How to break into Japanese to English Medical Translation
Thread poster: Maurice Skinner

Maurice Skinner
Japan
Local time: 04:53
Japanese to English
Aug 1

Hello everyone,

I have been a Japanese - English freelance translator for the past few years, but have recently started taking it more seriously. I've always had an interest in medical work, though my knowledge is quite limited. Below are questions I have;

As a complete beginner in the world of medical translation, where should I start?
Are there courses that you would recommend I take?
What are some of the best ways to gain work in order to gain experience?
Are there practice documents I could work on in order to improve my translation skill?

Right now I am taking a self learning course through www.thekanjifoundrylearning.com. I was wondering if anyone had any experience using this site as well?

Thank you so much in advance.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:53
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Several questions in one Aug 1

Maurice Skinner wrote:
As a complete beginner in the world of medical translation, where should I start?

Maurice, I think you might have discouraged potential respondents by having multiple questions, some related to areas of specialization, and explicitly linked to the rather niche JP-EN language pair! Perhaps you can edit the title to remove the reference to Japanese (not sure if that is possible).

I can't really help with medicine, but my understanding is that that www.thekanjifoundrylearning.com is run by a genuine and very experienced JP-EN translator (a Brit, as it happens). So keep on with that, maybe.

Regards,
Dan


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
a couple of remarks Aug 2

1) Is there really a niche--enough unique medical content in Japanese?
2) Are you prepared* and serious* enough to translate touch-and-go issues, where errs may kill?
3) Are there any style-guides for a specific audience?
4) Unlike a translator with some medical background, how about a decent (medical) specialist with language skills? What about (non-) related fields?


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:53
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Medical translation requires specialist knowledge for any language pair Aug 2

While it is true that errors in medical translation can kill, don't get superstitious about it. Knowing your own limitations is a good start.

You drive a car - errors can kill. Buildings collapse, you can have an accident on the best-planned holiday activity... Life is dangerous, and errors can kill.
With due care and respect for what you are doing, you should not make errors in translation, and with proofreaders (here I mean proofreaders, who check for typos, misplaced commas and tiny details, not editors and revisers who worry about style...) the errors are reduced as far as possible.

Read handbooks for medical students and examination guides. There are plenty in English! As a translator you don't absolutely need to know enough about medicine to practice, but make sure you really understand the source text, and do not be afraid to ask the client for help with details or ambiguities.

Medical language is a very special domain, even with two closely related languages like Danish and English, with a lot of Latin involved in medical Danish, which is not necessarily the same in English.

What the situation is like with Japanese I cannot begin to imagine, but you need to study the language and linguistics used as well as the underlying medicine, and how Japanese practice differs from your target readers' practice. Professional cultures if you like.

I too came to translation with a history of not making it to medical school, along a very roundabout route, to medical translation. I worked with patients for a time in the home-care services, in a very humble job, but it did give me some insights to build on.
When I had taken my general diploma, I found language-specific training in medical translation very useful - with a guide to the Danish Medicines Agency's website, which has a lot of material in English, and how to use the EEC websites.

How far Japanese equivalents exist, I don't know, but it is very possibly a niche that is not overcrowded, so colleagues may be willing to help you rather than regarding you as an unwanted competitor.

There are a few thoughts, though I can't give any specific help, I am afraid! Best of luck!


 

David GAY  Identity Verified
English to French
+ ...
Very solid background Aug 2

UK flag The Kanji Foundry Learning is run by Trevor Wright. Trevor has a BSc (Hons) in pharmacology from the University of Bath and an MSc in medical biotechnology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Trevor lived and worked in Japan for 11 years teaching English and translating. After returning to the UK he took up employment in scientific publishing as a patent translator and was formerly a Senior Patent Analyst at Thomson Reuters in London for around 10 years specializing in Japanese biotech, pharmaceutical and agrochemical patents and, before that, at Current Drugs as a patent translator.

 

Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 20:53
Member
Italian to English
JAT Aug 2

This article from the JAT website may interest you:

https://jat.org/blog/how-to-become-established-as-a-medical-translator


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:53
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Don't underestimate it... Aug 2

DZiW wrote:
1) Is there really a niche--enough unique medical content in Japanese?

World's third or fourth largest economy, depending how you measure it, with a tremendous cultural focus on research and on developing intellectual property, in addition to some significant local pharmaceutical companies - you might have noticed a recent high-profile bid for a UK company by a Japanese pharma company? - as well as a population that is a few years ahead of the West in terms of its age profile, which is creating some interesting new markets and products...

From my layman's perspective I'd say there's demand out there.

Dan


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
money vs ethics vs health vs reality Aug 3

Medical translation cover all aspects of health-related interdisciplinary topics--from statements of good health, folk medicine, fiction/anti-science, and popular science editions to Clinical Research Organizations and peer-reviews at PubMed; from proven and sheer hypotheses and plausible theories to blatant lies and rot misbeliefs.

Very often it requires more reference cross-checking and meta-analyzing, let alone one's competence and understanding, because even correctly translated false health advice literally kills.

While average quality and length of life is increasing, there were rather many cases when relatives didn't report to the officials about old people deaths, getting their pension from the state and distorting statistics--including in Japan. Oops!

Shortly, I would suggest starting from common-sense and critical-thinking sources such as Quackwatch.com and other sites maintained by real MDs, and ask a native person with medical background to proofread the translation. Of course, a second opinion also counts)



P.S. Not long ago I got a lucrative offer to translate a 20K+ "alternative medicine" article, but when I mentioned that 'alternative' should refer to smt equal in (1) efficacy and (2) safety, and noted most links were from three works of the same author and no peers, the client got disappointed and replied I was a biased Big Pharma slave, fighting against "free choice". I answered the aforementioned choice should be informed, that's why I wouldn't translate that misleading article, yet I may leave my comments when I see it. Indeed, we parted nicely.


 


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