Medical and Pharmaceutical Translation Techniques

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Dec 7th, 2015

Medical and Pharmaceutical Translation Techniques 


Translation is something required in most professional fields and the medical and pharmaceutical industries are not an exception. In an increasingly globalized world, we can easily imagine the multitude of reasons why translation is extensively used in these two domains. But those who are attracted by such a career must be extremely well prepared and master several helpful techniques. In this article we will present what types of medical and pharmaceutical documentation you could specialize in as a translator as well as a few useful tips.


Clinical trial documentation 

All pharmaceutical companies carry out clinical trials to ensure that their drugs are safe and ready to be sold. Obviously, most of the drugs are going to be sold internationally, so the trials will be taking place in many countries and in different languages. The most common types of documents in clinical trials are clinical trial protocols, investigator’s brochures, informed consent forms, adverse event reports, communications between the main study centre and other study centres, and legal documentation between the pharmaceutical companies and study centres.  Needless to say that this is hard work for the translator, as a single error could actually risk people’s lives. This is why a medical/pharmaceutical translator must have outstanding attention to details and great organisational skills. They also need to be informed in terms of legal matters and technical terminology, which can be extremely complicated and challenging especially in the case of clinical trials.


Academic documentation 

Here we are talking about scientific articles, medical books, abstracts, protocols, etc. In this case, a translator must be prepared to learn new terminology and properly understand it. It also required knowing the standard formatting and specific style of academic journals. The translator must have vast experience in the field of medicine or pharmacy in order to keep the meaning of the original work intact. Most of the academic work is usually translated into English, as the majority of famous international journals are in English. German and French are also quite often used.


Websites and patient brochures 

The translation must be made in a language accessible to the masses, as websites in general are not specialized and aim at attracting as many visitors. At the first sight, this seems quite easy, but adopting a familiar tone and being convincing and credible at the same time is a hard job. The terminology must be used in line with industry standards. Regarding the patient leaflets, it is important that they are translated in an understandable and credible language that can guide and reassure the person who is reading it. A good tip for a translator in this situation would be to learn to adapt its language to all type of people without giving up on professionalism.



As there is no unified patent legislation across the globe, patent holders have to file for patents in several different countries. This means that translators will be obviously needed.

In translating patents, an extensive knowledge of biochemistry and terminology related to medical devices are a must. Knowing the specific legislation is also important. Translating patents requires some knowledge of medical devices and biochemistry, because most inventions related to the medical field are either devices or chemicals, as well as law. These are usually legal documents written according to very high standards, so learning the terminology is essential, because patents risk being rejected if their style does not meet the requested standards.  Extensive reading on medical inventions would also be useful, as it develops the specific vocabulary, which makes the translation work a bit easier.


Market research 

Pharmaceutical and medical companies sell their products all over the globe, so market research is required in order to establish their positioning, acceptance, pricing and feedback.  Translators will have an interesting experience translating different interviews or guides for interviews, product profiles, research screeners and different statistics.  This type of translation does not require extensive knowledge in the field of medicine, neither intense research, so we can argue that it is a fairly easy job compared to other tasks that might arise and that we mentioned above. Of course, terminology must be known and adapted to the language of both the patient and the physician.



There is less demand for this type of documentation, except among some economic groups, such as the EU, where some standards are unified, so they need to be translated into all applicable languages. Other cases in which regulatory documentation requires translation is when foreign companies are taking part in tenders and need to be compliant with local legislation. Knowing the legislative framework and the legal terms is useful for the translator that is conducting this type of work.


In addition to all the skills and qualities that a translator in the medical or pharmaceutical industry must have, there are some extra characteristics that could help him deliver high quality work:

  • Research the topic and try to understand it as good as possible before starting to translate it. Try to find summaries that explain you the topic in a comprehensible way and your work will become much easier even if you spend some extra time.
  • Use high quality glossaries and dictionaries and even try to create your own list of words for future translations. For instance, you could read medical journals or manuals and try to note the words you don’t understand.
  • Try to focus on subject that interest you. For example, if you have relatives or friends that suffer from a particular medical condition, the topic will gain a difference signification. Read things that you enjoy and this way you will specialize on something. If someone close to you suffers from a heart condition, choosing cardiology could be interesting and useful.

In conclusion, the translators must be able to rely on their knowledge, they have to read extensively and make a lot of research about all the aspects of the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Without doing these things, a translator will never be truly professional.

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About "" Has 117 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog

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