How did you become medical translators?
Thread poster: Meadow Media

Meadow Media
Local time: 16:43
English to Swedish
+ ...
Dec 7, 2009

I would like to know how you medical translators became specialized in your field?

Is it required that you have worked in medical care as a doctor or nurse or do you have an education in medical translation? If that is the case, where can one get that education? What do your clients require of you?

I would be very thankful to get some replies as I'd love to be specialized in medical translations.


Oleksandr Kupriyanchuk  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:43
Russian to English
+ ...
Medical background & price of a mistake Dec 7, 2009

It is better to have a reasonably solid medical background OR at least a member of your family/your teaam/a close colleague who is, ideally, a medical doctor, to work and/or consult with.

The price of a mistake can be very high.


Teresa Borges
Local time: 14:43
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Collaboration with a medical doctor Dec 7, 2009

Some years ago (about 20) a medical doctor asked me if I was interested on proofreading her translations... That is how it all started and is continuing today!


Local time: 15:43
German to English
Qualifications and experience and caution... Dec 7, 2009

A postgraduate qualification in a medicine-related biological field, several years of working closely with doctors within a medical school, followed by a few more years in medical device and pharmaceutical sales.
And even then I stick to the medical technology side and NEVER take on a job if I'm not completely sure I know exactly what it's about.
It's a very wide field; all sorts of texts are just given the vague label "Medical". Plenty of my former medical colleagues would not be able to cope with some of the jobs relating to medical devices and software which I regularly do.
You definitely need to use caution to decide whether your knowledge is adequate for each project you're offered.


Sabine Braun  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:43
Member (2006)
English to German
+ ...
in-house translator Dec 7, 2009

I started out as an in-house translator for a pharmaceutical company a long time ago (some 25 years) and built up my knowledge from there. As felis said medical translations can involve all sorts of texts and you have to stick to the areas you are comfortable with (I have never touched a medical devices text in my entire career).

In the end, I became so fascinated by medicine that I decided to train as a medical herbalist...icon_smile.gif


david young  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:43
French to English
don't even try Dec 7, 2009

unless you have a science degree, would be my advice.
If you do, then here are two ways of becoming better acquianted with medispeak: teaching a language to medical professionals (and picking their brains at the same time) and proof-reading/editing research manuscripts, before moving on to translation proper.
Hope this helps.


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:43
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Research and consulting in the medical device industry Dec 7, 2009

Formally and informally for about 12 years I did materials development and consulting for medical devices and worked closely with a number of companies on issues related to clinical tests and device approvals with the FDA and regulatory authorities outside the US. There was sometimes quite a learning curve dealing with doctors and development engineers who had a poor grasp of the science involved but whose understanding of the legal and regulatory issues and practical matters of application was often well beyond mine (especially in the beginning) and always a source of revelation.

I would tend to agree with David's advice; proceed very, very carefully if you don't have a good general science background to allow you to understand the proper context of new information. Depending on what aspects of medicine you want to emphasize, take courses or read texts on anatomy and medicine, read the laws relevant to pharmaceuticals and medical devices, etc. Don't rely on the popular press for your education.


Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:43
English to Dutch
+ ...
Know your limits Dec 7, 2009

I know some excellent medical translators who specialised in the field because their own health forced them to get into it, some others who started out with a scientific background. They all have one thing in common that makes them excellent: they know when to say no.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:43
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Not a medical translator, but did one job once with helpful assistance Dec 7, 2009

I don't consider myself a medical translator, so several years ago, when an agency specializing in defence-related translations asked me to translate a report on treatment of amputees who had lost limbs due to land mines (in Afghanistan), I refused the job,
but they came back about a month later and said they couldn't find anyone else, so could I do it if they put me in touch with the medical institute which had ordered the translation? I did it on this basis. I was able to phone or email the institute in question with any queries, and received useful explanations in reply. On this basis I felt I produced a usable, though no doubt not perfect, translation. I found the subject matter very interesting and learned a lot about it in the course of this job.


Michelle Hertrich  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:43
German to English
+ ...
European Medical Writers Association Dec 7, 2009

Hi MM,

Like most people who have answered this post, I have a medical background as a physiotherapist. After spending many years as a frustrated Australian physio in Germany, I decided to use my knowledge of medicine and languages and try translating. As the others said, I recommend only touching the areas that you are familiar with. In my case, these are the areas that I either studied or have enough background knowledge in that I can become an expert within a very short amount of time.

I haven´t come across any specific training for medical translating so far, but I have joined the European Medical Writers Association and went to their conference in Frankfurt a few weeks ago. You can take part in workshops on a wide range of topics at the EMWA conferences. Most of the workshops involve clinical research and pharmaceuticals, but they also offer general workshops (from grammar to vendor-client relationships). Several of us were medical translators, so the EMWA is not just for pure medical writers.

Here´s the link:

Good luck!


Katarina Delic  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:43
Member (2008)
English to Serbian
+ ...
Practical and theoretical knowledge Dec 8, 2009

I definitely think that one needs to know about medicine in order to translate medical texts. The alternative would be, as someone has already said, to have someone with the necessary knowledge to proof your translation. It would probably be possible to become a good medical translator after years of experience in medical translation, but until you have become confident enough, you must have a skilled person to assist you.
If you are willing to learn from scratch on your own, start by learning anatomy and physiology, then move on to microbiology, pharmacology, health care, and then move on to specific branch(es), organ systems and diseases. Of course, this requires A LOT of time and effort, and neither sounds nor is easy.
I attended a four-year medical high school and that proved to be a great plus (even though I thought I would never need that knowledge and regretted going to that school, because I knew I would go to study English after high school). When I started translating, I was so glad that I went to that high school because I realized medicine is the only field I was completely comfortable with. In that school, we had subjects from almost all branches of medicine in both theory and practice. During the four years, we had practical training in hospital 2 days a week and we went to a different ward every month or so. That turned out to be a priceless experience for translation business.
For every field of medicine you need different knowledge of course. For devices, you need practical knowledge as well. For pharmaceuticals you need to know all kinds of stuff, including chemistry, metabolism, diseases...


Claudio Porcellana (X)  Identity Verified
How did you become medical translators? Dec 9, 2009

Hi all

I'm a DVM and I run a vet practice for 18 years, dealing with medicine and surgery of little animals so, indeed, I started as a vet/medical translator (only afterward, I added some tech topics and software localization)

clearly, knowing medicine matter makes med translations easier, but I know some non medical peer that is quite skilled in this area


[Modificato alle 2009-12-09 00:21 GMT]


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