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Getting medical translations right


Senior British and American medical executives have admitted that misinterpreted cultural references or linguistic errors in medical translations can have a major impact on a companies image and reputation.

This study of US and UK based senior executives with an international role in medical research, clinical trials or pharmaceuticals shows that almost all understand the difference between translation and localisation, and are acutely aware that the misuse of cultural references or linguistic errors could lead to crisis communications or damage to their companies’ brand reputation.

Almost half of our respondents localize rather than translate more than 40% of their medical content and 39% have noticed an increase in consumer engagement and sales due to properly localised content.

Revision is paramount when it comes to content within the life sciences sector. Most cultural references and linguistic interpretations are defined and refined during the revision stage. 83% of all those who participated in the survey have in-country linguists reviewing the localised content for market appropriateness and 78% run user testing on localised content prior to release.

While 76% admit to having experienced a cultural faux pas due to a mistreated/wrong cultural reference, most of our respondents (85%) are confident that the content they are producing is suitable for the intended target audience or culture.

72% of all our respondents agreed that interactions with their target markets have been adversely impacted by inappropriately localized content. The main repercussions of misinterpreted or mistranslated content appear to be:

  • inaccuracy and inconsistency in global communications

  • a global crisis communication

  • damage to global partnerships

  • damage to company image and reputation

  • delays in delivering the campaign/project

  • profit loss

The findings of this report show, when dealing with medical content, just how important it is to keep in mind not only that the message needs to be accurately translated, but also that it needs to be put into local context and in tune with the respective cultural nuances.

These results are not only of importance to the medical industry, but those working in translation and localisation will also find them valuable given that 73% of all respondents agreed that they have a need, within their company, for support from a Language Service Provider.