Medicine is an ever changing field due to scientific and technological developments. Consequently, there is always new terms being added to the medical dictionary. Due to the nature of medicine, medical professionals tend to use the original source term in the target language. This results in a lot of English terms being used in the medical lexicon, similar to all the English terms used in the information technology sector.
When these terms appear for medical translation later we are left with heterogeneous translations across publications. In some cases the medical students translation lacks sufficient knowledge of the target and source language while the professional translator’s translation lacks in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.
This goes a long way to explaining a doctor’s reluctance to adopt new translated terms into the medical lexicon. The next question is of course how can we navigate these difficulties. Firstly it is important that the amateur translator with a strong background in the specialist field have strong relations with a professional translator. Visa versa, it is important the professional translator have reliable contacts in the subject fields he/she is translating. In the perfect scenario we are hoping for a professional translator qualified and experienced in the specialist field he/she is translating.
Finding the perfect scenario is in reality a very tall order. This is mainly due to the fact that most medical fields are better paid than professional translation.
Extensive bibliographical research should always be done on previously published terms, making an effort to stick with the original choice made by the first translator (provided it makes sense). Consistent translations make the text easier to understand and facilitate the incorporation of new words into the terminology. Finally, if publishers and translation companies are committed to the services they provide, they will pay their professionals well. Poorly paid work leads to poor quality work. These measures will help improve the quality of medical translations, whether the terms are left translated or not.