The future of medical translation

Published on 02/02/2021

Medical translation is a demanding field that requires an excellent command of its own terminology. It may be a prescription, an operational report, a book, a scientific article or crucial research.


But medical translation is also about to evolve thanks to the development of new technologies. With the improvement of translation software and online tools, it is to be expected that this specific area of translation will be increasingly affected. The English will maintain its supremacy, but the Chinese are expected to make steady progress.

Medical translation: persistent trend towards machine translation

Medical translation persistence of the trend towards machine translation

Machine translation is increasingly making its way into the world of translation, and this applies not only to generic texts, but also to much more specialised texts such as medical texts.

In fact, authors of medical texts are encouraged to translate their works themselves in order to "break through" internationally, as the most prestigious medical-scientific journals are only published in English.

These scientific authors, familiar with the terms used in their mother tongue as well as their international equivalents, are therefore distinguished from literary authors by this ability (which is constantly expanding with the evolution of translation tools) to carry out medical translations.

However, direct writing in a foreign language cannot do without the ways of thinking and linguistic models of the culture of origin.

Increased use of pre-translation in medical translation

Increased use of pre-translation in medical translation

Medical translation is no exception to the other fields of translation. By "pre-translated" texts we mean texts that are "post-translated" after translation. This involves translating a text using a machine translation programme and then correcting it, improving it according to the purpose and the field in question.

This method saves time and gives a broader view in the case of repetitive texts.

However, the use of this technique does not exempt the intervention in post-editing of a translator specialised in the field or, possibly, of antranslation agency specialising in the translation of medical devicessuch as AbroadLink Translations.

Predominance of English and emergence of Chinese

Predominance of English and emergence of Chinese

Today, more than 100 medical journals (including the most prestigious) are published in English, while only 20 are published in other languages. Therefore, medical translation into English is promised to a future in which no radical change is expected in the years to come.

Mandarin Chinese, however, has shown an upward trend for years: medical devices from this country are imported in large quantities (and have been imported even more during the current Covid-19 pandemic).

On the other hand, Western pharmaceutical companies are looking at China as a crucial new market.

The future of medical translation agencies

The future of medical translation agencies

One might mistakenly believe that new machine translation technologies will eventually replace the work of translation agencies specialised in the medical field.

Nothing could be less accurate. The case of Chinese, mentioned above, illustrates the fact that the difficulties of adapting medical texts will continue to impose insurmountable challenges on machine translation software.

Medical translations from or into Chinese are not the easiest, as many Chinese medical terms are very colourful and heavily influenced by traditional medicine.

To give just one example, "winds" continue to be referred to for a wide range of different conditions, from colds to tremors, as discussed on the "AllinaHealth" website in the article "Fight your cold and flu with traditional Chinese medicine".

Therefore, the expertise of medical translation agencies will remain indispensable, even in the distant future. Medical translation is more demanding than other fields of translation: medical translation exists to share scientific knowledge with the ultimate goal of protecting lives.

Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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