5 great resources for medical translators

There are hundreds of great resources for medical translators online for different language pairs and different areas of specialization; I have compiled a few of those under my posts Glossaries and Dictionaries. In this post, I am sharing 5 resources that are useful for medical translators when researching. These links will help you understand what the terms and conditions that you are translating about mean and from there you can make decisions about how to translate them using your glossaries and dictionaries.

  • Medilexicon: This dictionary also features in my dictionaries post. I love it particularly for acronym search in clinical trial and patent translations. It is comprehensive and extremely useful when translating from English. It also contains a dictionary with definitions, which is useful, but the main resource I use is the abbreviations search.
  • Pubmed: This is a database of scientific articles from virtually all relevant international journals. When I worked as a medical researcher a few years back, this was the most popular search engine for scientific references. I believe it is still one of the most used by scientists worldwide and it is great because it contains articles from reputable journals. Hence, you have access to higher-level information. The only drawback of this website is that if you are not subscribed, you only have access to the abstracts of most articles. In my experience, the information I need is usually in the abstracts and when it is not, I can usually find some clues there that will guide further research.
  • ScienceDaily: I like this website because you can search for summaries of research in different topics. I find it particularly useful when the information I need is not clear from the abstracts on PubMed. I usually use the clues from PubMed as search topics on Science Daily to get better clarification on the terminology that I am translating.
  • Medline: The US national library of medicine. This is also a great resource for research. It is important that medical translators have a thorough understanding of the topics they are translating about before they even begin translating. Hence, having links for good, sound information on a variety of medical topics in your bookmarks bar is essential. This is definitely one such resource.
  • LILACS: LILACS is the most important and comprehensive index of scientific and technical literature of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is particularly useful for translators into and from Latin American languages and it gives access to full articles from Latin American Journals. It is also useful for translators of other languages doing research in English as most of the articles are in English, but Latin American translators are able to find the references and then search for the articles in their respective languages. Hence, I find it very handy when trying to decide how to translate a particular term.

When researching for a medical translation, I find that we often need to be creative. For example, sometimes I see a term in a source text, I cannot find it in my glossaries and dictionaries and I am not sure how to translate it. In some cases, from experience, I can make an educated guess about how that term might be translated into Brazilian Portuguese. What I do from there is try to determine whether my guess is actually a term that is used in Brazilian medical language, so I will search for it on LILACS, for example. Sometimes, within seconds I find several references to that term being used in the same context in Brazilian journals, which means problem solved.

However, other times I cannot find it, so I need to broaden my search, I need to understand in detail what the English term means, for which I use PubMed, Medline, Science Daily and even Medilexicon. Once I have a good understanding of what the term means, I can google related terms in PTBR and try to find a term being used in the same context in Brazilian Portuguese. Sometimes, Google image search can be extremely useful in helping me determine whether the term I found and the source term mean the same thing, because if I search both terms and find similar images, then I know that I am on the right track. Please note that Google is never the final determinant of how I am going to translate a term, because there is a lot of unreliable information there. Hence, even if I find the term in PTBR on Google, I then go back to my articles, perhaps through LILACS, and try to find that term being used in the same context.

Between these references, the dictionaries and glossaries that I have shared in previous posts, and my own dictionaries and glossaries, created over years of medical translations, I can combine and cross-reference information to translate virtually any medical term. This may sound like a lengthy process, but with experience, you learn a lot of terminology and the more you work with a particular topic the fewer terms you need to research and the better your educated guesses. My recommendation for translators beginning in the medical field is to read a lot in your working languages, because the better your understanding of medical language, the easier for you to make educated guesses. Furthermore, take the time to create your own glossaries and dictionaries. Whenever you are translating, just keep an excel spreadsheet open and include all the terms you research. This is invaluable, because you will often come across the same term again and you will wish you remembered how you translated it last time!

Good luck and please share if you have any other references that you find particularly useful.

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