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What Experience And Skills Do You Need To Work In Medical Translations?

Translation as a career field can be interesting, satisfying, and highly rewarding, but once you look into the field you will see that there are numerous specialties within the translation and linguistics field.

One of the most prominent specializations within the field of professional translation services is medical translation – but what is medical translation, and what do people working in the medical translation specialization need to know?

Medical Translations

What is medical translation?

What exactly is medical translation? Well, as the name suggests, it is when people work as translators for any documents or files relating to the medical field.

Even though it is a specialization within the field of translations, medical translation is a skill with a broad scope and lots of different things that professionals have the handle every day.

What does medical translation include?

Medical translation can include a wide range of different tasks. Some of these tasks will be the translation of written word documents, while some could include audio. Some of the most common tasks within medical translation are.

  • Translating patient records and doctor’s appointment notes – If you change area or country and need to access medical care, you may need your notes and records translated. This helps people access continuous care without worrying about anything being lost in translation.
  • Interpretation of appointments – some translators work to help people access healthcare in a foreign language by offering interpretation services. This means that people can access healthcare wherever they are.
  • Translating medication information and healthcare guides – It is vitally important for people who sell medical products to make sure the instructions, guides, and warnings for their items are properly translated. If they are not, there could be serious problems and huge ramifications.
  • Subtitling medical lectures and seminars – The medical field never stops moving, and there is always new information that people present in lectures and seminars. As with anything, it is useful to have these items subtitled and translated to help them reach a wider audience, meaning that healthcare professionals all over the world can gain the advantage that this new knowledge brings.

These are definitely not all the examples of what a medical translator needs to do in their job, but it gives an idea of the variety and scope of items that they could be working on.

What skills does a medical translator need?

As listed above, we can see some of the tasks that medical translators do. This gives us one obvious answer to the question of what skills a medical translator needs, though it is not the only answer.


A medical translator needs to be flexible and be able to translate, subtitle, and interpret a wide range of different items. This includes both written documents and audio or video files, or even on-the-spot interpretation. A great medical translator will be able to adjust to all of these and give a highly accurate translation every time on every task.

Specialized language

Medical translators also need to be comfortable using the highly specialized language that is common in the medical field. Medical professionals use a lot of complex and uncommon terms in their reports, seminars, and guides.

These could be the names of new medications, the names of health conditions, and of course a lot of biological terms.

To make it more difficult, a lot of these terms are in Latin. Latin has been used as a standard in the medical field for hundreds of years, and any medical translator will need to know these terms well in order to translate a document or file – this includes knowing which terms are loan-words and thus should not be translated. If medical translators actually translated the Latin terms for illnesses, it could cause confusion and delay.

Fast working

Speaking of avoiding delays, medical translators need to be very fast at their jobs. While this is true for most fields, medical translation is one of the only fields where life and death hang in the balance, so expediency is even more important than usual.


Medical translation is a specialized field, and most of the people who excel in it come from a medical background. It is vital to make sure that your medical translator has all this experience (and more!) in order to get the best outcome.

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About the author

Vidya Menon

Vidya is an online content developer for Justwebworld. She has a BA in English Language and Literature and an MA in Current Linguistics. She is a passionate reader, writer and researcher with a background in academic writing.