The medical field is characterized by discoveries and knowledge across cultural boundaries globally. Thus, medical interpretation is more demanding compared to other types of interpretation. Furthermore, such interpretation services are essential to providing healthcare services to minorities and foreigners.
Medical interpreters face several challenges. Some of them include medical terminology, specialization, readability, and unique characteristics of the medical language.
First, the terminology used in the medical field is very specific, whether it concerns drugs, the health condition of the patients, or the infections that afflict them. As a result, medical interpretation requires specialized interpreters who are knowledgeable in the special language of medicine and healthcare. To provide documents that would be very useful to doctors and nurses in caring for their patients, a medical interpreter must possess a deep knowledge of the sector’s technical terminology.
Besides the technical terminology, the medical field is highly specialized. Like doctors, medical interpreters are often specialists in different fields. For instance, an interpreter who specializes in cardiology cannot be expected to offer medical interpreting services dealing with hematology.
Type of Audience
Additionally, the use of medical language varies based on the participants and communicative situations. Specialized terms are used during expert-to-expert communication, such as discharge summaries, case studies, case notes, imaging reports, and research papers. On the contrary, if the medical interpreting services are between an expert and lay readers, such as between a medical device manufacturer and an end-user or doctor with the patient, the medical interpreter must use less complex language.
Unique Characteristics of the Medical Language
Foremost, a large portion of the medical terminology is composed of eponyms. These are terms derived from famous scientists, medical procedures, signs and symptoms, medical devices, diseases, and the titles of human anatomy. Examples include Alzheimer’s disease, Bard-Parker scalpel, Heller myotomy, Fallopian tubes, Adam’s apple, Parkinson’s disease, Jefferson fracture, Lou, and Gehrig disease.
Additionally, the medical world is full of acronyms and abbreviations. While English is the lingua franca in medicine and many of the English abbreviations and acronyms are adopted by other languages, there are exceptions that interpreters have to deal with.
Finally, medical language is frequented with the use of doublets and word compounding. For instance, heart failure, patient safety, health care, and contrast medium are compound nominal phrases that are commonly used in fundamental medical English. Also, doublets, such as the auditory canal, oral cavity, adipose tissue, optic nerve, frontal bone, and spinal cord can be troublesome during interpretation. A medical interpreter should choose carefully the term to use depending on the target audience.
Solutions for the Challenges of Medical Interpretation
A high-quality medical interpretation is based on the symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship between the medical institution and the client. At the same time, language service providers must employ medical interpreters who are experts in different fields of healthcare and medicine. At Homeland Language Services, we faithfully deliver world-class interpretation to caregivers and patients at their critical moments of need.