26 Jan Medical jargon and medical translators, balance between simplicity and accuracy
Most healthcare providers and doctors love medical jargon.
But, what is it? Jargon is a concept that stands for the terminology applied to a specific field. In this case, the medical, healthcare and medical translation fields.
Advantages and disadvantages of Medical Jargon
Why is Medical jargon used? We ask, as most people do not understand it and it acts as a barrier for patients and citizens to understanding new techniques or treatments.
The answer is that it is more accurate. Therefore, Medical jargon serves a purpose.
What to do then?
We need some more balance between simplicity and accuracy, especially when the target of the communication is not medical specialists, but patients, the general public.
In this cases, sometimes accuracy must be balanced with simpler terms which are more consumer–friendly.
Before any translations is made, a medical translator needs to know who the audience is
The important role of medical translators when dealing with medical jargon
Medical translators in general have two main obstacles, the need of medical technical knowledge and the specific medical jargon or medical terminology. However, concerning the latter, before any translations is made, a medical translator needs to know who the audience is.
Audience and Medical Jargon
This specific criteria is as important as the detonant as to whether the text is translated into medical jargon or using more consumer friendly terms.
It is more important than one could think, as studies carried out among patients show that some of them do not even understand properly the most essential words, such as lesion or ulcer.
And, even people who do grasp somehow the essential meaning of well known diseases, are not able to define them.
The situation gets worse when English is not the patient’s first language.
To provide a solution two ways have been appointed. Using simpler language as regards written documents or materials and using interpretation services.
After all, it is not only patients’ job, but also doctors’ job and medical interpreters’ job to ensure that the patient understand the diagnosis. Therefore, if you are a patient and missed something, please ask for clarifications.
British or American English
Another important criteria, as long as the English language is involved, (that is to say, not always, but most times) is whether it is British English or American English. Some words might have different spelling or the same word may have a different meaning (Surgery in British English can mean Doctor’s Office, for example).
But, of course, these are not all. A medical translator does not only work with medical jargon, but also with hospital jargon, which sometimes differs among practitioners. And any translation must take into account not only the source language, but also the culture.
Names, Metaphors and hospital jargon
This can be very important as regards drug name translation, as sometimes the brand name does not ring a bell in the target language, or is not as well known. In this cases, using the international non-proprietary name as well as the brand name, can make a big difference.
On the other hand, medical translation must deal with more metaphors than one could a priori think. The reasons are that we are in a field where euphemisms are very common, especially in doctor-patient communication.
They are very common in hospital slag, too. Why? Because words as social admission, for example, help hospital staff to deal with terrible human tragedies or unpleasant situations that are part of their job. Using coded words helps the staff putting things in perspective, sometimes marking a needed distance, and gives them a feeling of belonging to the healthcare group.
Eponyms are another challenge as they are synonyms of other or several terms. Choosing the right word depends on which term is more commonly used in the target culture.
As a conclusion, we want to point out that although a balance between simplicity and accuracy is the objective, specially when communication is directed to non-medical specialists, all the terminology issues mentioned in the article show the real difficulties medical professionals and medical translators sometimes have, to honour the balance.