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  • Writer's pictureA. Gulvin Translation

Webinar review: A 2017 update in medical translation terminology in 4 steps

In March 2017 as part of my professional development programme, I attended the eCPD webinar entitled A 2017 update in medical translation terminology in 4 steps, presented by Pablo Mugüerza, an experienced Spanish to English medical translator. The webinar was about 90 minutes long, and was divided into four sections: clinical trial terminology; #immunotherapy, #genetics and #cancer; #pharmacodynamics and #pharmacokinetics; and current, relevant infectious diseases. Pablo was a cheerful and engaging presenter, and in addition to the specific topics mentioned above, he provided some very useful and thought-provoking hints on other more general translation-related topics. The webinar was accompanied by a downloadable handout, which was a pdf file of the presentation used onscreen in the video. The course offered very good value (£25) considering its length and depth of focus.

The field of medical translation has an extremely wide scope and as such, there was a large volume of information presented in this video. I found the handout to be extremely valuable from this point of view, since Pablo shared many different additional resources, which could be accessed later via links from the handout. Keeping up to date with new terminology and concepts within the area of medical translation is an almost overwhelming challenge due to the speed at which medical and technological advances are taking place. Although the video itself was an important resource for accessing the latest knowledge, I found the resources shared by Pablo to be extremely valuable in this regard, as they will enable the individual translator to access the latest information independently on a regular basis.

Section one was a review of clinical trial terminology and recent changes in this field. It was divided into two distinct subsections: non-official changes and official changes. The subsection on non-official changes focused on new clinical trial acronyms and abbreviations, which can be a very challenging and frustrating area for translators. As well as covering some of the main new acronyms and abbreviations currently being employed in the clinical trial field, such as ‘RBM’ (risk-based management) and ‘eCOA’ (electronic clinical outcome assessment), Pablo offered some general advice about approaching the translation of acronyms that can be applied to any translation situation, and also recommended some specific external resources for staying up-to-date, such as the Applied Clinical Trials journal and the CDISC Clinical Research Glossary. The subsection on official changes looked at the new EU regulation 536/2014, and the main point here was that the regulation makes almost no reference to specific translation requirements, so there is no real change for translators. This sub-section also discussed the fact that a ‘clinical study’ is no longer synonymous with a ‘clinical trial’, and reviewed some key concepts translators are likely to come across that may present translation challenges such as ‘cluster’, ‘checkpoint’ and ‘severe’.

The second section was the longest one and began with a poll, asking participants to choose the meaning of ‘immune’ from four options. It was interesting to see responses from course participants and to hear Pablo’s view on the answers. There was some engaging discussion throughout the presentation on the origins and changes in meaning of particular words over the years. Here, Pablo discussed the problems arising from usage of prefixes such as ‘ir-’ in English, and what to do about translating them. He also looked at some common immune-related response criteria acronyms (‘CR’, ‘PR’, ‘SD’ and ‘PD’), as two-letter acronyms can be very problematic for translators due to the large number of possible interpretations when there isn’t sufficient context support. He mentioned that it is very important to consider connotations of words in both source and target language when it comes to medical phraseology, and gave the example of ‘PD’ meaning ‘Progressive Disease’ to indicate a worsening of the condition in English, whereas the Spanish, ‘progreso’ always has a positive connotation. Pablo also mentioned the problems that hyphens can present when translating to languages that do not use them, or use them very little. He pointed out that spelling the names of drugs can be challenging in any language, they are often impossible to pronounce, and it is prudent to use extreme care when writing the names of these drugs.

The third section was reasonably short and centred on the difference between ‘pharmacodynamics’ and ‘pharmacokinetics.’ It also featured a poll. It was mentioned that pharmacodynamics is a growth area that will likely bring a lot of new terms to the table in the future. The subtle difference between terms for slightly different concepts was a key point here, and Pablo highlighted the need for translators who are not trained physicians to take the time to fully understand the implications of terms before employing them in a translation, to ensure their precise meanings and usages have not been overlooked.

The final section looked at infectious diseases such as Zika, Ebola, HIV and hepatitis. Pablo mentioned that with certain infectious diseases such as Zika, the name can apply to several different things, namely the disease itself, the causal virus and even the location from which the disease originated, in this case the Zika forest. As a translator, we need to fully understand the implications of the different aspects of the word, and be very sure which aspect of the concept we are referring to. Pablo also mentioned the lack of deep knowledge and understanding which often accompanies outbreaks of certain infectious diseases, especially at the beginning, and the care with which we need to translate texts on these topics. The section concluded with some more useful resources on HIV/AIDS and a short but thought-provoking mention of how to translate the concept ‘superbug’, related to multi-resistant bacteria. He cautioned that, as translators, we sometimes need to take a step back and ask ourselves what the concept is really referring to in order to come up with an accurate translation in the target language.

Overall, I found this webinar to be enlightening and challenging. I felt that Pablo’s presentation was highly informative and packed with valuable resources. My primary interest was the first section on clinical trials, since I have experience working in this field. Due to my lack of in-depth knowledge in other medical areas, some of the material presented in the later sections was at times beyond my ability to grasp fully due to the complicated and precise nature of the topics discussed. I feel this webinar would be of particular value to those working in the specific medical areas covered, but is certainly still an excellent resource for any translator working in the medical field.

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