Why global medical communications need expert medical translations


Sophie Howe
2 minute read

Are you new to medical translation and localisation?

In this guest post, Sophie Howe, Director of Comtec Translations, looks at key considerations for translating global medical communications and how to get the support you need. Keep reading to see what advice Sophie has for you on translations in medical communications.

Medical communications can be challenging, even in English, as they often contain highly technical terminology which has to be clinically accurate and precise. When your communications need to engage and educate audiences on a global scale, it can be even more challenging. Medical translations require very careful handling and if you get it wrong the consequences can be extremely serious.

However, with the right support and guidance, there’s no reason why you can’t communicate clearly, accurately and effectively with any market around the world. Here I share a few pointers to help you get started with medical translation and localisation.

5 key considerations for medical translations

When we’re starting work on a new medical translation project, the following key questions are top of our minds. These will help you brief your translation team and get the right support:

1. Who’s your target audience?

Different medical communications require different handling depending on the audience. For example, training information will vary in terminology and style to marketing content; medical brochures for physicians will differ to pharmacological instructions for patients.

Be clear who the audience is so the correct terminology, language and style within context is used at all times.

2. What specialisations do your translators need?

As medical science is such a large and complex subject, your translators need subject matter expertise to ensure that their translations are accurate and precise. That includes specialisations within medical translation itself, as well as experience of different types of content. For example, if your subject matter is dentistry, use a native-speaking translator with this expertise. Or if you need product marketing content translated use a medical translator with marketing experience as well.

3. Who will agree your target language medical terminology?

The ‘register of the word’ is really important in medical terminology. A strictly medical register would use ‘thorax’ to describe what in a colloquial-use register is referred to as the ‘chest’. This applies in English and in many other languages. Some medical terminology, often derived from Greek and Latin, is used across different languages but spellings and abbreviations can differ. Therefore it’s important to develop glossaries of terminology for each target language to ensure the correct translations are used consistently across your content.

As part of the project, we will help to develop glossaries for review with your local market colleagues who may have particular preferences.

4. How does culture affect your medical communications?

While accuracy is critical for your translated content, cultural considerations should not be overlooked. This can affect the language used, such as tone of voice and style, as well as visual elements like graphic design, imagery and audiovisual content. For example, certain colours in some cultures have connotations that might not be appropriate for medical content; imagery showing specific locations or cultural practices may not be relevant; and some symbols are not globally recognised.

Where possible avoid these elements in your source content (the original English language version) so they don’t need to be changed. Alternatively, we may recommend replacing them with culturally appropriate and relevant versions as part of the localisation process.

Top tip! Make sure you provide editable files, such as image files with layers, so that only the problematic elements need to be replaced.

5. Who will review and approve completed translations?

Unless you’re fluent in each target language you’ll need a team of local market reviewers to review and approve the translated content. Naturally these reviewers also need to be subject matter experts, understand the objectives and target audience for the content, and have time to review and provide feedback to meet your internal deadlines.

Onboarding your review team early in the process helps to streamline translation projects and reduce review cycles and revisions. By involving them in developing glossaries, style guides and briefing your translation team, you’ll get high quality, accurate and effective translations from the start.

I hope the tips above will help you in getting started with handling multilingual medical translations. Of course, a very important factor in communicating effectively in global markets and ensuring that your translated content is clinically accurate is your translation team. That’s why we believe in forming long term partnerships with our clients like InkLab, aligning our expertise with their needs and providing specialist translation services that gives them confidence in developing global communications for their clients.

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  1. David Rainey on July 8, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Medical translation has helped a lot during the pandemic and has been a great source of transferring the right medical information all over the world

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