[Edited at 2009-07-07 12:29 GMT]


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Silvina Matheu  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:22
Member
English to Spanish
Training and feedback Jul 7, 2009

Hi Liz,

I am also a translator without any medical background. Although I started medical translation only after working with physicians, many times I feel at a loss when facing certain texts, particularly clinical trials, about topics that are so new that you cannot find any reliable information in Spanish, and of course, a physician is not always available to help us.

The way I cope with this? The one that has proved the best for me is attending workshops and seminars by physicians or experienced medical translators, where I have had the opportunity to learn those things one can never find in a dictionary. I keep all my notes and the hand-outs as reference material. Another way is to receive feedback from medical editors, although this is not so frequent among agencies. And certainly, as you say, a good research is indispensable and reading reliable texts on the same topic is very very useful. This is all I can do.

Good luck.

Silvina


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:22
Italian to English
+ ...
George Clooney Jul 7, 2009

liz askew wrote:

Dear Ken, George or whoever you are,

I have just looked at your profile (should have done it earlier)...

I fail to see the point of your contribution...sure I can take a joke, but it all seems a bit weird offering to help somebody when you are just joking?

What is going on here?
L


Ken's photo is of George Clooney, Liz - who first came to fame as a doctor in the US TV series "ER". I guess he assumed you'd realise he was joking just by looking at his picture.


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