Understanding English medical terminology

Webinar by Alessandra Martelli, April 22nd. 

“The technical language of medicine can sound pretty obscure at a first glance: words like electrocardiography and echocardiography can look pretty alike and might sound confusing.

In medical translation, precision and utmost attention to terminology is a must. This webinar is designed to provide participants with a good grasp on English medical terminology based on the morphology of medical terms – i.e. how medical terms are created.

In an hour, we will go through the most common Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes used in medical terminology and you will learn how to recognise these elements and use them to decode medical terms effectively and precisely.”

Complete info and registration here.

Picture credits: Photo protected by copyright. License purchased on iStockphoto.com –www.istockphoto.com

Three new Translation hashtags on Twitter

twitter-birdWe launched three new hashtags in February – if you are on Twitter and interested in one of these three topics, feel free to search them and use them!

#medxl8: hashtag for medical translation
#xl8cpd: hashtag for CPD (continuous professional development) in the translation industry
#xl8events: pretty clear – translation industry events (conferences, congresses, seminars, netwroking days…)

Connect with us on Twitter:

GxP Language Services@GxP_Services
Tweeting medical and pharma industry news, resources for medical translators (in English), calls for translators, occasional jobs. Accounts in German, French and Spanish also available.

Alexandria Project@Alexandria_xl8
Tweeting events, training (webinars, seminars, conferences, etc. and various resources (dictionaries, glossaries…)  from/for the language industry.

Translation News@Translate_News
Tweeting language industry news.

Translation Jobs@Translate_Jobs
Tweeting language jobs (translation, interpreting, proofreading, editing) from various online platforms (via RSS – we do not have anything to do with the jobs posted).

Translation Blogs@Translate_Blogs
Tweeting updates from our own selection of favourites language & translation blogs, in real time.

Medical/Pharmaceutical Translations 2012-2013 Trends

Weather Vane with Dollar SignBack in January 2012, I made the following forecasts for 2012 compared with 2011.

  • A higher volume of work
  • An increase in rate levels for qualified translators
  • The social networks growing in significance
  • The specialised ‘tools of the trade’ are required as ever, but the definition of exchange formats and workflows needs to be driven ahead
  • Machine translation has yet to fulfil its promises
  • Translation associations should be looking at extending their range of educational and CPD facilities
  • Representing the interests of the translation profession must be reinforced

The original article is here (only available in German)

Now that the year 2012 has come to an end (and the world has survived – contrary to expectations in some quarters), it is worth considering to what extent these predictions have changed and whether indeed new and interesting trends have developed.

Volume of Work/Rate Levels

Here, we would benefit from data that are more topical and reliable. The first two statements for the medical/pharmaceutical sector are still applicable in my opinion; albeit based upon data from a small group of LSPs with which I maintain close contact in that respect. Nevertheless, I increasingly note suggestions in various blogs and forums that could lead one to conclude that the market should be substantially more dynamic than it is from my vantage point. I would like to see more information about the scope of orders and rates, since information like this could help us to identify seasonal and absolute trends. Using such data, it would be possible to react and the data would lessen the partly hysterical cries about sinking rates which – in my opinion – are certainly to the detriment of our profession.

Social Networks/Internet Culture

The social and professional network tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Google+) are becoming ever more important and the previous translation platforms (Proz.com, Translatorscafe etc.) are suffering from increasingly less importance. This can be seen variously in the increasing number of translation groups e.g. on Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, where more and more business is transacted and also in the range of CPD facilities being made available via these groups.  Professional associations such as the German BDÜ took their time to set foot onto the social networks but in the meantime, they have understood the significance and are presenting themselves professionally on these platforms.

Unfortunately this development does not just have positive aspects. As a freelancer, it is impossible to follow all groups within which interesting projects are posted and also as an LSP, it is becoming ever more difficult to find specialists for specific projects on the various platforms.

For this reason it will be necessary to develop aggregators that bundle the various offers. On Twitter, we have made a first step towards combining job offers from various sources by means of our @Translate_Jobs account. We also offer similar services to embrace news from the translation profession with @Translate_News, interesting blogs and events in the profession with @Translate_Blogs and @TranslateEvents.

These solutions are, however, limited by the facilities that Twitter offers, which is one of the reasons why we launched our Alexandria platform to cover the area of CPD opportunities.

Specialised Tools/Interoperability/Crowd and Cloud Services

In the field of interoperability, good things are happening as the two top dogs MemoQ and Trados benefit from ever more functions to improve interoperability between the individual programs. Here it only seems natural that recent weeks have seen massive criticism of the hermetically-sealed protected design of the across program. I am somewhat more cautious in this respect, since I thoroughly recognize the necessity for closed workflows and would prefer an appropriately optional functionality from other vendors. At the same time, I would naturally appreciate it should across deign to open up.

What I cannot, however, understand is how one can work as a translator with the cloud services that are springing up like mushrooms. This is a TM solution that can only bring disadvantages to the translator with a lack of their own TM, no traceability of tasks performed etc. etc.

Machine Translation

I would appreciate having a functional system, but unfortunately have yet to find one. There is nothing more to be said, other than the fact that I will keep my eyes open. What I find interesting are two aspects:

a) We translators are told more and more that there is a an enormous and ever-growing market for bad ( i.e. machine) translations. Well, that is fine for those who are happy to read dross, of which there is an appalling abundance on the Internet. The main problem as I see it is that the time will come when readers actually believe these to be bona fide translations.

b) At the same time, I hear that trained MT systems within limited domains and certain language pairs can produce results that are supposed to be better than those produced by human translators. But the decisive point is that so far, nobody has been capable of showing me such a system or its results. Last year, several MT vendors explained to me just how remarkable their systems were, but when push came to shove, I saw nothing convincing other than impressive statistics that were of no consequence whatsoever.

Now that I have set up Trados Studio with TMs including several millions of words and autosuggest dictionaries of up to 1 GB in size, I can reach a level of productivity where I can indeed ask myself to what extent I need MT for our language pairs and specialized areas.

Education and Continued Training

Here, there is something afoot. Germany’s BDÜ and DVÜD, as well as other providers, have significantly increased the range of their online CPD facilities. In fact at first glance, it might seem to be superfluous that we are entering the market with our own offering (http://alexandria-library.com). However, with the Alexandria Project, we do indeed have several objectives in mind. With it, we would like to create a central platform (by means of collaboration with as many vendors as possible e.g. Diléal and Localize.pl), upon which we can offer continued training and resources for new entrants to the profession and specialists within the various languages. In addition to that, we would like to offer specialists a platform that enables them to present themselves in order to improve their reputation in the profession and with future clients. Thirdly, we want to start using this platform as soon as possible to draw the attention of potential customers to the necessity of qualitatively acceptable translation, whilst attempting to educate them about how they can identify suitable language service providers, or rather what they themselves can contribute in order to achieve optimal results. In that department, we still ‘have the builders in’ but we shall soon be expanding what we have on offer. Feedback and suggestions will be very welcome indeed because Alexandria is – after all – intended to provide an interesting service to as many translators and customers as possible.

The Interests of the Translation Profession

So far, I was disappointed to observe that translation associations carry out too little to promote the profession externally in a way that generates interest. Translators and translation associations seem to be too occupied with themselves (i.e. with translation per se) and enter much too little into contact with possible customers, whose lack of information about translation, quality, processes and rates tends to lead them down into the depths frequented by the so-called ‘bottom feeders’. It would be laudable to see several national associations deciding upon closer cooperation with each other and being outwardly active in terms of customer education and representing the profession. A common European job portal of translation associations could help in this respect. Here, customers looking for translation service providers would at least have the reassurance that the translators fulfil certain minimal criteria of professionalism. This would draw attention away from the Internet platforms such as Proz and TC, where all the cut price vendors who often provide bad quality lurk, since customers seeking quality would finally have a qualitatively more valuable service at their disposal.


I am not sure to what extent much changed in the profession during 2012, but I see a careful trend for translators taking on more responsibility for their own fate and success and emancipating themselves from the clutches of major organisations and company groups. In 2013, this positive development can lead to a wider movement coming together that brings us forward as a profession. I will be delighted if we can make our contribution to that with Alexandria and Trikonf 2013.

Medizinische/pharmazeutische Übersetzungen: Trends 2012-2013

Weather Vane with Dollar SignIm Januar 2012 hatte ich für das Jahr 2011/2012 folgende Aussagen gemacht:

  • Zunehmendes Auftragsvolumen
  • Steigendes Preisniveau für qualifizierte Übersetzungen
  • Soziale Netzwerke gewinnen an Bedeutung
  • Technisierung hilft, aber Definition von Austauschformaten und Workflows muss weiter vorangetrieben werden
  • Die maschinelle Übersetzung hat ihre Versprechungen bisher nicht erfüllt
  • Übersetzerverbände sind gefordert, das Aus- und Weiterbildungsangebot auszubauen
  • Die Interessenvertretung der Übersetzungsbranche muss gestärkt werden

Den kompletten Artikel finden Sie hier.

Nachdem das Jahr 2012 jetzt vorüber ist und die Welt nicht untergegangen ist, macht es Sinn, sich anzuschauen, ob sich bezüglich dieser Aussagen etwas geändert hat, bzw. ob sich neue interessante Trends entwickelt haben.

Auftragsvolumen/Preisniveau – wir könnten zeitnah verlässlichere Daten brauchen

Die ersten zwei Aussagen für den medizinisch/pharmazeutischen Sektor sind meiner Meinung nach immer noch gültig, allerdings basieren sie nur auf Daten einer sehr kleinen Gruppe von LSPs, mit denen ich diesbezüglich im engeren Austausch bin. Allerdings nehme ich in verschiedenen Blogs und Foren zunehmend Stimmen war, die möglicherweise darauf schließen lassen, dass der Markt wesentlich dynamischer sein könnte, wie ich es von meiner Warte aus beurteilen kann. Ich würde mir mehr Informationen über Auftragsvolumina und Preise wünschen. Diese Informationen könnten uns helfen, saisonale und absolute Trends zu identifizieren. Anhand dieser Daten könnte man reagieren und die Daten könnten vielleicht auch dieses, teilweise hysterische Ausmaße annehmende, Hintergrundrauschen über sinkende Preise, das meiner Meinung nach der Industrie schadet, beruhigen.

Soziale Netzwerke/Internetkultur

Die sozialen und professionellen Netzwerk-Tools (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing und Google+) werden immer wichtiger und die bisherigen Übersetzerplattformen (Proz.com, Translatorscafe etc.) verlieren zunehmend an Bedeutung. Dies zeigt sich unter anderem an der steigenden Zahl von Übersetzergruppen z. B. in Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, über die zunehmend Übersetzungsaufträge vergeben werden, aber auch im Angebot an Weiterbildungsmaßnahmen, die über diese Gruppen angeboten werden. Die Fachverbände wie z. B. der BDÜ sind zwar erst spät in die sozialen Netzwerke eingestiegen, haben aber inzwischen ihre Bedeutung erkannt und präsentieren sich professionell auf diesen Plattformen.

Leider hat diese Entwicklung nicht nur positive Aspekte. Als Freelancer kann man unmöglich alle Gruppen verfolgen, in denen interessante Aufträge angeboten werden, und auch als LSP wird es schwieriger, auf den verschiedenen Plattformen den Spezialisten für einen bestimmten Auftrag zu finden.

Es wird daher nötig werden, Aggregatoren zu entwickeln, die die unterschiedlichen Angebote gebündelt zur Verfügung stellen. Auf Twitter haben wir mit unserem @Translate_Jobs Konto einen ersten Schritt getan, um Jobangebote aus verschiedenen Quellen zusammenzuführen. Ähnliche Angebote bieten wir für Nachrichten aus der Übersetzungsindustrie mit @Translate_News, Interessante Blogs und Ereignisse aus der Übersetzungsindustrie auf @Translate_Blogs und @TranslateEvents.

Diese Lösungen sind leider durch die Möglichkeiten, die Twitter bietet, eingeschränkt, was einer der Gründe ist, weshalb wir für den Bereich Fortbildungsmöglichkeiten unsere Alexandria-Plattform (http://alexandria-library.com) ins Leben gerufen haben.

Technisierung/Interoperabilität/Crowd and Cloud Services

Im Bereich Interoperabilität tut sich Erfreuliches; die beiden Platzhirsche Trados und MemoQ bekommen immer mehr Funktionen, die die Interoperabilität zwischen den einzelnen Programmen verbessern. Da scheint es nur natürlich, dass in der Industrie in den letzten Wochen massiv Kritik an dem abgeschotteten Design von across geäußert wurde. Ich bin da etwas vorsichtiger, da ich durchaus die Notwendigkeit für geschlossene Workflows erkenne und mir eine entsprechende optionale Funktionalität auch bei den anderen Anbietern wünschen würde. Gleichzeitig würde ich mir natürlich auch wünschen, dass sich across öffnet.

Was ich allerdings nicht verstehen kann, ist, wie man als Übersetzer mit den wie Pilze aus dem Boden schießenden Cloud-Services arbeiten kann. Das ist eine TM-Lösung, die dem Übersetzer bisher fast nur Nachteile bringt. Kein eigenes TM, keine Nachverfolgbarkeit der eigenen Arbeit usw. usw.

Maschinelle Übersetzung

Ich hätte gerne ein funktionierendes System. Leider habe ich noch keines gefunden. Mehr ist dazu eigentlich nicht zu sagen. Aber ich bleibe dran. Interessant finde ich zwei Aspekte:

a) Es wird uns Übersetzern immer häufiger erzählt, dass es einen riesigen, ständig wachsenden Markt für schlechte (d. h. Maschinenübersetzungen) gibt. Das ist ja schön für diejenigen, die den Schrott lesen möchten. Beispiele dafür findet man im Internet zur Genüge. Das einzige Problem, das ich dabei sehe, ist, dass die Leser irgendwann tatsächlich anfangen zu glauben, dass das Übersetzungen sind.

b) Ebenso häufig höre ich, dass gut trainierte MT-Systeme inzwischen in begrenzten Domains und bestimmten Sprachpaaren Ergebnisse produzieren, die besser als die von menschlichen Übersetzern sein sollen. Hier ist der spannende Punkt, dass bisher niemand in der Lage war, mir ein derartiges System oder das nachweisbare Ergebnis eines solchen Systems zu zeigen. Im letzten Jahr habe ich mir von einigen MT-Herstellern erklären lassen, wie gut ihre Systeme sind, aber wenn es ans Eingemachte ging, gab es außer irgendwelchen beeindruckenden hohen Scores ohne Aussagewert nichts wirklich Bemerkenswertes.

Nachdem ich Trados Studio mit TMs mit mehreren Millionen Worten und Autosuggest-Dictionaries von bis zu 1 GB Größe aufgerüstet habe, erreiche ich eine Produktivität, bei der ich mich frage, ob ich MT für unsere Sprachpaare und Fachgebiete überhaupt brauche.

Aus- und Weiterbildungsangebot

Es tut sich was. Der BDÜ, der DVÜD und auch andere Anbieter haben das Angebot an online Fortbildungsangeboten deutlich ausgebaut. Da mag es überflüssig erscheinen, dass wir mit einem eigenen Angebot (http://alexandria-library.com) auf den Markt kommen. Mit dem Alexandria Projekt verfolgen wir allerdings mehrere Ziele. Wir möchten damit z. B. eine zentrale Plattform (durch Kollaborationen mit möglichst vielen anderen Anbietern, z. B. Localize.pl aus Polen und Diléal aus Frankreich) schaffen, auf der wir Weiterbildungsangebote und Ressourcen für Berufsanfänger und Spezialisten in den unterschiedlichen Sprachen anbieten. Zusätzlich möchten wir Spezialisten eine Plattform bieten, die es ihnen ermöglicht, sich zu präsentieren, um ihre Reputation in der Industrie und bei zukünftigen Kunden zu verbessern. Und drittens möchten wir so schnell wie möglich damit beginnen, mit dieser Plattform potentielle Kunden auf die Notwendigkeit qualitativ hochwertiger Übersetzungen aufmerksam zu machen, und sie zu schulen, wie sie geeignete Sprachdienstleister identifizieren können, bzw. was sie dazu beitragen können, um optimale Ergebnisse zu erhalten. Noch befinden wir uns in einer frühen Phase, aber wir werden das Angebot schnell erweitern. Über Rückmeldungen und Anregungen würden wir uns freuen, denn schließlich soll Alexandria möglichst vielen Übersetzern und Kunden ein interessantes Angebot bieten.

Interessenvertretung der Übersetzungsbranche

Bisher stelle ich mit Bedauern fest, dass die Übersetzungsverbände viel zu wenig (öffentlichkeitswirksam) unternehmen, um die Industrie nach außen zu repräsentieren. Übersetzer und Übersetzerverbände scheinen mir bisher zu sehr mit sich selbst (d. h. mit Übersetzern) beschäftigt zu sein und gehen viel zu wenig auf mögliche Kunden zu, bei denen der Mangel an Informationen über Übersetzungsqualität, Abläufe und Preise dazu führt, dass sich die Pest der Billigheimer weiter ausbreitet. Es wäre schön zu sehen, wenn sich einige nationale Verbände zu mehr Zusammenarbeit entschließen könnten, und im Bereich Kundenschulung und Repräsentanz nach außen aktiv werden würden. Auch ein gemeinsames europäisches Jobportal der Übersetzungsverbände könnte helfen. Hier hätten Kunden, die nach Sprachdienstleistern suchen, zumindest die Gewissheit, dass die Übersetzer bestimmte Mindestkriterien an Professionalität erfüllen. Den Internetplattformen wie Proz und TC, bei denen sich die ganzen Billiganbieter tummeln, die oft nur schlechte Qualität liefern, würde dadurch das Wasser abgegraben werden, da Kunden auf der Suche nach Qualität endlich ein qualitativ höherwertiges Angebot zur Verfügung hätten.


Ich bin mir nicht schlüssig, ob sich 2012 in der Industrie wirklich viel geändert hat, aber ich sehe einen vorsichtigen Trend, dass die Übersetzer langsam mehr Verantwortung für ihr eigenes Schicksal/ihren Erfolg übernehmen und sich aus den Fängen der großen Organisationen/Unternehmen emanzipieren. Diese positive Entwicklung kann 2013 dazu führen, dass sich eine breitere Bewegung organisiert, die uns als Industrie weiter bringt. Es würde mich freuen, wenn wir mit Alexandria und der Trikonf 2013 unseren Beitrag dazu leisten könnten.

Guest post: Translating with and without medical background – a retrospective study

Medical Translation: A Retrospective Study on the Quality of Medical Translation Produced by Translators With and Without a Medical Background

Newest guest post on the Stinging Nettle! Yana Onikiychuk (MD and freelance medical translator and interpreter from Limassol, Cyprus), Ekaterina Chashnikova (freelance medical translator and editor from Moscow, Russia) and Artem Karateev (specialist on social research, PhD, Moscow State University in Moscow, Russia) conducted a study on medical translation by medical professionals vs. background translators. They give here very detailed results of the study – a fascinating read! We are very proud to have been allowed to publish it here as a guest post – many thanks to the authors for conducting the survey and this excellent article, but also for allowing us to publish it on our blog as well!


During the last century, the volume of investigations and scientific knowledge in the field of medicine has grown exponentially. At the same time, the exchange of  information among medical professionals has increased to enormous amounts, becoming a fundamental aspect of the development of medical science. However, this exchange would not be possible if people were not speaking the same language. We can see that English is becoming a main language of science in the world scientific arena, as a vast majority of publications and reports are done in this particular language. Yet, some linguistic barriers to effective communication still exist.. Medical translation is a highly specialized field, dealing both with translation of medical-related written information and with interpreting of medical events. Healthcare interpreting is of particular interest because of its role in establishing communication bridges between healthcare practitioners and their non-native language patients. This report elucidates the role of medical translation and interpreting in modern society and in promoting medical and related sciences. We also bring out preliminary results on a new study in the field of medical translation, in which we compare medical translators with and without a medical background and the types of mistakes they tend to make more often when translating medical documents. According to the preliminary statistics, translators with a linguistic background are more prone to terminological and logical mistakes, while translators with a medical background are more prone to grammatical and stylistic mistakes. With an increase in years of experience, this difference becomes insignificant, and translators start to make fewer mistakes overall.


For the last centuries, we have seen a burst of development and innovation in the field of medicine. New information arises everyday on diseases, therapy and patient management. And this new information has to be transformed into other languages and cultures to ensure its global use. The field of medical translation and interpreting serves this purpose. Medical interpreting plays a vital role in the exchange of oral information at medical meetings, conferences, workshops or even at the hospital unit between doctor and patient (so-called healthcare interpreting). Medical translation deals with all variety of medical documentation, from scientific articles to patient information leaflets for drugs or marketing materials for medical devices. These documents vary significantly in terms of style and terminology, but they have one thing in common: the price of a mistake during translation is enormously high and equals the health and life of a patient. What kind of professionals are involved in medical translation? We can divide alltranslators and interpreters working with medical information into two big groups. The first group is comprised of professionals with a linguistic background specialized in the translation/interpreting of medical content. They acquired such specialization with specific training or just with practice, frequently dealing with medical documents/events. The second group consists of professionals with a medical background. This could be medical/nursing school, or an education in biomedicine or pharmaceutical science. Such professionals usually have a good command in their native language and one or two foreign languages, which they learn at university or at different language courses. Some of them, but not all receive dedicated training on the translation of medical documents, which is included on the curriculum in many medical and pharmaceutical schools. Very few professionals from this group obtain additional education in translation and linguistics, and this is usually offered in a truncated curriculum. Medical translators/interpreters with a medical or relevant degree are not common within the translation industry, especially in Western Europe and the US, as the cost of obtaining a medical education and going into the medical profession is extremely high in those countries. However, in Russia and Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland, Hungary) there are some translators of this kind in the market. The reason for this is that specialized medical translators are in high demand in these countries, and the moderate income level of medical professionals forces them to find an additional part-time or even full-time translation job. These two groups of medical translators/interpreters have some significant differences in product quality when they work with medical information.
In our study, we reviewed test samples from medical translators with and without a medical background and assessed the differences in the types of mistakes they are prone to make while translating medical documents.


Our study has a retrospective design and consists of two phases. In phase 1 we evaluated test translations from freelance medical translators. Translation was performed from English into Russian on medical text. This assessment was performed by two independent reviewers in a blinded fashion. Every sample was assessed for stylistic, grammatical and spelling mistakes, adequate translation of source terms and medical concepts. We also assessed the formatting and layout of the target text. After this assessment, the blinding was broken and results were matched with CVs from the translators who preformed those tests. Statistical analysis was performed by an independent expert in social studies and statistics. Primary information processing was performed with statistical grouping. The sample was divided into 3 cohorts: translators with a linguistic background (L), translators with a medical background (MD), and translators with a combined medical and linguistic background (MDL). Every subject was assessed by 2 endpoints: number of stylistic (St) and grammatical (Gr) mistakes and number of terminological (Tm) and logical (Lg) mistakes.Our initial hypothesis was that medical translation professionals with a linguistic background tend to make more ‘terminological’ mistakes, while professionals with a medical or relevant background make more ‘stylistic’ mistakes. With years of experience, the total number of mistakes decreases, and the difference between these two groups becomes insignificant. For phase 2 we developed a questionnaire for experts in medical translation to evaluate their opinion on training for medical translators/interpreters, the importance of a medical background for translating medical content, and potential problems with medical translation by professionals with and without a medical background.


The study is still ongoing. At this moment, we have enrolled 60 sample translations. Four samples were excluded as non-evaluable. The enrollment plan is 2000 samples to provide statistical power for the study. Test samples were divided into 3 cohorts: translators with a linguistic background (L), translators with a medical background (MD), and translators with a combined medical and linguistic background (MDL). Primary endpoints were (1) number of mistakes per sample, (2) correlation between the number of mistakes and background and/or years of experience, and (3) quality of translation from MDLs. The following mistakes were assessed: terminological (Tm), logical (Lg), stylistic (St) and grammatical (Gr). For statistical analysis, Tm mistakes were combined with Lg mistakes, while St mistakes were assessed in combination with Gr mistakes. Preliminary results on sample distribution are shown on Figure 1.

According to the preliminary results, we can divide all translation samples into 3 groups: best-performing group (BPG) with the lowest number of mistakes, moderately performing group (MPG) with an acceptable number of mistakes, and poor performing group (PPG) with a high number of mistakes. BPG includes 8 professionals (2 Ls, 4 MDs and 2 MDLs), MPG includes the highest number of samples (37 professionals 18 Ls, 16 MDs and 3 MDLs), and PPG includes 11 professionals (3 MDs and 8 Ls). The method of averages confirms that MDs and MDLs make fewer Tm and Lg mistakes than Ls. MDLs also make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls and MDs. Surprisingly, MDs make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls. This result doesn’t correspond to the initial hypothesis, but more samples are needed to consider this difference significant. The yellow line in the plot separates the group of translators with a tolerable number of mistakes, and most of those professionals were hired by the translation agencies providing test samples for this research.


The majority of mistakes from all three cohorts were done by Ls. Perhaps a better understanding of the source text makes a translator produce better target text in Russian. Working out on Tm and Lg mistakes improves St and Gr mistakes, as we don’t see subjects behind the blue line. The number and type of mistakes in L cohort was characterized by significant variability. This could be explained by differences in background, specialization and years of experience. MDs and MDLs make fewer Tm and Lg mistakes than Ls. MDLs also make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls and MDs. Surprisingly, MDs make fewer St and Gr mistakes than Ls. This result doesn’t correspond to the initial hypothesis, but more samples are needed to consider this difference significant. With these additional samples, we plan to analyze the type of distribution and the density of distribution, and also to reveal any correlation between years of experience and number of mistakes for all 3 cohorts.


Samoilov D. (2011) “On Medical Translation”. Publication on-line at http://www.practica.ru/Articles/medical.htm (in Russian)
Shahova N. (2012) “Discovering the Russian Translation Market.” in SlavFile. vol. 21(1), No. 1
Garbovskiy N. (2004). Translation Theory. Moscow: Moscow University Publishing House (in Russian)
Komissarov V. (1990). Translation Theory. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Komissarov V. (2001). Modern Translation Science. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Latyshev L. (2001). Translation Technology. Moscow: NVI-Tesaurus (in Russian)
Lvovskaya Z. (1985). Theoretical Issues in Translation Process. Moscow: Vysshaya Shkola (in Russian)
Alekseeva I. (2004). Introduction to Translation Science. Saint-Petersburg: Academia Publishing House (in Russian)
Buzadzhi D. (2009). New Approach to Classification of Mistakes in Translation. Moscow: Vserossiyskiy Center Perevodov (in Russian)
Kunilovskaya M. (2008). “Mistakes in Translation: Types and Classification”. Publication on-line at http://tc.utmn.ru/node/76 (in Russian)

Download the article as pdf here on Yana Onikiychuk’s website

Wikipedia project takes on global healthcare information gap

English Wikipedia has more than 25,000 medical articles, which receive approximately 200 million page views a month. The encyclopedia is one of the foremost health care resources in the world, used by the lay public as well as professionals. Surveys have found that between 50 and 100 percent of physicians use Wikipedia in their clinical practice, and Wikipedia is consistently at the top of Google web searches for medical terms.

Wikipedia’s Medicine Translation Task Force is an initiative established in late 2011 to make sure that the content readers are finding is accurate, unbiased, and accessible. As part of this endeavor, the task force is taking 80 core medical articles–articles like cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis–and improving their quality to a good article or featured article status through a process of peer review by task force participants. Though 80 might not seem like much, these articles are very popular, with over 10 million page views per month. Eventually they hope to have these articles formally peer reviewed, published in the journal Open MedicinePLoS Medicine, or the Journal of Medical Internet Research, and then ultimately indexed in PubMed. The first article is already in the publication process.

The ultimate goal is to provide health information for every person on the planet in the language of their choice. One of the biggest challenges has been reaching out to the often ignored non-English demographic.

“The only viable platform to get health care information out to the whole world is Wikipedia,” said Dr. James Heilman, an editor and English Wikipedia administrator (Jmh649). Heilman, or “Doc James” as many people refer to him, is the founder of the task force. “I asked myself, ‘How can I get high-quality health care information to everyone in the world?’”

A plan developed to take the improved English Wikipedia articles and translate them into the multiple language versions of Wikipedia. Heilman sought out Translators Without Borders (TWB) a non-profit whose mission is to provide humanitarian translation for other non-profits and NGOs worldwide. The initial goal of TWB’s inolvement is to take the 80 peer-reviewed, core articles and translate them into 80 different languages.

Lori Thicke, co-founder of Translators Without Borders, said partnering with Wikipedia would help “bridge the language last mile for access to high quality health information.”

“Wikipedia has the reach to make a major impact on public health in the developing world. Because of language and physical barriers, the health information we take for granted is locked away from the people who need it most — those with the deadly combination of relentless poverty, a high disease burden and grossly inadequate health resources,” said Thicke. “Yet these people are connected. Increasingly their phones are Internet-enabled and they are ready to move into the digital age. We need to help them.”

While the task force aspires to translate content, another goal is to do so at a level of complexity that is accessible for every reader. Heilman and Thicke enlisted the support of Content Rules, a company that specializes in professional simplification of technical content. Although they typically focus on information technology, Content Rules offered to take on simplifying the entire first batch of 80 medical articles (13 have been simplified as of this writing).

“When people can actually read medical information and understand it, it can save lives,” said Content Rules CEO Val Swisher, who put a call out for pro-bono editors to work on the Wikipedia medical articles in late 2011. “The response I got from my network was so overwhelming that I literally had to turn people away.”

Swisher explained that although the articles are outside the core area of her company, Heilman is there to review them and Content Rules does have some medical experts on staff. “Our purpose is to take deep medical information and make it understandable,” said Swisher. “So, if we don’t understand it, then we have to rewrite it. And if we do understand once we are done, then we know we’ve been successful.”

Once the simplified articles have been translated, Heilman and the task force members search for Wikipedia editors who can integrate that content into their own language version of Wikipedia. Heilman said he is currently on the lookout for editors from the Dari, Turkish, Polish, and Vietnamese projects, as well as any others who think they can help.

“No one else is attempting to solve the problem of delivering medical information in the other 280 plus languages we work on,” said Heilman. “We need to make sure that when the next billion people come on line — those who don’t speak English, Spanish, or French — that there’s something there for them.”

(You can monitor the progress of the translations here or sign up to become involved here. For further reading, see the Wikipedia Signpost’s coverage of WikiProject Medicine)

Source: Wikimedia blog, 9 August 2012
Author:  Jake Orlowitz



Translators Without Borders Newsletter II

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