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

When I translate clinical trial documents, I may be helping a patient start a clinical trial, I may be helping a patient understand his or her laboratory test results, or I may be helping a physician understand a patient’s medical history. My work counts. My work is important. I’m 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);

•  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.

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

•  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.

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

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

•  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.

•  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 heartless translator (A short story)


Once upon a time, there was this poor translator with a worn-out heart. After living a thousand loaned lives and riding the frantic roller coaster of getting into and out of the skin of a myriad of characters penned and fleshed out by others, after spending a thousand sleepless nights and dreaming of unsolvable ambiguities and impossible deadlines when he did get some sleep, the fibers of his heart had gotten threadbare.

Doctors were helpless at fixing such a life-threatening problem, until one of them came up with the idea of the clockwork machine. It was implanted right inside the hollow space that used to hold his heart, and it started working right away—tick, tack; tick, tack. The translator soon recovered his health, but never got his magic back. He was still able to translate to the best of his mind, but he was missing a heart. And a heart is not something a translator can do without.

Nora Torres © 2012 All Rights Reserved

A Freelance Translator’s New Year Resolutions


Getting started

I have been planning on beginning to blog on translation and freelancing topics for a long time now. I have probably already told you about it privately. Or publicly. Many times. So here we are! And this is, I guess, a good way to get started.

On the brink of 2016, I would like to share with you the list of things I have tried to accomplish for a couple of years now, and I have actually made good progress! So do not get discouraged if you, like me, have not been able to keep all the hopeful resolutions you made in past years. Make new ones. Make better ones. And try to keep them for good.

A Freelance Translator’s New Year’s Resolutions

1. I will try and invest in my knowledge. I will get training in areas within or without my field of expertise that I feel will help my business or my degree of comfort with the type of projects I want to be working on.

2. I will try and differentiate myself from the rest, offering one or more types of services that go beyond the traditional translation/proofreading scheme. For that, I will need to think outside the box.

3. I will try and set a price for my services that is consistent with the value my clients are getting in return for their money, a price below which I would rather do something else for a living.

4. I will try and define my target market as accurately as possible. If I am being asked to lower my rates on every single job, I may be targeting the wrong clients.

5. Within reason, I will try and set my own standards as to how much work I can consistently translate/back-translate/proof/quality manage per hour/day. 

6. I will try and learn to say “No”. “No” to lowering my rates. “No” to accepting projects or deadlines I am not comfortable with. “No” to working with people who do not respect me or my work.

7. I will try and eat right— I will try and say “No” to eating in front of the computer, “No” to grabbing a quick bite of anything handy while hurrying to get a rush job done, “No” to drinking excessive amounts of coffee to keep me going through the night.

8. I will try and get enough rest on a regular basis. Because of a heavy family/work burden, I know I am unable to sleep 8 hours non-stop, so I will try and take a couple of short naps sometime over the day.

9. I will try and take a weekend off every now and then, and a decent, unplugged vacation once a year. I will try and say “No” to vacationing with a notebook, cables, extra batteries, a diary book, dictionaries, terminology lists, or the like.

10. I will try to keep, and build on, the above resolutions. And I am serious about it.

What about you?

Have you made any resolutions of your own for the coming year? Are they very different from mine?