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Are degrees in translation and specialist areas such as medicine necessary for a translator to have?
Thread poster: Cathy McCormick

Cathy McCormick
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:08
German to English
+ ...
Nov 3, 2018

Hi,

I am currently writing my dissertation on whether a degree in translation and medicine is necessary for a translator to have in order to translate medical documents.

I have come up with the following questions and would be interested in some feedback.

Thank you for all of your comments in advance!

Cathy



1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a tr
... See more
Hi,

I am currently writing my dissertation on whether a degree in translation and medicine is necessary for a translator to have in order to translate medical documents.

I have come up with the following questions and would be interested in some feedback.

Thank you for all of your comments in advance!

Cathy



1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?
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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:08
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My anwers Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? - A translator with no qualifications.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? - No.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? - Yes.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? - Probably not. They would make dang
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? - A translator with no qualifications.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? - No.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? - Yes.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? - Probably not. They would make dangerous mistakes.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree? No. One thing is better than the internet, books, and having a degree: EXPERIENCE.
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Baran Keki
Jorge Payan
Cetacea
missdutch
Liviu-Lee Roth
Andy Watkinson
 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Nah Nov 3, 2018

My anwers:

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? - A translator with no qualifications.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? - No. I don't have a translation-specific degree, but I make a living from translating.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? - No, not always, but it would be useful.
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My anwers:

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? - A translator with no qualifications.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? - No. I don't have a translation-specific degree, but I make a living from translating.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? - No, not always, but it would be useful. I've always managed to translate any medical texts that I've been asked to do. However, a medical degree would be useful in more complex or recondite medical texts

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? - Probably not. I suppose it depends largely on the individual translator, as well as what you mean by "medical experience". For example, I used to enjoy reading medical related items in the encyclopaedia when I was still in primary school, and have always been interested in medical themes.And I'm usually willing to have a bash at a medical text once I've had a look at it and think I'm able.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree? No. I find the comparison rather ridiculous.
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Dan Lucas
Teresa Borges
Josephine Cassar
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
missdutch
Liviu-Lee Roth
Yaotl Altan
 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 12:08
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
My answers Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
A translator who has no qualifications.
2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No. I have been translating for over 40 years without a translation degree.
3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
It depends on what he/she is supposed to translate. I started translating
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1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
A translator who has no qualifications.
2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No. I have been translating for over 40 years without a translation degree.
3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
It depends on what he/she is supposed to translate. I started translating medical documents in 2002 when I was contacted by a medical doctor (a gynecologist) in order to co-translate for an American publisher a Gynecology and Obstetrics Handbook. I wouldn’t have accepted this project if my client wasn’t a medical doctor, but the fact is that I learned a lot and it opened the door to an area I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole before. Since then, we have worked together on other projects and she has referred me to other medical doctors, but whatever the subject matter I never accept a project without having a good look at it before.
4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?
Yes, depending on the subject matter and with the assistance of a medical doctor.
5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?
No. Experience is the key: experience helps you figure out what you can and can’t do. Medicine is a very large field and I don’t claim to be a specialist of any sort: one has to be honest with oneself and with others, and choose to work within one's own capabilities.
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Dan Lucas
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Jorge Payan
Katalin Szilárd
neilmac
missdutch
Liviu-Lee Roth
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:08
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
My take Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? One with neither qualifications nor experience in translation

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? No, although it helps

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? Medicine, yes; translation, not necessarily.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical d
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? One with neither qualifications nor experience in translation

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? No, although it helps

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? Medicine, yes; translation, not necessarily.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? They "can" and they do, but I wish they wouldn't!

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree? They're only useful if you know what to accept and what to reject. So a degree in medicine would still be required. A degree in anything else woudn't be any advantage, IMO.
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missdutch
 

Colleen Roach, PhD  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:08
Member (Mar 2019)
French to English
+ ...
Degrees in translation, etc. Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? As many translators here have stated: someone who is "unqualified" does not have the requisite experience or formal training (i.e. degrees, studies, etc.).

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? No. Back when I started working as a translator -- some time ago -- degrees in translation were not that common. If you look at the profiles here, you might want to do some
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1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? As many translators here have stated: someone who is "unqualified" does not have the requisite experience or formal training (i.e. degrees, studies, etc.).

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? No. Back when I started working as a translator -- some time ago -- degrees in translation were not that common. If you look at the profiles here, you might want to do some kind of statistical "sampling" of the degrees people have. Some people have degrees (or credentials of one sort or another) in translation while others may have a degree in the the source language he or she works in. Others might have no degree at all, but he/she knows the source language very well. Or, a translator can just be a really good writer who knows the source language very well. In Paris, some time ago, UNESCO employed (on a freelance basis) a famous Argentine writer to do French>Spanish translations: Julio Cortazar. I doubt that he had any degrees in translation or French.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? Yes, I basically agree with Tom in London here: it could be dangerous if a translator makes a health/sickness/diagnosis/symptoms mistake. I don't know where i read it -- and you may already know of this case -- but a translator once made a horrible mistake relating to a patient. I don't recall if the patient died, but there were serious consequences, and either the translator or his employer was sued for a lot of money. (Somebody here probably knows about this case, or you can google it).

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? Again, I would err on the side of caution.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree? Everything helps, but you have to keep in mind the marketplace. All the degrees, CAT tools, and books can be meaningless if the profession of translator becomes more and more of a "commodity" (i.e. lowest price takes priority over quality, experience, etc.).
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DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
projected risk management Nov 3, 2018

Hello Cathy--unlike those working with people directly, most even very good translators are rather poor businessmen, so I'm pleasantly surprised you do care and plan your future.

Whatever they might say, there's no such thing as "mere translating", because first comes some field (job/topic/specialization) and then foreign language skills. For instance, if you're a decent doctor and you can speak a foreign language a little, then in 95% cases you will get more than a top-notch
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Hello Cathy--unlike those working with people directly, most even very good translators are rather poor businessmen, so I'm pleasantly surprised you do care and plan your future.

Whatever they might say, there's no such thing as "mere translating", because first comes some field (job/topic/specialization) and then foreign language skills. For instance, if you're a decent doctor and you can speak a foreign language a little, then in 95% cases you will get more than a top-notch generalist translator with some background in medicine.

While diversification of income (including fields, activities, places) is a must for stability, the principle is the same: if you've got some hands-on exp, know how it works, and have a relevant vocabulary ready, you will surely tell about it as a specialist, not a translator.


Also it appears that just telling your people what you need or plan may come useful in unexpectedly good results
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Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:08
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
my 2c Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
One who is subconsciously incompetent or one who is consciously incompetent and lacking the skills and knowledge necessary for a given translation task.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No, but it can be very useful.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
One who is subconsciously incompetent or one who is consciously incompetent and lacking the skills and knowledge necessary for a given translation task.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No, but it can be very useful.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
No, but it can be even more useful that a degree in translation. Medicine is a very specialized field. For example, a dentist will not have the same experience as a podiatrist or an ophthalmologist. However, any medical experience will give better awareness of the skills and knowledge necessary in each case. I think that translation project managers need some medical experience even more than translators themselves.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?
It depends on intended purpose of these documents. Patient facing texts can be translated by a translator without previous experience in medicine whereas translating a journal article about latest discoveries in medical science will require a translator with extensive experience and understanding of the subject.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?
I would not compare the means of study with a degree. To obtain a degree one has to study a lot by using internet and books. Occasional study or research will not be sufficient for very specific medical texts. In such a case a degree is a good evidence that one has done extensive study. Nevertheless, even then one has to continuously update their skills.
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Michele Fauble
 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 05:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
About degrees Nov 3, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
A translator who is not qualified to work in a certain language combination and/or in that field. A translator may be qualified to work in one field but not in others.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? A degree may be helpful but not necessary.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to transl
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
A translator who is not qualified to work in a certain language combination and/or in that field. A translator may be qualified to work in one field but not in others.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? A degree may be helpful but not necessary.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
No, it all depends on your background and experience. For example, if you have been a pharmaceutical rep for xx years, you may not need a pharmacology degree to translate in that field. Again, a degree may be helpful but it is not necessary.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?
No, experience and a good grasp of the field are necessary.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?
Not better but they can take you quite far. There is almost nothing you can't learn from the internet, provided you are careful in selecting your sources.

In general, it all depends on your experience, and interest in learning, and knowing what you are qualified to do and what not.
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Teresa Borges
Colleen Roach, PhD
 

Philip Lees  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 14:08
Member (2008)
Greek to English
Degree is symbolic Nov 4, 2018

Cathy McCormick wrote:

I am currently writing my dissertation on whether a degree in translation and medicine is necessary for a translator to have in order to translate medical documents.



Others have covered all the main bases, but just let me stress the obvious point that a degree is simply a formal acknowledgement that a person has completed a course of study successfully and is thereby deemed to have acquired a certain amount of knowledge and experience in a specific field. It's that knowledge and experience that are important, not the possession of a degree per se.

I have no medical degree, but I spent five years working in a department of a university hospital with a high research output, helping medical researchers prepare papers for publication. As a result, I'm very good at that kind of work. I am not able to examine a patient, or prescribe a medication, or do any of the other things that doctors train to do, but none of those skills are relevant to my translation and editing work. My real-life experience of working in the field is much more valuable than any degree would be.


Katalin Szilárd
Teresa Borges
neilmac
Joe Ly Sien
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Ekaterina Yakushcheva
Michele Fauble
 

Paweł Hamerski
Local time: 13:08
English to Polish
+ ...
First assumption to make is that we are talking about honest translation Nov 4, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? A person without qualifications. But what does it mean I do not know and I am not interested to delve too academically.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? Being without translation degree myself I am biased.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? No, but I do think th
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator? A person without qualifications. But what does it mean I do not know and I am not interested to delve too academically.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation? Being without translation degree myself I am biased.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? No, but I do think that he/she should know what he is doing. Again myself I reply to general queries that I don't do IT and medicine (although I have even translated an article into English for a medical paper-oncology).

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience? If we have my first assumption in mind the question (politely speaking) is put for some reason.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree? Why should I think so? But like Tom said experience is what counts a lot.

Second assumption? - I did not make any.
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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:08
French to English
Answers Nov 4, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
One with no qualifications or professional knowledge/experience of the field in which he/she is working.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
Degree in translation? No.
Degree in medicine, no, although
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?
One with no qualifications or professional knowledge/experience of the field in which he/she is working.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?
No.

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?
Degree in translation? No.
Degree in medicine, no, although it would help. A post-graduate science degree and knowledge of the specific type of medical field, yes.
Degree in translation and medicine, no.

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?
Not in every field of medicine and never to the standard of someone with the relevant experience.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?
??? You need books and the internet to work for your degree.
Once you are translating, you need access to the internet.
You do not need to have a degree to be a good translator if you have relevant knowledge, ability and field experience. However, an undergraduate degree certainly helps, if only to have the reflexes you need for research and judging the credibility of sources. This can be acquired informally and in more than one way too.
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Joe Ly Sien
Gareth Callagy
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Imperfect world Nov 5, 2018

While I agree in theory with all the other answers, it's not a perfect world.

First, there will never be enough translators with medical degrees to go around. Doctors are in short supply everywhere so there has to be a very special and compelling reason for trained doctors not to be working as, er, doctors.

Second, my experience (outside translation) is that specialists in one field of medicine tend to be pretty clueless about other fields of medicine.

Thir
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While I agree in theory with all the other answers, it's not a perfect world.

First, there will never be enough translators with medical degrees to go around. Doctors are in short supply everywhere so there has to be a very special and compelling reason for trained doctors not to be working as, er, doctors.

Second, my experience (outside translation) is that specialists in one field of medicine tend to be pretty clueless about other fields of medicine.

Third, the answer to every question depends entirely on the type of text and the purpose of the translation. In reality, very few medical translations could actually kill someone.
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Egidijus Slepetys
Kevin Fulton
neilmac
Michele Fauble
Nadja Balogh
Gina Centanni
 

Eliza Hall
United States
Local time: 07:08
Member (2018)
French to English
+ ...
My take on it Nov 5, 2018

1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?

One whose language skills and/or subject knowledge (e.g. law for a legal translation) are not at a high enough level to do 100% accurate translations. Once you're able to do completely accurate translations, there's a whole spectrum of skill in terms of style, nuance, speed etc. that takes a translator from "qualified" to "excellent" and everywhere in between.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to h
... See more
1) How would you describe an unqualified translator?

One whose language skills and/or subject knowledge (e.g. law for a legal translation) are not at a high enough level to do 100% accurate translations. Once you're able to do completely accurate translations, there's a whole spectrum of skill in terms of style, nuance, speed etc. that takes a translator from "qualified" to "excellent" and everywhere in between.

2) Do you think that it is necessary for a translator to have a degree (BA hons or MA) in translation?

No. IMHO someone who was raised bilingual may not need a degree at all, depending on their general culture, knowledge of the world (how things work and what the proper vocabulary is), etc. Someone who wasn't raised bilingual should at least have a degree in the source language (the non-mother tongue).

3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents?

No, that's ridiculous. Doctors and, in some countries, nurses typically earn far more than translators; we wouldn't have any medical translators if we required a degree in medicine or nursing. Such degrees obviously help but far lesser qualifications should suffice (e.g. classes in medical terminology).

4) Do you think a translator can translate medical documents without any medical experience?

For very simple medical documents, yes. For everything else, no, not by themselves. If they collaborate with an experienced translator or with a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or researcher familiar with the subject matter and terminology, then maybe. But note that I define "medical experience" as experience, not just educational qualifications. People who have serious health problems, or close relatives with serious health problems, may actually know enough about those problems and at least the pertinent anatomy to translate medical documents about those problems.

5) Do you think the internet and books are better tools than having a degree?

That's an unanswerable question. It depends on what websites, what books, and what degrees you're talking about. It also depends on the translator's judgment or ability to distinguish reliable websites and books from unreliable ones.


[Edited at 2018-11-05 16:03 GMT]
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Chris S
 

Joshua Parker
Mexico
Local time: 04:08
Member (2016)
Spanish to English
+ ...
$71-million-dollar word Nov 5, 2018

Colleen Roach, Ph.D. wrote:


3) Do you think that a translator should have a degree in translation and medicine in order to translate medical documents? Yes, I basically agree with Tom in London here: it could be dangerous if a translator makes a health/sickness/diagnosis/symptoms mistake. I don't know where i read it -- and you may already know of this case -- but a translator once made a horrible mistake relating to a patient. I don't recall if the patient died, but there were serious consequences, and either the translator or his employer was sued for a lot of money. (Somebody here probably knows about this case, or you can google it).


I think you may be referring to the "71-million-dollar word": https://transpanish.biz/translation_blog/a-translation-error-that-cost-71-million-dollars/


 
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