Embarking on the translation of clinical trial documents? Make sure to bring the right gear! (Revised and expanded)

When you translate clinical trial documents, you may be helping a patient with things such as starting a clinical trial or an investigator read the clinical research protocol in his or her own language. Your work counts. Your work is important. Your work affects the lives of many people. And you’are driven to work hard. Responsibly.

Translating clinical trial documents

Now, there’s no denying that translating clinical trial documents can be a tough nut to crack. Actually very hard if you don’t have access to the right tools and resources. So if you intend to dive into the depths of this mighty river, make sure to bring the right gear.

Below you’ll find a handful of helpful resources that can help you assemble a powerful English-Spanish translation/writing kit:

•  Access to the Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) through Tremédica (International Association of Translators and Editors of Medicine and Allied Sciences).

If you need help getting started with the MedDRA, you may want to check An introduction to MedDRA for medical translators by Emma Goldsmith on her blog, Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  A subscription to Cosnautas, including:

•  Fernando Navarro’s authoritative Libro rojo (the Red Book);

•  NEW! Diccionario de investigación clínica (DIC), a must-have English-Spanish dictionary of clinical research terms, by M.ª Verónica Saladrigas;

•  Siglas médicas en español, a repertoire of initialisms, acronyms, contractions and symbols used in Spanish medical texts, also compiled by Fernando A. Navarro;

•  Árbol de Cos,  a collection of links to Internet resources for medical translators and writers, compiled by Laura Munoa, with the assistance of Fernando Campos Leza, and María J. Hernández Weigand); and

•  Alergología e inmunología, an English-Spanish dictionary of allergology and clinical immunology, by Juan Manuel Igea Aznar.

•  Pablo Mugüerza’s Manual de traducción inglés-español de protocolos de ensayos clínicos (English/Spanish Clinical Trial Protocol Translation Handbook), a Fundación Dr. Antonio Esteve publication.

•  Glosario EN-ES de ensayos clínicos (Glossary of clinical trials, ENG-SPA), by María Verónica Saladrigas, Fernando A. Navarro, Laura Munoa, Pablo Mugüerza, and Álvaro Villegas, a Tremédica publication.

•  Clinical Research Glossary, a publication of the Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium.

•  Diccionario de términos médicos, Real Academia Nacional de Medicina.

•  Stedman Bilingual: Medical Science Dictionary, English-Spanish, Thomas Lathrop Stedman, Editorial Panamericana.

•  MediLexicon online database of pharmaceutical and medical abbreviations.

•  Glossary of Pharmaceutical Terms, English-Spanish, WHO Collaborating Center for Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies.

•  Diccionario de anatomía e histología, by Francisco Speroni, Editorial de la Universidad de La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

•  A Spanish-English glossary of genetics, by Emma Goldsmith on Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  Vocabulario inglés-español de bioquímica y biología molecular (English/Spanish Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Glossary), by María Verónica Saladrigas, M. Gonzalo Claros Díaz, and Diego González Halphen, a Tremédica publication.

•  A Spanish-English statistics glossary for clinical trials, by Emma Goldsmith on Signs and Symptoms of Translation.

•  Medical Translation Step by Step: Learning by Drafting, by Vicent Montalt and Maria González-Davies, Routledge.

•  Cómo traducir y redactar textos científicos en español, Reglas, ideas y consejos, by M. Gonzalo Claros Díaz, a Fundación Dr. Antonio Esteve publication.

•  SEQC’s Manual de estilo para la redacción de textos científicos y profesionales (Style Guide for Scientific and Professional Writing).

Please note this style guide does not incorporate the latest changes introduced to the Spanish grammar by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, which you can find here.

You can also refer to Spelling and Typographic Standards of the new Ortografía de la lengua española (2010) as Applied to Biomedical Publications in Spanish: An Overview, by Manuel José Aguilar Ruiz, a Tremédica publication.

•  5000 frases precocinadas para textos científicos, by Pedro Margolles García, a NeoScientia publication.

•  A Practical Guide to Self-Reviewing Your Translation Work, an e-book intended for new translators and others interested in implementing a systematic self-review process.

I hope this will serve as a starting point for building your own resource portfolio. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. And, of course, happy translating!


The Newbie Translator’s Corner: Healthy Relationships with Translation Agencies and Project Managers


December’s always been a crazy month for me. Work pours in ahead of the Holiday Season, the house and the pool get more crowded and noisy than usual with my two teenage boys out of school, not to mention preparations for Christmas’ Eve, which we usually spend at home with family and friends.

Every year during this busy season, no matter how swamped I may be, I take some time to greet my translation agency project managers, and thank them for another year of close collaboration and good work together.

After all the complaining about translation agencies and project managers we can read about on the social networks these days, some people may find it odd that I’m talking about closely collaborating, doing a great job together, and giving heartfelt thanks.

I think the secret lies in becoming consciously aware that it’s you who chooses who you work with, what agencies you work for, and even which individuals inside those organizations you accept work from. Very much the same as in your personal life, there’s no point in sweating over relationships that’ll lead you nowhere. As freelancers, we’re perhaps the only ones in the labor market empowered to do so.

So, embrace the idea that, as a service provider and an entrepreneur, you choose who you provide your valuable services to. But (big BUT here), once you’ve done so, take precious care of those client-provider relationships you’ve established, and nurture them day in, day out.

The checklist below will help you test your existing/potential relationships with translation agencies/project managers. This is only a starting point— individual translators may have their own criteria to add in order to customize the checklist as needed.

December has always been