Monthly Archives: April 2012

Medical and Pharmaceutical translation

Medical and Pharmaceutical translation is a highly specialised discipline and should only be carried out by translators with appropriate qualifications and sufficient experience. Ideally translators should have a medical or scientific background. Companies in the Life Sciences industry are facing increasing challenges to provide products that are in compliance with country regulations and product labelling standards. It is imperative that translators have a full understanding of the ever-developing medical terms and concepts in both the source and target language and that they are able to convey them in an accurate and completely comprehensible way to the reader, be it medical professional or patient. There is zero margin for error or misinterpretation when human health or life is at stake! And of course they can have serious medical and legal consequences.

Some of the main medical/pharmaceutical documents that are often sent for translation are Summaries of Product Characteristics (SPCs or SmPCs), Patient Information Leaflets (PILs), CTAs (Clinical Trial Applications) and patient discharge forms, as well as their related documentation. When dealing with such texts it is important for the translator to pay particular attention to the target audience. For example, a translator should be careful not to use complex medical jargon in a leaflet that is designed to encourage patients to join a clinical trial. Of course, the register of the source text should give an indication as to the level of language necessary for the translation, but translators should be wary of literal or calque translations, depending on the reader. A French to English medical translator may come across the condition ‘hypertension artérielle’ which could logically (and correctly) be translated as ‘arterial hypertension.’ This may well be appropriate for a document aimed at a medical professional, but it is more likely that the common English expression ‘high blood pressure’ should be used for those texts aimed at patients and non-medical professionals. Essentially, the key terminology should be precise, e.g. ‘study’ or ‘research’ should not be translated as ‘treatment’ and ‘replacement dose’ is certainly not the same as ‘additional dose’, and suitable for the target audience.

One of the areas in which the field of medical translation often overspills is that of law. Understandably, the law surrounding medical devices and medicinal products is extremely strict and any new drug, medicinal product or device must be rigorously tested before it can enter the market. This inevitably results in a vast amount of documentation and paperwork, such as, Clinical Trial Protocols and Agreements, forms detailing the Competent Authority’s authorization and the relevant ethic’s committee’s decision, not to mention any amendments or updates that occur during the process for which approval must be granted. Of course, if a manufacturer wishes to market its product in a country other than where it is based, it will require the use of a translator who is experienced not only in medical/pharmaceutical translation, but also one who has an in-depth and specialist legal knowledge. Such documents must also display the highest level of accuracy: the consequences of mistakes could be fatal and the responsibility put on the translator is great.

One of the most important bodies linked to medical and pharmaceutical translation is the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the organisation responsible for the scientific evaluation of medicines for use in the EU. It publishes templates and glossaries relating to standard wording that must be used in certain documentation, such as the aforementioned SPC’s and PIL’s, as well as with the reporting of Adverse Events (AE’s) or side effects. Any translator dealing with such texts must be fully acquainted with the EMA’s publications and keep up to date with their regular updates.

One of the main difficulties within the medical translation field is that documentation is constantly being changed and updated as new information comes to light from laboratory studies, clinical trials etc… New dosages are created and different pharmaceutical forms are produced, and whilst the authorities in the source language country are amending and updating their source texts, authorities in the target language countries are busy making linguistic changes to the translated documents, which then require checking or updating by an experienced translator. The process is long and often frustrating but it is a small price to pay to ensure the consumer’s health and safety.

Polish business culture and language

Many Polish managers and directors are familiar with Western European business etiquette and culture. Polish businesspeople tend to be young, well educated, and fluent in English, but there are also traditional managers and directors who started their business careers during the communist era and tend not to speak English. These businesspeople may find the modern business environment a challenge to them.


There is little difference between business meetings in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. However, try to avoid being overly familiar, particularly during an initial meeting. When meeting someone for the first time you should introduce yourself using both first and last name, shake hands and exchange business cards.

When writing to senior managers in Poland, use “Dear Mr Last name” – never Dear First Name.  When your relationships with local contacts develop, you can take a less formal approach.

Hand gestures are an integral part of conversation in Poland. However, little significance is placed on specific gestures and you do not need to worry about inadvertently causing offence.

Polish business people wear suits for business meetings. You should dress well for a meeting as it shows that you value the opportunity to meet them.


English is widely spoken by young people but Polish language interpreters may be required for business meetings conducted outside the major cities. Even if you use an interpreter for the substance of your meeting, a few words of the Polish language will help you make a good impression.

Below are some commonly-used phrases:

English Polish Pronunciation  
Hello Cześć Cheshch
Good day/morning Dzień dobry Dzyen dobri
Good evening Dobry wieczór Dobri vyechoor
Goodbye Do widzenia Do veedzenyah
Yes / no Tak / nie Tahk / nye
Please / thank you Proszę /dziękuję Prosheh /dzyenkooyeh
Excuse me Przepraszam Psheprasham
My name is… Nazywam się… Nazivam syeh…

Easter Around the World

DSC_0107-01Easter is one of the most important festivals in the Christian calendar celebrated throughout the world. There are a few things, such as the Easter eggs, bunnies and chocolates that are common to Easter celebrations in most countries. There are, however, some local traditions in different parts of the world.

France celebrates Easter with a lot of enthusiasm. Known as Pâques in French, Easter is one of the major festivals in the country. France has held on to its traditions by giving eggs (chocolate nowadays) on Easter day, which is related to the renewal of nature in spring time. It has also been related to the end of fast period, a period during which no eggs could be eaten, creating abundance thereafter. Louis XIV gave eggs gilded with gold to his sycophants. They were filled with “surprises” and the tradition remains until today. It is also the symbol of resurrection in Christian religions.

Dominated by the Christian faith, Italy celebrates Easter with great fanfare. Known as Pasqua in Italian, Easter makes the entire country have fun with games and concerts. On Easter Sunday in Italy, all members of the family exchange Easter eggs, which can also be made especially for the occasion containing special gifts that are placed inside the egg. On Easter Sunday morning, each family usually eats a breakfast of salami, eggs, a special cheese cake and the traditional ”colomba” – a sweet cake which contains almonds and candied fruits. On Easter Monday, everybody goes out for a picnic or by the sea and many families eat lamb, broad beans and a strong sheep’s milk cheese.

In the Czech Republic Easter is no longer considered a great Catholic holiday. It is more of a welcome to spring, an opportunity for a family to meet at dinner or to visit one of the cultural events held during Easter. Fairs are held in many places, there is usually a wide offer of beautiful hand-painted Easter eggs and eggs decorated by different techniques – the so called “kraslice” (yolk and white are removed and egg-shell is decorated), which decorate shops as well as households.

In Ireland Easter-time is rich with traditions, the overlapping of centuries of ritual celebrating rebirth, resurrection, salvation and everlasting life. Many of the traditions surrounding Easter in Ireland are universal to the Christian world. Others – such as the dawn dance, the herring funeral, and the cake dance – are distinctly Celtic, and many look back to the traditions of pre-Christian times.

Poland celebrates Easter in a conventional style. On Saturday people take to churches decorated baskets containing traditional food to be blessed: eggs, ham, sausage, salt, bread and cake. Prominently displayed among these is the Easter lamb made of sugar and colourful pisanki. The food has a symbolic meaning:  eggs symbolize life and Christ’s resurrection, bread symbolizes Jesus and lamb represents Christ. One of the more quirky Polish traditions is Lany Poniedziałek (Wet Monday) which is celebrated by everyone with enthusiasm by sprinkling each other with water. Some people say that being splashed with water on Easter Monday will bring you good luck throughout the year!

In Sweden, Easter is more than just a festival. It is a religious occasion that is celebrated with great splendour. The grandeur of the festival is seen from the fact that a week before Easter, the entire country revels in the Eastertide festivities and shops are gaily decorated in festive symbols.

In Israel thousands of pilgrims and tourists travel from across the world to celebrate the holy festival of Easter in the Holy Land of Jerusalem. Holy fire lights and candles symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ here.

Traditions in the U.K.include eating hot cross buns – meant to symbolize the Cross, exchange of chocolate eggs or bunnies (symbols of new life) on Easter Sunday and often small eggs are hidden around the house and garden for children to find. Children paint decorations on egg shells and simnel cakes are baked – a rich fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and 11 balls of marzipan on top symbolizing 11 true apostles (excluding Judas).

Wishing you a fun-filled, happy and sunny Easter!

Grace, Claire and Magda

Please note that our offices will be closed between 6-9 April.