The Importance of Accuracy in Biomedical Translations

When translating languages, not everything can make sense in the end. Sometimes, this can be comical, but in the world of medicine, this could mean everything. Here’s why accuracy in medical translations is vitally important.

Accuracy in Medicine

On a general level, if you make an error in translating something, the end result may be seen as less than perfect. In a language class, you might not get an A. In a clerical setting, you might get a lecture from your boss. However, in the medical field, any inaccuracy could mean the loss of a patient. Not only do the procedures themselves have to be done accurately, the directions professionals follow must be done so as well. A simple miscommunication from a translation error is far too simple of a mistake to have such dire consequences.

Confusion in Translation

Errors in medical translation fall into two main categories:

  • Patient miscommunication, when the patient speaks a different language and has trouble accurately describing their symptoms.
  • Translator miscommunication, when the translator or interpreter relays the wrong translation or information.

Translation errors from the patient can occur due to several reasons. For example, perhaps the patient is suffering from memory loss, either due to trauma or dementia. This kind of confusion can lead to an inaccurate description of a patient’s own medical state. This can then lead to a mistaken translation from the medical translator. However, there is also a chance the translator could be at fault for mistakes. Medical terminology is complex enough in one language, let alone in multiple. Misunderstanding what a patient means in one language and translating incorrectly in another could cause improper medical treatment.

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How Material Must Be Translated

Proper medical translation revolves around three key points:

  • Understanding the languages at hand
  • Understanding the medical terminology completely
  • Communicating everything clearly

First, medical translation is much more than just language understanding. Proper translation must involve a clear understanding of how the language is being used in addition to what it means. Cultural differences in linguistics can change a plethora of meanings. That’s why it is important to understand a foreign language, as well as cultural and idiomatic uses of it. Secondly, a professional translator should be versed in both linguistics and medicine, so that all the specific medical aspects of a diagnosis are accurate. Lastly, communication of the translation is vital both in understanding exactly what the patient is going through and relaying the right information to the doctor.

At the end of the day, medicine is no simple field. Everything must be done in an extremely careful, precise, and accurate manner. Medical device translation must also be treated carefully so that licensed professionals can follow the exact instructions to carry out their work.