Medical Translation course by Asetrad, Madrid: a few extracts (Part I)

As promised, here I am, back from Madrid and days of tapas and nice cerveza – and of course coffee.



I have to say the weather was a bit on the British side (rainy and cold-ish) but I still managed to enjoy the change of scenario if only for a few days.

There’s no need for me to write the details of the course again, but in case you feel lost you can still go back to this post and have a refresher.

The 2-day course (el cursillo) was a very inspiring experience, with 60+ participants and bucketloads of enthusiasm. Given the blatant success of the event, we all hope there would be a cursillo número 2 soon.


It would be impossible to tell you everything we did and learn, but I’ll give a few hints on what were the most interesting bits and pieces of the event.

Fernando A. Navarro – a doctor and surgeon, specialist in clinical pharmacology, who is also a skilled medical translator and, last but not least, author of many publications and especially dictionaries of the field – kicked off the course with an introduction on the concept of ‘fidelity’. To which extent are translators supposed to stick to the original text, maintaining ‘naturalidad, precisión and claridad ( = natural flow, accuracy and clarity)? The main problem arises when translators face a text showing mistakes of different type – especially of a conceptual nature. A spelling mistake is often frowned upon but still accepted as it can be easily spotted and edited. But… what to do when the text features an alleged (or totally obvious!) medical-related mistake, that may lead to serious consequences when gone to press? It’s a tricky one: the translator has (in theory, at least) no authority to ‘change’ the text unless duly authorised to do so. Nevertheless, in some cases it is advisable to raise a hand and let the relevant people know. The general rule is: when in doubt, the best thing to do is trying to contact to author and always, always ask.

For our own entertainment (and now yours!) Fernando shared with us a few sentences (taken from real publications by real doctors) and we had to try and ‘spot the mistake’. Here are a few examples:

1. The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.

2. Five males and sex females were included in the study.

3. Is your son rubella immune?

Another point considered in the workshop was the etymology of medical terminology. As many of you may know, the jargon of medicine in Romance languages owes most terms to Greek and Latin structures. English and Germanic languages, on the other hand, evolved in a different direction, and it is extremely interesting to see how English and German developed periphrasis and expressions that are indeed much more direct than in Italian or Spanish to express the same meaning. This is the case of words like Knochenzelle ->> osteocito (It and Sp) or breast reshaping ->> mastoplastica (It) and mamoplastia (Sp). If you think the Neolatin languages just ‘complicate it’, you may be surprised when knowing the truth. Indeed – as Fernando Navarro explained – the average ‘ciudadano de a pie’ (= the so-called Joe Bloggs) in Italy or Spain (or France) would use the Greek/Latin term because THAT is the common wording – getting it right it’s of course another story 🙂

So, how would you say these in your language? A few examples into Italian underlining the use of Greek and Latin compounds.

a. ENT doctor ->> otorinolaringoiatra

b. blood doctor ->> ematologo

c. chest X-ray ->> radiografia toracica

d. heart disease ->> cardiopatia

e. eye specialist ->> oftalmologo, oculista

This section also involved the challenging feat of participating in a collective practical task: translating a medical prescription (often hand-written!).

Here is an example:


First appt.

C/O: RUQ pain for 2/52 increased abd perimeter and constipation, with chills and jaundice since yesterday. No melaena or coffee ground vomit. No white stools. Had a fall 2 w ago. O/E: T 100 F. Alcoholic breath, spiders. CVS: p 84, reg. BP 100/70, oedema up to both knees, no raised JVP. RS: NAD. GIS: generalised distensions, tender RUQ, ascites, no guarding, no rebound. CNS: no flapping tremor.


And this should be enough for you to realize why this course was useful! I can say I know feel a bit more familiar with the concept of medical translation but still loads of work is to be done (!)

I will stop for now but more will come in the next posts. 

See you later!





About Val

London-based Rainy London Translations is offering a full range of top quality interpreting, localisation, translation, consultancy and voice-overservices for both businesses and individuals. Need something else? Just ask! It may sound like a cliché, but just get in touch: what you need can be done, at a reasonable price. Valeria is also offering a 'branding' clinic service, to help freelancers find their perfect business name or polish the existing identity by finding a logo, a tagline with sound creative consultancy. Based in the City of Westminster area, the heart of London, UK, since August 2011.

One response to “Medical Translation course by Asetrad, Madrid: a few extracts (Part I)

  1. Valeria Aliperta

    A recently-uploaded set of pictures from the course in Madrid, courtesy of Asetrad ( on Flickr)

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