Last week we talked about how using your cousin to translate for you is not a good way to cut costs. This week, there was an article in MinnPost that talked about the often dire consequences of using a bilingual person for medical translation, rather than a professional, certified translator.
In one case, according to the article, a translator told the medical team that the patient was intoxicated when he was actually nauseous. The result was that his brain aneurysm was not properly treated and the patient wound up paralyzed. In fact, when amateur translators make medical translation mistakes, those mistakes are potentially dangerous 77% of the time. Even professional interpreters make mistakes, which underlines the importance of hiring interpreters who are certified in medical terminology.
Many hospitals provide access to interpreters for patients who request them, and there are many translation agencies that provide medical interpreters who can go with you to an appointment or provide over the phone service. By taking better advantage of these services, we can greatly improve patient outcomes.
Similarly, the business world can and should learn from the medical community. While less likely to have life or death consequences, improper translation and interpretation can have huge negative consequences for the company's reputation and its bottom line, especially when contracts are involved. Getting specific business terms correct reduces ambiguity and helps to ensure better relationships moving forward. Sometimes this may mean that specific terms not be translated, but that the term from each language be included in the text so that there is no chance for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
As we've said in other posts, you work too hard to create a superior product or service to then lose credibility in the marketplace through poor translation, or to get bogged down in a dispute with a vendor over a poorly translated contract. Build translation into your cost structure from the beginning, hire professional, certified translators who have experience in your industry, and be confident in how your image will be perceived by others.