Monday, October 22, 2012

Creating translations that sound like originals: some examples

In the current issue of Panace@, a Spanish language journal of medical translation and interpretation, Juan Manuel Martín Arias has a short article (pdf) illustrating some pitfalls of over-literal translation of certain terms from English to Spanish.

Turning his examples around results in a lesson in obtaining natural-sounding translations from Spanish to English.


 In Spanish, a drug (medicamento, not droga, but that’s another story) is “consumed” or “administered:”  
El consumo de antidepresivos tricíclicos produce efectos secundarios de tipo anticolinérgico.
La administración de antidepresivos tricíclicos produce efectos secundarios anticolinérgicos.
Los antidepresivos tricíclicos producen efectos secundarios anticolinérgicos.
These words (consume, administer) would not be out of place in English versions of these sentences, but as Martín Arias points out, they are the correct translations of  “use” or “utilize” in this context; hence:  
The use of tricyclic antidepressant agents is associated with anticholinergic side effects.

In Spanish, a drug is not initiated, interrupted or suspended; rather it is treatment that is initiated, interrupted or suspended. Thus, if you have the sentences
El tratamiento con amlodipina se suspenderá al menos 3 meses antes del inicio del estudio clínico.
or
Se dejará de administrar la amlodipina como mínimo tres meses antes de iniciar el estudio clínico.

you might be inclined to translate them as
Amlodipine treatment should be suspended within 3 months before trial initiation.

But if you realize that these sentences are proper translations of
Amlodipine should be discontinued within 3 months before trial initiation.
you will get an English version that is more propio del inglés.

Here is Juan Manuel’s other example illustrating this point:
He gives
El tratamiento con antiangiosos se iniciará lo antes posible.
 or
La administración de antianginosos debe empezar tan pronto como sea posible.
as translations of
Antianginal agents should be initiated as soon as possible.

Without taking this into consideration, you might translate these sentences as
Antianginal treatment should be initiated as soon as possible.
or
Administration of antianginal agents should begin as soon as possible.  

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