With twenty-two officially recognized languages in India, and literally thousands of languages and dialects in total, medical translation in India is understandably challenging. During times such as this, with the current coronavirus pandemic, rendering medical translation becomes an even more pressing challenge. Were such a viral outbreak to occur in any of the more densely populated areas of India, “crisis” would hardly be an adequate description. The results would be devastating to say the least.
This problem is not unique to India, though that is the focus here. It should be noted however, that there are a great many people from India living around the world, many of whom still use their native language as the primary language for their daily lives.
According to a report from Statista, there are 863,000 Hindi speakers, 507,000 Urdu speakers, 434,000 Gujarati speakers, 415,000 Telugu speakers, 350,000 Bengali speakers, 310,000 Punjabi speakers, and over 260,000 Tamil speakers in the United states–most, if not all of them prefer to use their native language as their primary language.
This often includes using their native language when seeking out medical care and treatment. While the specific challenge may be more pronounced in India, it is still common virtually everywhere in the world during these times of crisis. There are of course other challenges that are unique to India, that require the inclusion of cultural and medical localization services as well.
While the caste system of India may be a sensitive subject, depending on how it is approached, it becomes necessary to factor in to medical translation and interpretation services. Any translation company that wishes to be successful, must include medical localization services as part of their overall strategy in order to assure that they are not coming across as culturally insensitive or worse still, culturally unaware.
It is of utmost importance that the current global pandemic not be allowed to be released unchecked into the more densely populated areas of India. The role of the medical interpreter and translator is an integral part of the battle against the Covid-19 outbreak and ensuring that it is not allowed to spread.
The Importance of Medical Translation in Basic Disease Prevention
According to Babbel Magazine, “if two unknown Indians met randomly on the street, there would only be a 36% chance that they would understand each other? Of course, that I on their ethnicity and place of origin”. This history of the many languages of India is an amazingly diverse and complex exploration even on the best of days. The ability to communicate efficiently however, is mandatory if the current global pandemic is to be held in check.
One of the most important aspects of basic prevention for diseases, especially during a global pandemic, is the ability to accurately and completely interpret or translate the rules of basic prevention so that transmission of the disease is more limited.
Both medical document translation services and interpretation must convey a very exact and literal translation medically, while at the same time being able to work within any cultural restrictions and to interpret or translate the actual meaning; which, in the case of patients, may not always include an exact or literal translation. Many people not intimately familiar with the exact medical terminology required, may speak in general terms, or may even use local vernacular or expressions rather than a precise lexical phrase.
Any translation agency seeking to do its part to aid in preventing the transmission of the coronavirus must have a complete understanding of precise medical translation and medical localization strategies. Only in this way will they be able to accurately and completely impart the necessary information to allow for an adequate level of disease prevention.
The Importance of Medical Translation and Interpretation in Diagnoses
A machine translation may be adequate in cases where nothing more than a very literal translation is necessary. Human translation can be a bit more tricky and involved but is still preferable and recommended.
There is often some temptation to use a friend or family member when the doctor is meeting with patients.
This may be a case of necessity, but far too frequently it is merely for the sake of convenience. This problem is further exacerbated throughout India given the number of different dialects even within the same languages, often making it difficult if not impossible to find a certified medical translator in the appropriate language.
There are many specific medical terms that may be incorrectly translated if not using the interpretation services of a certified translation company. Mucus, phlegm and saliva are all very different from a medical perspective, but may all be interpreted in a more generic, single term by someone not a certified medical interpreter.
In the case of the coronavirus especially, but with other similar viruses as well, this can make the difference between an accurate diagnosis and implementing the proper response, or a misdiagnosis that may allow for the spread of disease into a more public venue. In order to successfully combat any disease, it is necessary for a complete and accurate interpretation of all of the symptoms to be provided.
Only a certified medical translator or interpreter should be used to ensure that not only the medical diagnosis, but the response for the treatment and care of the patient is accurate in order to prevent any further transmission of the disease. The integration of medical localization services will also help to ensure that both the diagnosis and treatment are more well received without giving offense.
The Importance of Medical Translation for Treatment and Therapy
Anything that hinders the accurate and complete conveyance of information in more general terms, can be especially costly in terms of medical care and treatment. This can even on occasion, include being the difference between life and death.
No matter how tempting it may be to use the services of a friend or family member, only certified medical translators and interpreters should be used to interpret the necessary information to allow the patient to enjoy proper medical care and to allow for a full and complete medical recovery.
Even small errors such as “Stay home, in bed and drink lots of fluids” may easily get misinterpreted, especially if the friend or family member is younger than the person receiving the medical advice. Whether consciously or not, it is common for the elderly in some cultures to more casually disregard the information provided by the youth.
Since the youth are statistically more likely to be learning the new language than the family elders, this can be a common medical interpreting challenge, often unconsidered by anyone, even those personally involved in the medical crisis.
People are naturally inclined to listen to those in a position of power or authority; medical knowledge in the case of the doctor. It is very easy for the inexperienced translator or medical interpreter to insert themselves into the conversation as a concerned party, even if only as a display of empathy with the patient.
The certified medical interpreter or translator may very well be empathetic, and may even be able to convey that sense to the patient. However, they are also trained not to insert themselves into the conversation on a more personal level.
This is absolutely imperative if the treatment and therapeutic procedures are to be perceived as coming directly from a source of authoritative knowledge. Again, still more reason that only certified medical interpreters and translators should be used for any medical concerns.
The Importance of Medical Translation in Medical Research
All around the world, medical researchers, academic researchers and scientists are working to end the global Covid-19 outbreak. For the World Health Organization or WHO, literally every document they create is immediately translated into six different languages.
Using the principles of medical localization, each of these documents will be translated into more localized variations of the mother tongue or into any (and eventually all) of the nearly two hundred languages common to the nations of the world today.
All of this information, no matter its source, must be translated as quickly and as accurately as possible, and distributed to various institutions around the world in order to be of any use. While the people providing the document translation services will always remain relatively unknown, somewhere, some anonymous person is translating a piece of data that will prove to be the key to ending the current global crisis.
Somewhere else, yet another faceless soul, maybe even at this very moment, is translating the corollary data that will supplement the first medical documents and allow someone to come up with a cure for the covid-19 virus.
For some universities and other institutions of higher education, certified medical interpreters and translators may be easily found. Other institutions and organizations however, may require some assistance in putting all of the data together in the various languages and their respective dialects. There are different factors that must be considered however, even when hiring a certified translation agency.
Does the translation company provide medical localization services? Do they have people that are from the affected areas? Are they familiar with the local vernacular in addition to the very technical aspects of medical terminology? Do they have any idea about the local culture and any potential cultural taboos that may directly impact the ability of medical interpreters to do their job?
Does the translation agency provide machine translation or human translation or a combination of both? The medical document translation services will often require a more nuanced and complete understanding of the fluid nature of language.
Can the translation services be guaranteed or revisited if necessary? Will the translation services be completed on time? To what extent can the translation agency provide the required services and is it willing to share the work in areas where it may be lacking, if indeed it is lacking in any meaningful way?
Once all of these questions have been answered to the satisfaction of the people conducting the medical research, the selection process for a competent translation company will be complete. The key benefit here is the ability of the medical researchers to focus on their work, while the translation company handles the translating and interpretation services and the relevant institutions and organizations all have immediate access to all of the relevant medical documentation as soon as it becomes available.
The Cost of Incorrect Medical Translations and the Potential Impact During This Global Pandemic
According to the Statista website as of the twenty-fifth of March, 2020, “India confirmed over 600 cases of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 as of March 25, 2020, with over 40 recovered cases and over ten fatalities. The country reported new cases of the virus every day since March 2, 2020. So far, the biggest spike in the number of new people infected with the virus was on March 20, with 95 new cases reported in a single day. While the number of new cases has been growing in the country, some patients who tested positive under quarantine have made full recoveries.”
There can be little doubt that the Coronavirus or Covid-19 has made its way to India already. However, there is still time to prevent this from becoming a full-blown national crisis. In order to accomplish this however, it is imperative that proper, accurate and complete medical translation and interpretation be continued by certified translation and interpretation agencies and their agents.
The medical translators and interpreters must not only have a deep and personal understanding of the more subtle, nuanced nature of the languages they are translating, but should also be familiar with at least some of the more localized dialects and cultural norms and standards. It is imperative that the latest medical information be made to spread faster than the coronavirus, but that information must be complete and accurate in every sense of the word. Thus, now perhaps more than ever, the services of the certified medical translators and interpreters in India is as critical as the global crisis we are all facing.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).
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