Translating for Pharma

What is a translation?

A translation is, essentially, a new document for a new audience, since it is written to reflect the meaning of the source document as faithfully as possible in a new language. This new language could express things in different ways, which will be evident if a professional translates the material back to the original language without seeing the original document (known as back translation).

Translation as teamwork

Translation is always a partnership between all the participants in the process. As the Technical Contact for the ASTM Standard for Translation published in 2014, Helen prepared this work order and uses it to outline clear parameters for all projects or those who request translations (requesters, in this document).

Preliminary questions
  1. Who is the audience? Spanish monolingual speakers, bilingual native speakers of the target language with limited proficiency in the original language, speakers fluent in both languages? Health care professionals, patients, distributors, or regulators? In what country will the translated text be used? Should country-specific terminology be used?
  2. How will the requester handle questions? How long should it take to get an answer? Is it likely the customer will know the answer, or will they have to find someone else in their organization to provide the information?
  3. Is complete delivery when the translation is finalized acceptable? Understand that document 3 on the same topic may shed light on what was not clear in document 1. Partial deliveries complicate communication between translators, editors, project managers, and the requester. They often slow the process down and undermine quality.
  4. What style guide will be used? Does the requester have a style guide, or would they like to receive the one the translation team used to guide their decisions?
  5. Does the requester have a terminology database or previous translations available for reference that should be used for consistency? If the requester has resources, the translator should work with them. Otherwise, it could be important to find out if there are important terminology preferences ahead of time.
  6. How involved does the requester want to be in the translation? Will the translation be evaluated by the requester? If so, having an ongoing conversation with that person through the project can be useful.
  7. Does the requester want a translation of the translated document back into English (a back translation)? Be sure to set realistic expectations. The back translation will always have different wording from the original text while reflecting the same concepts. This is a required step in some fields.
Suggested steps for translation success
  1. Be watchful for ambiguities in the source document. Any discrepancies and contradictions in the source document need to be flagged and brought to the requester’s attention for clarification. Otherwise, the translator may solve these discrepancies in ways that are inconsistent with the requester’s expectations.
  2. Be careful with the use of translation tools. Small differences between one phrase and a similar one can go unnoticed as we accept repetitions in our rush to meet a deadline, especially dealing with sections that do not appear to have technical content. Requesters will check the material that is easiest for them to check: numbers, addresses, names. Step 5 can help mitigate these issues.
  3. Document terminology research. Keep a checklist of terminology issues to watch out for and follow it. Be very careful with terms that might be false cognates or close cognates.
  4. If the document is ultimately intended for use by patients and doctors who speak Spanish, rather than for the regulators who will be approving it, the terms chosen should be terms with which monolingual Spanish speakers are comfortable and will identify. These might not be the same terms used in US government websites. Translators should be prepared to defend linguistic decisions with research and logic. Sometimes requesters ask questions to verify that translators are applying professional best practices.
  5. Be very careful with additions or omissions, even if they are minor clarifications. The review tab of Word has a Read Aloud feature. It can be used to read the translation while following along on the original document to check for accuracy. Anything that might require clarification for the requester can go in the style guide.
  6. At the end, do a search for the terminology issues flagged and recheck all of them. Delaying delivery a little is better than delivering a text with avoidable problems.
How to ask for clarification

“Where it says xxx, on page 1, as a translator I wonder whether you would like it to say yyy or zzz.”

“This text gives two names for the same illness, in the following contexts (list them). What would you like us to do in the translation to maintain consistency with the different names, since one appears to be scientific and the other appears to be colloquial? Here is one suggestion: ________________. The organization appears to have two addresses. Is this correct? Please confirm.”

Problems when there is no flexibility

Sometimes the translator and reviewer are asked to include a particular preferred term and the back translator is asked to make sure a particular English term is used to match that term in the back translation. In those cases, it is important to verify that the English and Spanish terms truly are accurate translations of each other.

There should be some flexibility in translation. The meaning should be there, but the words in the back translation should be expected to be somewhat different than the words in the original document, though they will convey the same message. Translating the English document into a foreign language so that the back translation yields an exactly identical result will produce a document that is rigid and potentially unreadable for the non-English speaking audience and could defeat the purpose of providing language access.

Translation is not about the words. It is about what the words are about.

A flowchart of the translation process
Step Translator Requester
Together, determine:

  • Audience
  • Style guide
  • Terminology resources
  • How to answer questions
  • Deadline for complete delivery
  • Participation of requester in project
  • Need for back translation
Initial decisions:

·         Terminology analysis

·         Decisions regarding tools to use

·         Ambiguities in the source document

·         How to develop a style guide

·         What goes on the checklist?

·         Always keep the intended audience of the translation in mind.

1 Translator delivers the bilingual text in two-column format in a Microsoft Word document.
2 Reviewer edits the translation with track changes on and makes comments. These comments and changes are recorded and approved by the translator.
3 Back translator translates translation back to source language.
4 Back translation comes back. The translator and reviewer verify that the translation approved by the reviewer matches the source text.
5 Specialists from the pharma legal team review the back translation and make comments regarding nuances they found that might be different from their source text. This could include mistakes, negligible linguistic differences that must be explained to the requester, or wording that needs to be translated in a specific way for legal reasons. It may be helpful to ask your requester to flag or categorize changes based on the severity and nature of the change. Does the requester consider it wrong or do they simply prefer that the word be written out rather than expressed in an acronym? Are they changing this for legal reasons, or because they don’t understand why it isn’t identical between the original and back translation?
6 Update style guide
7 The back translator, translator, and reviewer work together to make the requested changes and ensure they are executed in a unified manner across all translation documentation.
8 The new version is submitted to the requester for approval
9 The new version is submitted in two versions: a clean version and a two-column table comparing the back translation and the original text.
10 The requester agrees on the translation
11 The translator certifies the translation with the ATA seal. Both the translator and the reviewer certify the accuracy of the translated document. This should be done at the end, so the requester understands that it is unacceptable to change the document once it is certified. The certification is only valid for the version approved by the certifying translator.
Qualifications ATA certified translators. The ATA certification exam has a 12% pass rate in Spanish.

Subject matter expertise in medical and science topics.

The reader of the document should have verified language proficiency in the language of the document, to avoid the risk of making suggestions that could corrupt the integrity of the translation if implemented.

Review this document on language proficiency of bilingual employees for further information on language proficiency. There are language proficiency tests in reading available through www.languagetesting.com

Sample certification text

I, [translator name], ATA certified translator, certify that:

I performed the translation into Spanish of the document called [document name]

To the best of my knowledge, that translation is an accurate rendition of the original document written in English.

I am a competent translator and have been certified by the American Translators Association as a Spanish to English in [month] of [year] and as an English to Spanish translator in [month] of [year].

Date (Signature) [seals]

Sample analysis of terminology for gradient of severity of adverse drug reactions
Mild or moderate adverse drug reactions do not necessarily mean that people must stop taking a drug, especially if no suitable alternative is available. However, doctors are likely to reevaluate the dose, frequency of use (number of doses a day), and timing of doses (for example, before or after meals; in the morning or at bedtime). Other drugs may be used to control the adverse drug reaction (for example, a stool softener to relieve constipation). Leve

No es necesario ningún tratamiento.

Moderate adverse reactions include:

·         Rashes (especially if they are extensive and persistent)

·         Visual disturbances (especially in people who wear corrective lenses)

·         Muscle tremor

·         Difficulty with urination (a common effect of many drugs in older men)

·         Any perceptible change in mood or mental function

·         Certain changes in blood components, such as a temporary, reversible decrease in the white blood cell count or in blood levels of some substances, such as glucose

Also, reactions that are usually described as mild are considered moderate if the person experiencing them considers them distinctly annoying, distressing, or intolerable

Moderado

Es precisa una modificación del tratamiento (p. ej., modificación de la dosis, adición de otro fármaco), pero la interrupción de la administración del fármaco no es imprescindible; puede ser necesario prolongar la internación o aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Severe adverse drug reactions

Severe reactions include those that may be life threatening (such as liver failure, abnormal heart rhythms, certain types of allergic reactions), that result in persistent or significant disability or hospitalization, and that cause a birth defect. Severe reactions are relatively rare. Doctors use every possible means to control a severe adverse drug reaction.

Grave

La reacción adversa a fármacos pone en peligro la vida del paciente y exige interrumpir la administración del fármaco e aplicar un tratamiento específico.

Lethal adverse drug reactions

 

Lethal reactions are those in which a drug reaction directly or indirectly caused death. These reactions are typically severe reactions that were not detected in time or did not respond to treatment

Mortal

Una reacción adversa a fármacos puede contribuir directa o indirectamente a la muerte del paciente.

Source for this table: English and Spanish Merck Manuals for Home Health. Note this opening sentence from the English article:

There is no universal scale for describing or measuring the severity of an adverse drug reaction. Assessment is largely subjective.

The column on the right was taken from the professional version of the Spanish Merck manual.

In practice, a requester’s document may not match this list. Therefore, translators must do a terminology analysis of the complete list of reactions listed in the document to put the reactions on the gradient list and develop an appropriate terminology list for that document, to avoid confusion.

Resources for translation

Resources not to use

  • US Government websites. The US Government has a policy of contracting the lowest cost technically acceptable bidder, which yields unreliable translation results.
  • Wikipedia is a tertiary source, not a primary source. Researchers are not allowed to quote it as a primary source in research papers. It is a great place to get a basic idea and then keep researching.
  • Linguee. This is basically a quick check of how something has been translated in various contexts. It can yield unreliable results.

Resources to use

  • The Merck Manual, which is available online in many languages in two versions: for professionals and for patients. These versions are not direct translations of each other in the different languages. They are carefully written and edited in each language to be used as a direct resource for people in those language cultures. These resources have been discussed with members of the American Medical Writers Association in charge of writing medical documents in Spanish, and one (an Argentine MD who has been a translator and is now in charge of the medical documentation for an organization like this pharma group) says there is no better resource than the Merck.
  • Word Magic, an app available for the iPhone and iPad. Its translations do not just come, as many do, as a bilingual glossary, but also with synonyms, sentences, and other useful information for context. The medical, business, legal, slang, and general versions are constantly updated.
  • The Jablonsky dictionary of acronyms and abbreviations.
  • Vox Médico.
  • Other specialized resources written for medical professionals.
  • Diario Médico, a newsletter for doctors from Spain.

Style guides

Regarding style guides, although the Real Academia Española is highly regarded, Deusto has published a style guide that is an adaptation of the Chicago Manual of Style in Spanish: Manual de estilo Chicago Deusto, edición adaptada al español. This is used by many translators who work in technical fields and is consistent with the 2010 updates of the Real Academia Española.

This is a highly regarded resource, which we use as a primary resource in most translations. It provides helpful references for the editor at all stages of the editing process in one volume, which makes it particularly useful.

One reason for using the Deusto is that there are several RAE publications, making it difficult to follow the thread of what guidelines have been followed in each of the many publications that RAE has published on the same topic in the last few years. However, El buen uso del español is one of the most practical ones and is available on Kindle. On the other hand, it often seems to contradict some of the guidelines in the larger references, such as the Nueva Gramática and the Ortografía. As translators, we make decisions regarding style based on the document and the needs of the requester. Editors develop style guides for each setting, and so do we.

Image source: Pixabay

Author bios

by Helen Eby and Carlie Sitzman

Carlie Sitzman graduated from Weber State University with a BA in German and an AAS in Technical Drafting in 2009, at which time it was clear that best way to make her passion for language and fascination with technology into a career was to become a translator. In 2011 she moved to Germany where she simultaneously freelanced and earned her MA in Intercultural German Studies from the Universität Bayreuth. She now translates from offices in Wilmington, Delaware and will be celebrating her ten-year anniversary in the industry this year. www.sitzmanaetranslations.com

 

Promoting the Craftsmanship of our Profession

1944. Wartime France. No fabric. The norm had been 100. They were down to an index of 26. There was not even enough material to make socks! Paris, the world’s fashion capital, had lost hope of reviving its precious haute couture.

American photojournalist Lee Miller came to France as a war correspondent. She connected with Edmonde Charles-Rouxe, a French war correspondent. As they were occupied with war reporting she revealed her true purpose. A group was secretly planning an exhibition of haute couture in Paris that was expected to have tremendous impact, and she wanted Charles-Rouxe to be involved. A month later, Paris flocked to see a display of miniature dolls created by the great artists of haute couture, put on display for their pleasure. The French Resistance was even involved in bringing haute-couture back to Paris with British support!

The exhibition was so successful that it continued until after the war was over. To promote the exhibition abroad at that time, a French government official wrote to the Ambassador of France in Britain: “France has little, alas to export, but she has her appreciation of beautiful things and the skill of her couture houses. “In 1946, it went to New York and San Francisco, where the mannequins were left languishing in the basement of San Francisco’s City of Paris department store. In 1990, the mannequins were transferred to Maryhill Museum of Art. Haute couture had always been the domain of Paris. During the war, New York had survived without the inspiration Paris provided. Paris was back in its rightful place!

Who was part of this movement to show the world the capital of the fashion industry had survived the war? Some 60 couturiers worked together. Among them, Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, and others.

What made it successful?

They worked together. 60 couturiers who normally were competitors set aside their rivalries to reestablish their national industry.

They did the unexpected. Too hard to make shoes for these dolls? Then we will! Bags? That too! The dolls, measuring one-third the size of human scale, even had specially made jewels and lingerie. All difficulties became challenges to show off their skill in a friendly and fierce competition.

They did it despite hardship. This was done while the average Parisian could only eat 1400 calories per day!

They contributed selflessly.The artists donated their services; the couture houses contributed labor and material and made a contribution for each costume provided for the exhibition. All the proceeds went to a central organization: L’Entraide Francaise, set up for the Theatre de la Mode.

They went where their market was: Barcelona, London, Vienna, then New York, and San Francisco. They made themselves known.

Their work was excellent. It was truly artistic, enough that in 1952 the Maryhill Museum of Art acquired the collection from San Francisco and set about restoring it. In 1990, the museum did an extensive restoration.

What can we learn from them as translators and interpreters?

Just as the Theatre de la Mode artists made specially sized shoes for their costumes, we can focus on the details our clients care about and no computer can replicate.

Work together. Teamwork is important, and there is enough work for all of us. We can promote our profession without being concerned about competition because each of us has different strengths and skills to contribute.

Working with the allied professions makes us better. The artists worked with sculptors, editors, and publicists. We can partner with desktop publishers, web designers, publicists, and professionals in the copy editing field.

They worked as a professional association. Today, we have several professional associations to support us. ATA, for example, stands ready to help members set up partnerships to promote the profession.

Do the unexpected. Taking a risk can be beneficial. We still know Nina Ricci today. Christian Dior was not famous at that time, but today it is a well-known brand.

Chip in. The proceeds of the artists’ cooperative effort went to a common fund. That helped set aside any rivalries. When we do volunteer work for an association, we are not promoting our own brand, but the profession.

Keep quality a priority. Will our work stand the test of time?

Today, the collection is featured in art collections around the world (see here and here). Will our translations be read and mentioned in the future?

Author: Helen Eby

Contributing Editor: Paula Irisity

For further reading: Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture, by Charles-Roux, Edmonde et al, 2002, published by Maryhill Museum of Art, Palmer/Pletsch Publishing: Portland, OR, ISBN 0-935278-57-7

https://www.maryhillmuseum.org/inside/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/theatre-de-la-mode

Translation or Transcreation?

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Whether we provide a translation or a transcreation, at Gaucha Translations we always keep the end users of the translation in mind. Will this document be useful to them? Will it be useful to the people they interact with? Will it cause misunderstandings along the way? I, Helen Eby always ask clients questions based on the following issues. I don’t necessarily bother to label the products one way or another. They usually all show up as translations on the invoices.

We discussed this issue when we drafted the Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation issued by ASTM released in 2014 (ASTM F2575-14). ASTM was previously known as the American Standards for Testing and Materials. I was the Technical Contact for that publication.

In my understanding, based on ASTM F2575-14, a straight translation would be what we do with a document such as a birth certificate, in which we translate each section exactly the way it is in the source document, for submission to an authority. There is almost no room for adaptation.

A transcreation, according to ASTM F2575-14, is akin to adapting a marketing campaign for the US to Argentina. This would involve not only the text, but also images and many other aspects of the presentation.

In between these two extremes there lies a broad spectrum of items that require discussion and my clients sometimes call transcreation:

  • When translating a radio advertisement and it must be read in 30 seconds but the translated text reads in 90, we should meet with the client to decide what key concepts should stay and what concepts should go. As we discuss the issue, we might come up with a third way to express things that solves some of the problems.
  • When we translate posters, we should consider space issues. In the United States, translating the names of swimming lessons at a recreation facility might also cause confusion at the front desk. Will the receptionist be able to sign the person up if we translate “Sharks”? If not, we might choose to translate the descriptions but leave the names of the lessons in English.
  • When translating programs in a library brochure, we might check to see if they are offered in Spanish. If a Spanish-speaker attends, will they be able to participate? If not, maybe we should ask about adding a line that says, “these sessions are in English.”

The ASTM F2575-14 Standard Guide for Quality Assurance in Translation covers this issue in section 8.4.3.4.1 to 8.4.3.4.3. It assumes this will be the subject of a conversation between the translator and the client when it says:

The requester should indicate whether the target text should retain traces of the source language and culture, or whether it should disguise the fact that it is a translated text. Approaches range from close adherence to the source text (for example, for a university transcript) to significant adaptation to the target culture (for example, for a software interface).

A generalized translation requires another type of content correspondence. It avoids region-specific expressions that could cause confusion and attempts to produce target content that can be used in various areas and around the world.

Customization for a specific locale, in addition to disguising the fact that the content is a translation, involves the adaptation of non-textual material, such as converting amounts in euros to dollars for a US audience and selecting appropriate colors. In some cases, such as marketing materials, this approach is appropriately taken to an extreme and is called transcreation; the marketing approach for a French audience may be substantially different from that for an Australian one.

Image source: Pixabay

My personal style guide for the ATA translation exam into Spanish

This post was originally published on the Gaucha Translations blog. It is reposted with permission from the author.

Based on the comments from a failed exam. I am writing this to help others not fail the same way!

  1. Include necessary clarifying information to reduce ambiguity. (register former inmates/registrar para votar a los que habían sido…) (spread the word to thousands… /informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) Keep it to a minimum. The translation should stand on its own. Sometimes a cultural point needs to be made or an explanation given, but the passages are carefully selected so that does NOT have to be done.
  2. Make sure caps and punctuation follow Spanish rules. Double check RAE resources in case of doubt. (el partido demócrata: capitalize. Es nombre propio. Partido Demócrata)
  3. Get your quote marks in the Spanish order! Dijo, “Esto no me gusta un comino”. (las comillas van antes de las comas y los puntos en castellano, al revés que en inglés.
  4. Words in the RAE dictionary count for sure. Word creation counts, even using Spanish morphology rules, but they have to follow accepted Spanish morphology rules, and words shouldn’t be created when other words already exist in the dictionaries of reference. (former prisoners/excarcelados: corrected to exreclusos, antiguos reos).
  5. Maintain the register.
  6. Use proper Spanish syntax. (reconoce es posible: reconoce que es posible)
  7. Word Reference is a good starting terminology resource. Verify its terms with a second source.
  8. Don’t get more creative than necessary. Often a literal translation is the best. (might soften their image/que posiblemente matice su imagen:corrected to suavice)
  9. Check the monolingual dictionary, but not just for the meaning of a word. Check it for usage: is it transitive? How does it fit in a sentence? (spread the word to thousands… /informarles a miles… : informarles la decisión a decenas de miles…) informar is a transitive verb.
  10. Don’t stutter! (presos en las prisiones)
  11. Spelling! (libertado condicional: libertad condicional)
  12. Faux ami (non violent drug offenses/ofensas no violentas: delitos no violentos) Las ofensas son algo totalmente distinto en castellano.
  13. Printed resources are another reliable choice. Having printed resources also keeps you from going back and forth from your document to another screen, which is hard with the laptop. My favorites:
    • Alcaraz-Varó legal and business (those are two separate dictionaries), but the Merl Bilingual Law Dictionary by Cuauthemoc Gallegos actually had the best answers in all cases and was easier to sort through the answers. The Business Spanish Dictionary, by Peter Collin Publishing is equivalent to the Merl in my opinion. For the general texts, we shouldn’t need anything in greater depth than these dictionaries. Cabanellas is great, but they are unidirectional volumes, so you have to buy both volumes to have both directions.
    • CLAVE (monolingual Spanish), DELE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española – latest version of the RAE dictionary): take them both.
    • Webster’s New World International Spanish Dictionary. I like this dictionary because it includes a lot of technical terminology, so most technical terms we run into are likely to be here.
    • El buen uso del español. This book has a two-page spread on the main issues of Spanish grammar and spelling. It was published by RAE in 2013, after all the new Gramática and Ortografía works of 2010 were completed, with the intention of being a quick reference.
    • Ortografía escolar de la lengua española. Published by RAE for students in 2013 as a quick reference.
    • The American Heritage College Dictionary (English monolingual)
  14. Remember, the general text can have a lot of specialist content in it. Don’t count on general texts not including technical vocabulary. Be ready for basic technical vocabulary. What you won’t have to do is deal with formulaic technical texts.
  15. Good book for learning Spanish writing: Curso de Redacción – Teoría y Practica, by Gonzalo Martín Vivaldi
  16. Now, go and beat it! May this experience help you!

Image source: Pixabay

Look Out(!) for these Red Flags in Client Communications

Over the years I’ve received a lot of spam emails from would-be “clients” requesting my services. Here are just a few of the red flags I look for to determine whether an email is from a legitimate client or a scammer.

Ambiguous requests

“Hello, I’m contacting you in regard to an English content document worth 11,633 words (44 Pages). I need this document translated into [your language here]. I would like to know if you are interested and available to get this done for me. Please get back to me as soon as you can. Thank you.”

Some of the details I noticed here:

  • No deadline
  • Nothing about the topic
  • No mention about why you would be the right linguist for the job
  • It comes from a Gmail account or some other free domain

Trying to get personal / Grammatical errors

“I hope that you are enjoying the best of health and this message meet you well.

I would like to know if you are interested and available, I got your contact from an online Directory of Translators and Interpreters.”

Note the writing errors:

  • Sentences are separated by periods instead of commas
  • Poor subject-verb agreement; “this sentence meets you well” would have been correct

Inaccurate claims about your profile

“Your portfolio published on [your association here]…”

We don’t put portfolios on our association websites! We have profile listings that describe our skills and specialties. That’s an immediate red flag.

Math about the experience of their staff

Sometimes a client will try to convince you they are great by saying they are “managed by highly erudite professionals with over [xx] years of combined experience.” We don’t know how many professionals are on the management team, so if their combined experience adds up to 50 years but there are only 20 people, this doesn’t mean much.

Unusual contracting procedures

Some clients will claim to offer a certain amount of pay per month, and will report with a 1099-k structure. That means that they are not the ones sending you the 1099; whoever processes the electronic payments is. That would be PayPal, QuickBooks, or whoever they work with. You have to receive either 200 payments or $20,000 through that system to get a report through them. In other words, they do not do their own 1099 reports.

Phone number and address

When in doubt, I call the phone number listed in the potential client’s email. If I get a Google phone message, this raises a red flag. A Google message is unusual for a language company, especially if it does not identify the company the email supposedly came from.

You can also look up their listed address on Google Maps. Occasionally it is at a Dollar Tree, a barber, or a storage unit site—I have seen all three of these! As soon as I ask why they operate from that type of address, the emails stop coming.

Better Business Bureau rating

If a company reaching out to me has a poor rating on the Better Business Bureau website, that’s a red flag too. The company isn’t worth working with if they are known to be delinquent in payment to their contractors. If a company has one star out of five, beware!

Unsolicited prepayments

Some clients will try to send me a check before I have started the job, without me asking them to do so or agreeing on a price. Once, I got the translation… and a check in the mail for an amount I had not negotiated. We had not negotiated any price at all! Then I got persistent emails asking whether I cashed the check instead of asking whether I had any questions about the translation. This is a red flag, too!

I went to the bank and discovered it was a fake account from a fake bank. The bank destroyed the check. I never cash a check before finishing my assignment; first I have to negotiate the deal, then complete the assignment, then receive payment.

When something looks off, it probably is. If you think something is questionable, it probably is. Standard business practices exist because they prevent problems. It is always helpful to find colleagues to check with when you have questions, though. Local chapters and national professional associations such as ATA are excellent resources.

Image source: Pixabay