Unforgivable mistakes in medical translations

Translation is an art, but an art that can save lives, especially when it comes to medical translations, one of the most important disciplines for many translation professionals. I am sure that you will agree that if you cannot trust an auxiliary nurse to save the life of a heart patient, then nor should you trust an amateur with the medical translation of a report or patient information leaflet. So, bearing in mind that it is better to entrust these types of document to a medical translation agency, let us tell you some of the unforgivable mistakes we have encountered in medical translations.

Take one pill eleven times a day

We medical translators are shocked when we find translation mistakes like this one that we are about to share with you. Don’t you think it’s a little odd for a patient information leaflet to tell you to take one pill eleven times a day? Well, it’s more common than you might think thanks to the mistranslation of the English word “once” into the Spanish number eleven (also written as “once”). This mistake by amateur translators can result in serious health problems.

Patients with prostheses

Patients needing non modular cemented prostheses must be furious when the poor translation of the Spanish results in them having the non-cemented version rather than the non-modular cemented version, leaving them with serious mobility problems and resulting in around half of them having to undergo another operation.

False friends

Also of concern are false friends, which are all too common. Examples include “drug” which in Spanish is used to mean medicine rather than illegal drugs as it does in English; “abortion”, which in Spanish does not mean an intentionally aborted foetus, but rather a miscarriage; and “disorder”, which in Spanish means being untidy but in English usually refers to a condition or disease.

Medical translator

It is important to choose people with extensive experience in the translation of technical texts, such as medical translators, capable of finding the right word on each occasion, since even similar terms may have nuances that completely change the meaning of a sentence.