Medical Translator Specialisation - How?
Thread poster: Luke Acreman

Luke Acreman
Local time: 23:55
Jul 4, 2011

Hey all,

I'm studying Italian/Chinese (Mandarin) at university and want to enter into the translating/interpreting industry (I haven't decided which as of yet).

My goal is to specialize in the medical field, however I don't know how! In saying I don't know how I mean I literally don't quite understand how to specialize in any given field!

I've attempted the good ol' google search, however I can't seem to find the right information.

So.. How do you specialise in the medical field (or any other field for that matter) as a translator/interpreter?

Thanks for the time guys,


P.S. I'm studying at the University of Queensland in Australia, if this helps at all??

[Edited at 2011-07-04 12:47 GMT]


Andreas Majetic  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
Member (2010)
English to Swedish
The natural way Jul 4, 2011

Is to educate yourself in the medical field. Take courses. That's how I specialized myself (although I actually planned on working in the medical industry as well...).

Usually when you're a medical translator I guess you have some kind of education or have worked in the field so you know the general concept.


Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 15:55
English to Russian
+ ...
You need at least some medical education Jul 4, 2011

In any specialized translations, a good knowledge of the subject is even more important than a good knowledge of the language. So, in your case, you need to study biology and/or medicine. Nobody is forcing you to take exams and obtain degrees, but you need to know the subject at the level of a nurse or an advanced paramedic.

[Edited at 2011-07-04 14:45 GMT]


Eliza Wright
United States
Local time: 08:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
Medical Specialization Jul 4, 2011

Here, in the U.S., we are establishing medical interpreting as a specific field. We have a great number of LEP patients and LEP families with children who are patients. Some hospitals have their own staff of medical interpreters for those languages that are most needed. For the languages used less frequently, they outsource to agencies for interpreters to come in to the hospital, telephone interpreters, and video interpreters (relatively new). So, of course, here we have those types of agencies and services.

Currently, we have two national certification efforts. Soon, only interpreters who are certified will be able to interpret except in the case of emergency such as when there are a limited number of people who are able to speak a language.

There are two programs in our state that where you can study interpreting and specialize in legal or medical interpreting. Currently, there is no requirement to receive a certificate from either program, but it certainly helps.

Here is a link to other programs (in the U.S.).

If there is nothing like this where you are, you might try volunteering at a hospital. We are often asked to translate discharge instructions, so you could start with that if you have a sample. It is really a kind of technical writing. Also, there are various kinds of resource materials available on-line. Something like, what to do when you are having X kind of surgery... Those things are written for a general audience and you can familiarize yourself with specialized vocabulary by translating them.

I think it is very important to make and maintain your own glossary of medical terms as you come across them. As an interpreter, I include expressions that are very regional or colloquial. The other day, for example, I ran across one that referred to a specific native Mexican (maybe Nahuatl or Maya) belief. The word was Spanish and it sounded like embolism, but it referred to something completely different. So, as boring as this sounds, it can be an adventure.

If you can, at your university, you might take a class in medical terminology. I hope this has given you some ideas. Good luck in your adventure!


Eman Sawan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
English to Arabic
+ ...
One way that could help Jul 5, 2011

It would be better to specialize in medcal field if your studies or your work was close to it , it saves time and makes you familiar with the vocabulary however ,one way that may help you a lot is reading the drugs' pamphlets ,they are usually written in many languages , and can be a very good practice if you translate them .
Good Luck


Sibylle de Schmidt  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Easy steps to start Sep 7, 2011

Very low key - Wikipedia, look for diseases, drugs, health institutions, clinical studies, study design, statistics etc.,
also below in the sources are useful links to more specified fields,
click for information in different languages

Medical terminology course - I think, very important

FDA and EMA websites


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:55
Hebrew to English
Look for universities with specialised courses... Sep 7, 2011

There's also the option of looking into postgraduate courses in translation/interpreting that have a specialisation as a main component.

I've seen MA's in Technical Translation for sure...

Also after a quick google search I've seen various Medical Interpreter Training Programs (as well as other specialisations)/


Andrei Galochkin
Russian Federation
Local time: 16:55
English to Russian
+ ...
special textbooks Sep 10, 2011

It's very difficult, almost impossible, to give an accurate equivalent to foreign medical term without special education. All of my colleagues in medical translation field have a medical education. Therefore, my suggestion as a physician is to choose a narrow field (for example, anesthesiology) and find some good textbook (e.g. G. Edward Morgan, Jr., Maged S. Mikhail, Michael J. Murray. Clinical Anesthesiology) to become familiar with the subject. Of course, it’s only idea how to start.


Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:55
English to German
+ ...
Forget.. Sep 10, 2011

Forget going to a language school first, but work say then years in a medical profession, then learn the other languages. That's in fact the other way around.


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