Product information, instructions for use, medical reports, hospital discharge letters, technical manuals, press and media releases, websites, training materials, newsletters, documents for the marketing authorization of medicines, such as trial protocols, patient information leaflets and informed consent forms, legal documents such as contracts and non-disclosure agreements, operating instructions, notarized translations of certificates and other similar official documents. That’s just to mention a few examples of the kinds of texts that are relevant to translation, i.e. texts which are frequently translated in everyday practice.

This means that a great deal of knowledge is required for the production of professional quality translations. It goes without saying that no-one in the world – not even the most experienced and best educated translator – could translate all of these texts with exactly the same level of accuracy and identical professional results. It’s best to avoid self-styled language experts who tell you that they could translate anything AND everything. As the buzzword in the world of translation is – now more than ever – specialization!

Does this mean we still also need highly specialized translators to translate what are called non-specialist texts, that is to say texts of a “general” nature? We’d say that it’s better to ask: What are general texts and is there really any such thing? We’d like to illustrate the point with two examples below.

Example 1

Little Venice
The clear water flowing through the Gerberau and Fischerau streets reflects the picturesque facades of the old houses and their flower-bedecked windows.
Quacking ducks drift in the shallow babbling streams while sparrows happily hop about the narrow cobblestone streets. Freiburg locals fondly call these idyllic narrow streets between Martinstor and Schwabentor “Klein Venedig” or “Little Venice”.

Do you also feel drawn by the power of these words and would you like to be able to explore Freiburg’s pretty streets right now? Creating precisely the same effect in the translation requires considerable feeling for both languages and an ability to craft fine turns of phrase. Certainly, not everyone can translate a text like this, it takes a real language expert, someone who is both a true artist with words and who has specialized in the translation of marketing texts or transcreation.

Example 2

Bibbeleskäs (Alsatian-style soft cheese with herbs), Brägele (fried potatoes), Bubespitzle (crispy potato fingers), Flädlesupp (pancake soup), Gallert (jelly), Herdäpfelstock (potato puree), Knöpfle (Swabian pasta buttons), Leberle (Baden-style sour liver), Metzelsupp (pork bouillon), Mistkratzerle (free range chicken), Riebelesupp (Riebele dumpling soup) and last, but not least Apfelküchle (apple fritters)!

If you don’t happen to be an expert in the cuisine of Baden-Württemberg, it’s unlikely that very much of what appears to be a menu will make any sense. A specialist translator would research each dish thoroughly and then translate/describe them so that anyone from outside the original target culture would be able to understand and, ideally, would also be keen to try these foods.

Our conclusion and a top tip

At medical language service we are convinced that every text needs its own specialist. Even if the text you would like to have translated seems straightforward to you, you should still place it in the right hands so that you get the best possible version of the translation. Producing an appropriate and well-crafted translation requires so much more than mere linguistic knowledge – cultural competence, research ability and an understanding of the conventions associated with different text types also play a significant role. Every translator can be proud of his or her own specific personal set of experiences and can thus call themselves true experts. And we can help you find just the right specialist for your text, which is likewise unique.

By M.A. Alessia Rabasca
Project Management – medical language service