Archive for November, 2008

The Common Pitfalls of Medical Translations from English to Cebuano

Friday, November 14th, 2008

The Common Pitfalls of Medical Translations from English to Cebuano**
Jessie Grace Udang-Rubrico, PhD

There has been an increased demand in the last 10 years or so for translations from the English language to Cebuano, or Binisaya or Bisaya. Majority of these are requests for medical translation –brochures, surveys, interviews, researches on new drugs, questionnaires, forms, etc. There are lots of translators out there who try their hand at medical translation. As Cebuano language consultant to medical research centers and reputable translation agencies, I get a sizable amount of translation outputs for backtranslation, editing, linguistic review, and/or linguistic coordination. However, I sometimes decline job requests for back translation (BT) or editing due to the poor quality of the forward translations (FT).

What are the problems with these outputs? It can be any, or all, of the following:
(1) lexical –inappropriate word choice; wrong form of the word chosen; incongruous combination of English terms and Bisayan words in a clause; Bisaya-Tagalog codeswitching.
(2) syntactic –inconsistent ordering of words in a given clause which blocks the natural flow of text in the target language; tendencies of translators to follow the English syntax and to do the slot correspondence which sometimes cause ambiguity or, worse, confusion on the import of the clause; the omission of markers and linkers that renders a phrase or a clause or any given string ill-formed.
(3) semantic – ambiguity and/or the loss of the context of the source text; narrowing or diminution of meaning; broadening of scope of the meaning of the source text.

Medical translation is a job for highly-skilled translators who specialize in the field. It has its own jargons. It demands accuracy. It requires thorough understanding of the source –the words, phrases, clauses, which make up the whole- as well as fluency in both the source and target languages.

This paper discusses the pitfalls or snags which render medical translation outputs ambiguous and inaccurate and, thus, unreliable.

**An abstract of a paper which will be read during the 10th Philippine Linguistic Congress at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City on December 10-12, 2008.