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Medical Translation – Easy or Difficult?

Every sort of translation is difficult but medical and healthcare translation is one of the most difficult. Medical translation is quite demanding because it connects not only businesses and customers, but also the specialists who seek to enhance people’s health and life.

Because of the numerous challenges that medical translators confront, not every translator is qualified to do so.

Medical terminology, readability, the equivalence of medical writings, and the situational characteristics of the medical language are some of the biggest hurdles of medical translation.


   1. Intended Audience

Medical language is used differently in expert-to-lay communication than it is in expert-to-expert communication. Language usage changes depending on the individuals and the communicative setting. When translating for expert-to-expert communication, such as scientific studies, diagnostic reports, case notes and research reports, and discharge summaries, specialized words are employed.

If the medical translation is between an expert and a lay reader, such as a doctor and a patient or a drug/medical equipment supplier and an end-user, such as patient fact sheets, informed consent documents, package, and drug information leaflets, the medical translator must use less complex language. The vocabulary used in the text should be simple to grasp and, if possible, fully clarified.

The medical translator must be aware of the intended audience for the medical documents that need to be translated. The complex language will be understood by experts and practitioners in medicine and healthcare. The language doctors use when giving directions to nurses differs from the language doctors use when giving instructions to patients.

This understanding enables the medical translator to tailor the language and terminology to the intended audiences. This may include the extent of the details to be supplied as well as the language to be used when discussing certain issues concerning the patients’ health.

   2. Medical Language

Because it impacts people’s lives and professions, medical translation must be extremely accurate. It necessitates the use of specialists who are fluent in medical and healthcare terminology. The terminology is quite precise, whether it is about medicines, the patient’s health, or the disease that infects them. The language used in this industry is very particular, and it takes an expert to understand these terms that are not commonly used outside of the industry.

Another challenge for medical facilities is interpreting. Patients may not know or be competent in the language, may have hearing issues, and there are regulations that require medical interpretation in the patient’s language.

Medical language has branches that need to be carefully translated which are eponyms, acronyms, doublets, and affixation.


Firstly, eponym is a real or fictitious person’s name that has given rise to the name of a particular item. 

A major amount of medical language is made up of eponyms like Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and so on. Because the phrases and their equivalents in other languages may also be eponymous, eponyms provide some translation challenges. It can also be difficult if only the source or target language is eponymous, while the counterpart is derived from a Latin or Greek origin or a descriptive phrase.


There are plenty of acronyms and abbreviations in the medical language. They can be derived from English or even in others like Latin, German, Greek, and so on.

Doublets and Affixation 

Prefixes and suffixes are prevalent, with the majority of them deriving from Greek or Latin, such as lepsy, hypo, onco, and so on. Doublets can also be problematic because the translator must carefully select the term to utilize for different audiences. The majority of them, such as optic nerve, frontal bone, mouth cavity, and so on, are taken from Latin and Greek.

When translating for medical purposes, this terminology must be thoroughly researched and remembered.

All of these challenges must be considered in order to be a medical translator or interpreter. As the medical business expands globally, it brings with it a slew of new issues. Similar to working with non-governmental organizations, translators and interpreters in the medical and healthcare fields must consider cultural sensitivities in addition to adhering to official standards and guidelines.

As one of the leading language service providers in Vietnam, SK Translate is honored to be selected for many medical and healthcare events and companies like Armephaco, Vinmec, etc. And our team would love to be your partners accompanying you on the road to globalization. 

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