One of the best ways to save time, money, and to improve the quality of your translation project is preparation. Preparing for translation can support your longterm language access goals, and help to keep all of your translation projects organized and manageable.

When your patients understand the material, the risk of adverse medical events decreases, and patient satisfaction increases. Using words and images that are easy to understand, and simple, inviting presentations encourages your patients and their families to understand the document better.

Preparing for translation by following these guidelines will help to ensure your translated documents are accessible to all of your patients and members.

Have a logical sequence of ideas.

If the ideas have a logical arrangement, such as chronological order or cause-effect, the text will be easier to understand.

Preparing for translation with graphical elements and short-form text.

Sentences and paragraphs don’t communicate your whole message. Using images, lists, charts, and diagrams (A.K.A. short-form text) can help your patients understand your translated medical document better. Here are some examples you can use:

  • Organized Lists: A list helps readers see a pattern that is easy to follow and will help explain concepts.
  • Helpful Images: Images help clarify concepts or present several ideas together.
  • Simple Diagrams: Diagrams illustrate relationships among ideas.

Write in an active voice.

The passive voice is less concise and can be confusing. A simple way to identify the passive voice is to look for the verb or action of a sentence. When the subject of a sentence directly performs an action, the sentence is in the active voice.

Preparing for translation with short sentences.

Long sentences lead to misunderstandings and confusion. To avoid long sentences, use short, plain words and phrases.

Use common, everyday language.

Use simple phrases and words to explain your ideas, which will be easier to translate. Try to write as conversationally as possible. For example:

Formal Conversational
Infant Baby
Complete Fill Out
Physician Doctor

Preparing for translation by using pronouns.

Pronouns can replace proper nouns in a sentence. They make your sentences less repetitive while keeping the meaning intact.

Avoid Idiomatic Language

Often, documents that contain idioms and expressions that are natural to a native speaker don’t translate well. The phrase “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!” has cultural and historical meanings that may not be understood in a different language or culture. Avoid phrases like these and use clear language whenever possible.

Preparing for translation by maintaining simple formatting.

Simple formatting on the original document means less formatting in the translation—resulting in lower costs. Some basic formatting guidelines include:

  • Use a large serif font for body text and sans-serif for headlines.
  • Avoid ALL CAPS.
  • Avoid underlining.
  • Use bold sparingly.
  • Use italic even less.
  • Use white space generously: Languages such as Spanish expand the original English text by about 30%.
  • Use headings to separate blocks of information.
  • Use columns. Narrower widths of text are easier to read.
  • Choose images and colors that reflect the general preferences of the targeted group.

Know the reading level of your audience.

Your documents need to be written at a reading level that’s appropriate for your audience. It’s easier to translate your documents into that reading level if the original is also written that way. Keep in mind that most of the content for your patients or members usually needs to be written at a lower reading level. However, document purpose and function can influence the desired reading level.

Preparing for translation doesn’t have to be challenging. If you walk through your documents with these elements in mind, you can help to ensure the success of your medical translation project. If you’d like to get started on your next translation project, call us at 530-750-2040, or request a free quote today.

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