SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Tackling Medical Translation for Outsourcing Clinical Trials

[fa icon="calendar"] June 9, 2017 / by Vinodh Nedyavila


Medical translation is a critical part of outsourcing clinical trials to contract research organizations (CROs) around the world. 

This blog highlights precautions you can take before translation, during translation, and after translation in order to tackle the obstacles of medical translations and optimize the quality of medical content in target languages. 

Previously, in part one of this blog “Challenges in Medical Translations for Outsourcing Clinical Trials”, several linguistic obstacles facing medical translators were highlighted.


To recap, medical translators need to:

  • Consider the target audience (patients vs. medical professionals) to decide whether to translate in layperson’s terms or in medical terms.
  • Research euphemisms, eponyms, synonyms, and acronyms (in a medical context) which are often completely different in target languages.
  • Figure out the accurate brand and chemical names in target languages in order for patients to be clear about the chemicals in the drugs they consume. 

Precautions you can take:

Before Translation

  • Check the qualifications for the medical translators. This can include a minimum number of years of experience in a specialized medical field, a minimum number of years of experience translating medical content, provision of a certificate of translation, ISO certification, sample translations, etc. 


  • Provide reference materials to medical translators (e.g. research papers, reports from previous clinical trial phases, user manuals for medical devices, etc.). This will give them a deeper understanding of the content to be translated and the context behind it. With this understanding, medical translators may be even more compelled to translate meticulously and ensure high translation quality.


  • Provide glossaries. This can be in the form of a list of key medical terms from the source language and their medical definitions; or a bilingual glossary, which is a list of source English and translated terms that have been translated in previous translation projects.


  • Send files in their original file format. This means sending files in a file format like MS Word, InDesign, Excel, FrameMaker, etc. Avoid PDF files at all costs. This will facilitate the use of translation tools and make the project run faster and cheaper.


During Translation (tips for medical translators)


  • Keep in mind the target audience (either patients or medical professionals). Use the appropriate layperson’s terms or medical terms that resonate with that target audience.


  • Translate euphemisms, eponyms, acronyms, and synonyms correctly. Researching target languages variants of each of these linguistic elements whenever they appear would be wise. Translating euphemisms can be especially tricky, as context and tone of language must also be taken into account (context may not always be clear and certain tones in target languages may be different or non-existent).


  • Provide both the brand name and chemical name of medical drugs in target languages so that consumers in target audiences know what chemicals they are consuming. Dig deep for information on these drugs to determine the most accurate translations for their brand names and chemical names.


  • Research medical terms thoroughly. Use personal connections and social networks for medical professionals (the top two are Sermo and Doximity, each with over half a million users) to find the best ways to translate difficult medical content. Sometimes consulting others can lead to high quality translations for difficult content. 

After Translation


  • Perform back translation (or reverse translation) whenever possible. As the term suggests, back translation is the process of translating content back from a target language into the source language. A different translator should be used for back translation. Back translation is an important quality assurance step for medical translations.


  • Have translated medical content reviewed externally by a medical professional or layperson who is a native speaker of the target language (choose external reviewers based on target audience, keeping in mind that reviewers with an average level of fluency in their language or medical knowledge may provide more insight on translation quality than speakers who are highly fluent or knowledgeable about medical concepts).


  • Send changes back to your translator. Any changes or corrections to a translation should be sent back to the original translator, so they can update the glossary with the new terminology, and learn from the stylistic changes. This process helps to improve their translation in the next project and reduce the amount of changes or corrections.

To find out more about medical translation or to get ideas on how to invigorate your localization program, click below for a free case study.


Download   Life Sciences  Case Study

Topics: Medical Translation

Vinodh Nedyavila

Written by Vinodh Nedyavila

Vinodh is an Account Manager and Marketing Specialist at SimulTrans' HQ in Mountain View, California, and focuses on new business development, inbound marketing, and creative writing. With a background in Economics and International Relations, and experience working in the US, Singapore, and Japan, he is a valued member of the ever-expanding SimulTrans team, and passionate about bringing the world closer together through localization services.