05 Apr How do cultural differences affect medical translation?
A priori, we might think that medical translation is logical and that the most pressing problem lies in the technical terminology. In part, this statement is true: medicine is a broad and multidisciplinary field of knowledge that follows rigorous research procedures. However, translation is never an exact science, and some medical terminology and standards are tied to cultural values. This implies that specialised medical translators must also consider cultural differences in medical translation.
Immigration and cultural differences in medical translation
Lately, immigration has caused people from Eastern countries to migrate to the West in search of a better life. These people, during the time between their arrival and their adaptation, need a degree of intercultural understanding of their circumstances. This phenomenon has highlighted the cultural differences in medicine that hinder communication between doctors and immigrant patients. Consequently, correct diagnosis and treatment becomes difficult. However, in medical translation, understanding cultural differences is the key to overcoming this lack of understanding between doctor and patient.
Clash between conventional and traditional medicine
A clash arises between the traditional medicine used in the migrant’s country of origin and science-based medicine. Health professionals are puzzled by the demands of some patients for “unconventional” medicines, such as medicinal plants. In addition, patients are often misunderstood or are very hesitant to talk to a practitioner about this type of alternative medicine. This situation can make it difficult for the doctor to make a proper diagnosis. In addition, the lack of communication could result in interactions between the ingredients prescribed by the conventional doctor and those used in the traditional remedies.
Clash between customs and beliefs
Customs and beliefs also have a lot to do with medical treatments. Myths, religion or even the inability to understand the pharmacological concept are the main factors creating difficulties in communication and thus diagnosis and treatment. For example, something as simple as taking a pill can be problematic for Muslims, Jews, or Hindus, as they are often made from gelatine derived from the bones and skin of pigs and cows. Blood transfusions may also be refused for moral, spiritual, ethnic or religious reasons.
Medical translators are more aware of cultural differences
Medical language is not as innocent and technical as we think: it has an important cultural component. While translators must consider the complexity and speciality of the field of medicine, they must also be aware of the ideological charge of the terms the doctors or patients use.
Miscommunication in any field wreaks havoc, especially in medicine. This is why medical interpreting and medical translation is necessary, so that health professionals can provide the best service. Medical translators and medical interpreters at Okomeds have the intercultural skills to facilitate communication between doctors and patients. Do you need a translation? Please contact us.