The translation of specialised texts generally requires a deep linguistic competence (both in the source and target language), a good general culture and a detailed knowledge of the sector to which the text to be translated belongs.
Linguistic competence is, of course, the base to become a high-level translator in any field of science, culture and knowledge in general. Preparing oneself in the linguistic area is a steady job, carried out in time, and including not only language courses and living abroad, but also a global interest in the culture of a country, in order to absorb the mind and thinking behind the development of the spoken language. Understanding the mind mechanisms leading linguistic thinking can in fact be as much important as the study of the grammar and vocabulary.
Once this expertise has been acquired – something that should be taken for granted in the case of professional translators – specialising in the different fields can have different forms, and can be based on either study or experience.
The translators qualifying nowadays on the translation of medical texts, to make translations for the pharmaceutical industry or in other scientific or technical fields, have schools, faculties and courses at their disposal. These make available methods as well as supporting tools like the CAT tools and translation memories, specialised dictionaries, multi-language databases, often referring to public authorities.
The future medical and scientific translator can therefore be trained “on the field” as early as during their studies, learning to exploit every channel to be available when they start working as medical translator: the English-Italian combination is of course the most looked for, as English the most used language in science.
However, it is not rare that a medical translations agency requires the opposite, not only for technical and scientific texts, but also for official documentation, legal translations, or for the so-called “service translation”, required to exchange information with clients and take the required official and regulatory actions. And if finding a translator from Italian into English was difficult in the past, compared to the availability of an English to Italian medical translator, now that the market of medical translation has moved online, there are no limits to the linguistic combinations available for the drug industry professionals.
In the past, most professionals were trained in languages mostly through literature and learned the profession of scientific translator directly working on the texts; else, they often were health professionals that added a good knowledge of foreign languages, acquired via different experiences, to their expertise in science and medicines.
These two training paths, now joint in the praxis of medical and scientific translation, are both valid and can mutually complete themselves in terms of culture, tools and experience.
For both these figures, the web is now an essential starting point, not only as information tank and reference documents (a huge virtual library where it is possible to consult a great bulk of data and compare a wide range of texts), but also as users base where to find job offers and proposals of cooperation with translation agencies, specialised consultants and companies in the sector.
Thanks to the web, to new available tools, and to a more quality-centred regulations, the profession of the translator cannot be improvised anymore, has a new acknowledged dignity and follows well-defined training and working paths leaving no room to chance. Regulatory affairs consultants know it well, being now able to meet the translation needs of clients more and more oriented to international markets by recruiting highly qualified staff.
Written by: Maria Pia Felici