The most frequent (and dangerous) false friends in medical translation

Translation professionals, as good language lovers, should be careful with every last detail in every text: format, faithfulness to the original text (which should not be confused with a literal translation), a correct grammar and spelling are some interesting aspects of languages. In this post we will focus on the vocabulary required in medical translation: more specifically, on the most frequent Spanish false friends that appear most frequently in this field and on the need to properly translate them.

Careful with false friends in medical translation! These are really dangerous liaisons Tweet it!

Perhaps the first medical false friend that springs to mind is constipado. Possibly many of us have made jokes about this. And it may be funny, but when a doctor believes that you have a cold when you are actually unable to move your bowel, it may not be such a joke after all. However, there are many more false friends, some of which are better known than othres, but in every case, it is important to know what their true meaning so as not to regret greater damage. In translation, prevention is also better than curing.

In our previous post in this blog we already mentioned one of these: intoxicado, which means someone a victim of food poisoning, not someone who is drunk. Of course, the relevant medical protocol would be very different in each case.

Another frequent false friend is sano, which does not mean sane, someone in their right mind, but healthy. Likewise, sanidad does not mean sanity, but healthcare.

Casualidad is not a casualty but chance.

Likewise, molestado and severo do not mean respectively molested or severe (as in grievous, serious), but the much less alarming bothered and stern.

Desorden is not a disorder but rather a mess (as in a messy room). So you should not watch out for a  desorden in medical records, but rather for trastorno, which is how disorder is actually translated.

Spanish diversión has nothing to do with English diversion – far from being a bypass, diversión means fun! (So it is no doubt better to have a Spanish diversión than an English diversion).

Finally, it is easy to confuse the painful English piles with the Spanish pilas, which are rather more energetic, as they are actually batteries.

This list is in no way comprehensive (although it may be comprensiva – which means understanding!) But we hope that you have found it of interest.  In any case, you know that in Okodia we also specialise in medical translation, and obviously there are no false friends that escape us.