This article is meant for professionals who want to be medical translators. The approach is about the importance of researching terminologies used in this specific segment and which can be used incorrectly or have different options for different clients.

Being a medical translator requires accuracy to ensure that technical vocabulary is used in medical translations properly. Translators who desire to work in this specific field often learn how difficult it is to search for the right terms. In fact, it is essential that the translators follow the medical-patient ethics, keep the confidentiality of all information and provide the adequacy of texts for the medical target audience as well as the public who is not familiar with the medical jargon.

There is another important issue related to the use of acronyms and/or abbreviations. For example, if you are translating a medical text from English into Portuguese-BR, you will notice that some of the acronyms remain unchanged in the target text while others undergo changes. Look at the following examples:

BP (Blood Pressure) PA (Pressão arterial)
DM (Diabetes Mellitus) DM (Diabetes Melittus)
Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) Pressão positiva bifásica das vias aéreas (BiPAP)
Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH) Desidrogenase láctica (DHL)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Ressonância magnética nuclear (RMN)
Mismatch Repair Deficient (dMMR) Deficiência de reparo de mal pareamento (dMMR)
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) Hormônio tireoestimulante (TSH)

Beginners medical translators usually use automated machine translation and glossaries shared by other colleagues to search for terminologies. Both alternatives can be useful, but the translators must validate each term found before including it in a medical text. They need to check out whether the source of information is reliable before creating their glossaries and using the terms in their translation projects.

Another way to find right terminologies is search for them on the clients’ website and other support materials already published online. Definitely, it is the safest way to keep the accuracy of the translation. The translators must be aware that there are some terms used in different ways for different companies. Therefore, following the company standards would lead to consistent results. The following situation illustrate the point:

A toothpastes manufacturer Y, with a branch office in Brazil, has published their products and services on a local website in which “toothpaste” has been translated into Portuguese-BR as “Creme Dental”.

A newly competitor company Z decides to update its local portal and hires a translator for this job. When he comes across the same term “Toothpaste”, the translator automatically translates it into “Creme Dental” without asking himself: “Do all toothpastes manufacturers in Brazil use the same term “Creme Dental” as the translation for “Toothpaste”?” No. Some companies might prefer “Pasta de dente” instead, just like his new client, which the translator finds out later.

The situation mentioned above is a simple example to alert translators about the importance of doing their homework, which means searching for the terminologies on reliable sources and following the standardization used by the client previously.
Hereunder are other examples:

Computerized Tomography Abdomen Tomografia computadorizada do abdômen – Tomografia computadorizada abdominal
Drug Droga - Fármaco - Medicamento - Princípio ativo
Intravenous Fluid Hidratação intravenosa - Fluido intravenoso
Liver Biopsy Biópsia hepática - Biópsia do fígado
Back Pain Dorsalgia - Dor nas costas
Shortness of Breath Dispneia - Falta de ar

Furthermore, what about the specialization? Is it necessary to have a medical degree to become a medical translator? The translator is not required to have a medical degree but it is certainly a great advantage because he would be much more familiar with the medical terminologies and concepts. However, if you want to have a specific expertise, there are very good courses online (free and paid) as well as articles, videos, dictionaries and a wide range of materials available on the internet.

I believe the more you study and the more information you get, the more you will learn and the better medical translator you will become. So, roll up your sleeves and get back on the horse.

Copyright, 1999-2006. All rights reserved. -
The right search leads to accurate results
Author: Ligia Maria Ribeiro
English to Portuguese translator
Platinum since Dec 31, 2018 
By Ligia Maria Ribeiro
Published on 01/15/2019
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