With constant progress being made in the field of medicine and the ever-expanding translation industry proving to be practically recession proof, what better time is there to become a medical translator? It’s an attractive proposition for anyone with a passion for both medicine and languages, but be aware that the essential criteria required for the job is extensive and demanding.
A medical background is obviously a must, although the amount of first-hand experience in the field among translators varies greatly. Some are doctors, some went straight from obtaining a medical degree into the translation industry. Most work solely as medical translators, others combine it with other full-time medical careers.
More specifically in regard to medical knowledge, a translator must be completely at ease with medical terminology in the source and target languages. This is one of the key factors that makes medical translation such a specialised profession. Word-for-word translation pretty much goes out the window with this aspect, because medical cultures are so diverse from country to country and will each have their own unique terms and phrases. A medical translator can also pick to specialise in a specific medical field such as pharmaceutical translations or medical research translations.
There is little point, however, of being able to wax lyrical about Haemophilus influenza and necrosis if you can’t break it down into simple terms when required. Instruction leaflets, packaging labels and medical prescriptions read by people with no medical knowledge whatsoever are in frequent need of translation, and they’re not going to want to be frazzled by complex jargon. Only a native translator with quality writing skills is going to be able to convey a message in this way.
Software has also come into the medical translation equation in recent years. Competence in using audio and publishing software is often crucial, be it listening to audio recordings of the monologues/dialogues of the patient and the physician, or translating information saved in digitised formats.
You don’t need me to tell you how crucial accuracy to the finest detail is in medical translation, seeing as people’s health is usually at stake. For any translator well versed in the aforementioned areas, the burden will weigh a little easier.