High quality through uniformity

Any technical documentation for medical devices must follow very strict rules, and there are a lot of them. So how can a translator be sure that she is following them all when producing the translation? The secret is uniformity: the consistent use of terms and phrasing within a single document – or across multiple documents. That’s something that we translators are very familiar with, because we know that a text is only good if it is uniform and consistent unto itself. That’s true no matter what kind of text it is and no matter what field you work in. But for people those of us who translate in medtech, strict adherence to the principle of uniformity is also part of making sure that our text is in compliance with all the regulatory requirements, and that this compliance can be easily verified. So it not only helps you the translator and your proofreader, but it also makes the agency’s and the product manufacturer’s lives easier, too. (And for any reader who was struck by how many times I used the words “uniformity” and “uniform” in this one paragraph: congratulations! you just picked up on another aspect of uniformity that’s particularly important for medical texts: it’s better to use a relevant term multiple times than to use a synonym that could introduce ambiguity and cause confusion).

Not a matter of taste

One thing that the translator in medtech has to face is that in this type of work, there’s no real room for creativity. If you’re looking to create texts that grab the reader’s attention, there’s always marketing and sales materials – but don’t forget that there are rules and regulations governing marketing, too, so you still can’t stray too far from the source text. But in medtech, the translator really has to pay very close attention to wording and translate absolutely as precisely as possible. What the text describes as a “possible result” of the use of the medical device cannot be a “result” in the translation. If the manufacturer’s original only says that use of the device MAY produce a certain result, the translator who writes that use of the product WILL achieve that result is putting herself on very shaky legal ground. Though it might seem obvious, it’s worth laying it out plainly: you can’t make any false claims. Of course, that’s what the rules and regulations on marketing are designed to prevent. That’s important enough in any marketing environment, but in medicine can be a matter of life or death.

Translation from German by Kyle Wohlmut

Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash