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According to a recent report by the global consulting firm PwC – “Health Care’s New Entrants: who will be healthcare’s” -, the centre of gravity of the US healthcare market is shifting towards customers. The survey, carried out by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), shows that consumers are willing to swap traditional care for more affordable and convenient alternatives.

New entrants to the US healthcare market from the retail, technology, telecommunications, consumer products and automotive industries are eager to fill this expanding gap. According to HRI, 24 of 2013’s Fortune 50 companies are healthcare new entrants. “Of those, seven are retailers; eight are technology and telecommunications companies. Two are automakers, including Ford Motor Co., which is developing services for chronic condition management while driving.”

With products ranging from smartphone apps and accessories for health data monitoring and diagnosis to online screening and prescription services based on computer algorithms, new entrants are paving the way towards a new health economy, centred around the consumer, transparency, convenience and prevention. The report foresees that “within a decade, the health business will look and feel like other consumer-oriented, technology-enabled industries.”

Furthermore, there are new players reshaping and expanding the $267 billion US fitness and wellness industry. Most of us are already using some of the new apps and devices to track our running pace and mileage, to keep us on a diet, etc. and there are countless opportunities to create new market segments.

The HRI study was restricted to the US economy, but I believe that these findings will be replicated in most developed countries in the short term and in most developing countries in the medium to long term.

What does this mean and how does it affect linguists, communicators, medical writers, medical translators, medical journalists and other communication professionals in the healthcare industry?

Firstly, if the centre of gravity is shifting, undoubtedly communications will have to adapt as well. If more new and consolidated healthcare companies start tailoring their products to the end consumer, the language that we use will inevitably need to change to address this particular audience. The traditional medical terminology and jargon used in our current communications will need to become accessible to the average consumer, both to make products more appealing, and to prevent misuse and health risks. This means that communicators in this industry will no longer be able to rely solely on their medical lexicon and knowledge of our traditional audiences, e.g. physicians, researchers, healthcare professionals in general, etc.

If instead of going to the hospital for a test or a medication, patients begin using home kits, the instructions accompanying these home kits will need to play a role currently played by a healthcare professional, which is to explain in detail how to use the kit, potential  risks, safety procedures, etc. This means that such instructions will need to be a lot more thorough and comprehensible, not just to prevent safety risks, but also to safeguard the manufacturer.

Several of the current advances in this new scenario will involve mobile phone and Internet technologies, which means that the best medical communicators will be those who are knowledgeable about both medical terminology and technology. We can no longer focus all of our learning efforts on better understanding the medical industry and medicine-related topics; we will need to become users, consumers of and experts in technology. We will need to be able to quickly understand what a new technology product can do, how it benefits the patient and readily convey this to multiple audiences that will include highly knowledgeable, but not necessarily tech-savvy physicians, knowledgeable and tech-savvy researchers, potentially tech-savvy, layman consumers, etc.

The end consumer is not the only “new player” in this market. There are also new entrants, which are companies currently not necessarily operating in the healthcare industry that are trying to grab a share of this highly lucrative market. This means new opportunities for medical communicators, because they will need experienced communicators who are used to positioning products and services in the healthcare industry, but also means that we will need to be flexible and learn to communicate with and to these new entrants.

In short, this market shift is a good opportunity for us to recycle and adapt. It is also a great opportunity for us to seek new customers and expand our reach, such as to the wellness and fitness industry and to new entrants.

We also have an unprecedented opportunity to experiment with these new technologies first-hand and put ourselves, as consumers, at the centre of the message we want to communicate. A consumer-centred market will allow us to be the bridge between the hard, complex medical terminology and the general population. The best communicators in this context will be those who are capable of translating the medicine and adequately conveying the information to all players in the medical industry, including, perhaps for the first time in scale, the general population.

Are you preparing for the challenge? Please let me know how in the comments!

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This post is also an answer to a question asked by a colleague after reading my post10 Things that Freelance Translators Should do Every Day. Item 3 suggests that you contact two former colleagues or clients every day to touch-base. She expressed her concern about annoying people and asked me for some pointers on how to avoid that.

Well, here is my take on the art of keeping in touch.

First, why should you keep in touch with people who have been your clients and colleagues?

The obvious answer, particularly concerning your former clients, is because they may need you again.

However, there is more to it – they know about you, they know what you do and (hopefully) they know how good you are. These people are potential walking adverts for you, and you want to make sure that if they ever have reason to think of a translator in your language pair, you are the first person who will come to mind. This will mean that they will not only think of you when they have a job for you, but also when someone asks for a reference, when they need help finding things that are in your language or country, etc.

So how do you ensure that you are always fresh on their minds without annoying them?

The first rule of positive interaction is making sure that both sides are getting something out of the conversation. The only people on whom you can pour your information, without giving them something or being ignored, are your closest friends and your mum. Except for your mum, not even your friends are being completely altruistic there, because they expect to be able to do the same to you when they need too.

Everybody else will need to feel like they are also getting something out of that conversation.

Therefore, when you contact people, your main concern must not be what am I going to say to promote myself/my business, but how will this person benefit from this interaction.

There are several types of “perceived benefits”.  Here are some that you can offer in your interactions to make them mutually beneficial:

– Financial incentives: this is sales 101, if you offer a discount or a gift along with your services, your potential/former clients are more likely to see the ‘benefit’ of that interaction for them. However, you cannot use this resource too often, because it does get annoying, and you give the impression that you are struggling or that your products/services are of low value. I tend to use this once or twice a year. If I have had a good year, I usually offer one month of discounted rates to my clients as a thank you. Hence, I get to promote the success of my business to them and, at the same time, they get a month in which they may pay less for the same quality of service that they are used to.

– Mutual interests: My strategy here is to connect. Whenever I engage with someone, I try to find something that I find memorable about him or her. To me that means something in common, because I have a shocking memory.

This usually involves me asking many questions and trying to connect with that person in some level. The upside of that is that I often do find things or interests in common with people, and this leads to positive and rewarding interactions (sometimes business connections even become friends). If you can find a connection, it then becomes easy to interact, because you will have that shared interest to draw from.

For example, men do that all the time with sports. A friend of mine is a big football fan, so the first thing he does when engaging with other men is trying to find if they are also into football. He is not subtle about it at all, he will just ask, “do you have a football team?”, and if the person does, he is in. What follows is usually a conversation about football, and he gets a piece of information that he will not forget about that person. He does that in every level, from taxi drivers to business partners and it works every time. Next time he wants to engage with that person, he can just share information about football, which he is always reading anyway, or ask the other person’s opinion about football news, etc.

How does this apply to your daily e-mails? You do not need to send marketing information every time you want to engage. Your goal is to be remembered. Your former clients and colleagues already know what you do, so unless you are doing something new or have a new offer, there is no need to keep repeating that information to them.

The best way of ensuring that you are remembered is by remembering others. So if you are reading about something that a client of yours is also interested in, just share it with that person and let them know it reminded you of them, or you thought they might be interested, or you wanted their opinion, etc. He/she may not have time to answer you, but he will not forget that you remembered.

Genuine interest: we all love to be remembered and cherished, regardless of whether we are in a professional or personal relationship. Taking a genuine interest in people is not as hard and time consuming as it seems. With technology today, people are increasingly connected; your clients probably have blogs, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook, so find them and follow them. Whenever they post news or content, comment on those, share their content, congratulate them on accomplishments, and be invested in helping their business succeed. You do not need to have a personal relationship with every client or former colleague, but showing interest in their success will get their empathy, will make you happier because your interactions with people are positive, and ultimately will put you under their radar.

I have recently read that your success will be directly proportional to how many people want you to succeed. I believe this to be very true. When people empathize with you, they talk about you, they are happy to recommend you and they want to be a part of your success too.

This is how I try to keep in touch with my clients and colleagues. How about you? Any other strategies?
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I have recently posted a 2-part list of 10 things that freelance translators should do every day, you can access parts 1 and 2 here. Those are a few things that I have done every day and have really helped me not only develop my business, but also helped me develop professionally. I can recommend them, because I know they work.

However, one of my readers of this post has asked a very important question: “Do you also allocate time to looking for/contacting new clients?” Do you manage to strike a balance between reading up on your specialist area and marketing?

Well, I am by no means a marketing expert, but I thought this warranted a more detailed response.

When you are a freelance translator, regardless of how you started, e.g. with lots of work, no work at all, the odd job here and there, etc., eventually you will have times of low demand. Many translators understandably struggle to cope with these times, because few of us have the extra income to just wait as long as it takes for another job. My advice in such circumstances is view these as opportunities, use them to market yourself and to devise your strategy so that you can keep marketing even when you have a lot of work again.

In this post, I am going to describe my strategy for contacting clients directly via e-mail, which is what I can easily fit into my daily schedule.

My specialist subject is medical translations. I began my career as a medical researcher, and translation was just a hobby helping my fellow researchers understand and publish research in scientific journals. Then I went on to become a full time translator and my research background led me to focus on clinical trials and market research. Given my professional history, there are a few types of companies that can benefit more from my services, such as medical market research companies, international scientific journals, pharmaceutical companies and medical translation agencies. The first step in any successful marketing campaign is identifying your “primary targets (clients)” and learning about them.

Your marketing message must always resonate with a particular client. There are no guarantees that we will always achieve that, but the best way of coming as close as possible to it, is understanding what your clients want and how they will use your services. Hence, the process of learning about your clients must be very thorough. In your research, you should determine:

–          Which of your services will be most beneficial to your clients?

–          Where are your potential clients and who are they (make sure you keep a list of all potential clients that you come across)?

–          How do they speak to their customers (e.g. language on their website)?

–          What do they charge and what do they pay for services like yours?

The knowledge you acquire at this stage will be useful in any kind of marketing campaign that you choose to do. In my particular case, I like e-mailing and have mailing lists, because I live far from my clients’ markets and phone calls and in person meetings are just not an option, at least not for my budget.

When I am happy that I know enough about my potential clients to talk to them, I then prepare my message. I know how people dislike sales e-mails, so I make them short, targeted and I also create a brochure that I attach to my messages. If the person who gets the message is interested, they can then find out more straight away, they can forward the brochure on to the decision-maker or they can go to my website and eventually contact me. I do not have time to create a new brochure every day or even every month, and even if I did, the information about me does not change that often, so I create a brochure for each type of target client. In my case, I have a brochure for medical device companies, journals, translation agencies, medical market research companies, etc.

I usually also craft an e-mail message template for each of these audiences, which I can easily access and tweak as I become aware of new potential clients.

Right, so by the time my marketing materials are ready, I not only have the means to contact potential clients quickly, but I also have lists of potential clients from my research. So what is my marketing strategy? How do I market on a daily basis?

I have set two targets, one for when I am busy and one for when I am not as busy with translation work. I say that because when I am not translating, I blog, I keep in touch with people, I study, I learn, so I can never say that I am not busy, but I am not as busy with translation work. Hence, when I am busy, I contact 10 potential new clients a day. When I am not busy, I have to contact at least 20. This is arbitrary and works for me, you need to work out what works for you.

So how do I fit that into the 10 things that I should do every day? Well, when I am reading about my industry (items 1 and 2), I often come across news and articles that relate to primary target companies. When I spot these, I quickly stop my reading, find the company’s website, locate contact details and contact them. This is quick, because my e-mail message is virtually ready; all I have to do is tailor it to that particular prospect client.

If by the time I finish my reading, I have not yet contacted the 10 or 20 potential clients, then I refer to my lists (the ones I prepared during my research, back when I had time), and contact however many companies I still need to reach my target. This usually does not take me longer than half an hour and sometimes I do it at the end of my working day, so I finish on a positive note – I have reached my target!

Mail marketing admittedly is not always the most effective form of marketing, but it is the one that I can fit into my daily schedule. After all, marketing is not my area of expertise, translation is. I find that by contacting at least 100 companies every 2 weeks, I am playing the numbers game, i.e. the response rate might be low, but I do not need 10 new clients per week, I need one or two a month, if that, so the low response rate works for me.

This is not the only way that I contact new clients, and I do not just delete the contact information for potential clients that I have already contacted, but these other strategies will be discussed in a different post.

For now, I hope you find this useful. Please share with me in the comments – what works for you? Good luck!
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This is part 2 of the 10 things freelance translators should do every day. Please click here for items 1-5.

6. Review the top three goals for your translation business. It is all very well sitting down one day, usually when you are not very busy and feel like you should do something, and writing goals for your business. However, this is a big waste of time, if you lose track of what is most important for your business. We must keep our goals in focus. It is very easy to forget about them when we are on a working spree, with enough translation work to works 10-12 hours a day, but it is no good only thinking about them when the work dries up. As translators, we love reading and translating, and it is easy to forget about all other aspects of our business when we can do just what we like, but the dry periods will come (less often the more established you are) and it is much harder dealing with those, if you have to start from scratch. This is a very quick item to tick, because if you stick a poster in your office with your three main goals and read that first thing before you start working, you have done it! Nevertheless, do not underestimate it because it is quick and easy; being constantly reminded of where you are going will make decision-making a lot easier for you. For example, one of my goals is to focus my business on medical translations, which is what I like and am good at. Hence, if I keep that in mind, it will be easy to say no to a job in a completely unrelated field, even though I have a couple of spare hours, and use those hours to contact more potential clients in my field.

7. Identify and execute one task to support each of the top three goals that you have identified. These do not need to be massive tasks or incredibly relevant. If you make sure you do at least a little something every day, in the long term you will be doing something major. For example, my current goals are 1) delivering high quality translations, 2) developing a solid and loyal client base and 3) promoting my business online consistently. So, today, my three tasks are:

1) Learning about a new CAT tool required by a client (to support goal 1)

2) In addition to steps 3-5, I will be joining and engaging in discussions in some new LinkedIn groups related to the medical industry (to support goal 2)

3) I will be updating some of my social network profiles, which have not been updated in a long time (to support goal 3).

8. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts. This blog post is one of my five valuable pieces of content for today, but I have also tweeted a couple of other interesting articles that I read when doing items 1-2. This step may be tied in with steps 1 and 2. For example, if you are reading an interesting post about the translation industry, you may post that to a LinkedIn group or share it on twitter. If that post gives you an idea, such as I am writing this blog post now, you should also share that with some of your social media networks. If you always approach your reading with a view to improve your knowledge and to benefit those who connect with you, than accomplishing this item will come naturally to you, because you will be excited about sharing any valuable information that you come across. My only warning is, when posting valuable content, make sure you always think about whether they reflect your professional image and fit in with the network with which you are sharing. You may find this hard to do every day though, because you may not have the time to do a lot of reading/writing every single day, so you can use a social media management tool, like Buffer or Hootsuite, to schedule and plan your posts to ensure your readers and followers hear something from you daily.

9. Read articles and post at least five comments to non-translation related topics that you are interested in. This item is not related to items 1 and 2, this is to be more like item 5. You may share some of what you read here with friends or other contacts, who are interested in the same topics as you, as a means of keeping in touch with people (see items 3 and 5). Nevertheless, essentially, not everything has to be related directly to our industry or our business. If you have other interests, make sure you read about them and develop relationships with people who like them too. This is important for your sanity and because we never know where our next business may come from. In addition, we are in the business of language, so nothing that is communicated is really off-topic for us.

10. Take a full minute (or more) to appreciate what you have and how far you have come. Even if you are fresh out of school, obtaining your education is a milestone, and you should allow yourself to feel good about that. Forgetting about giving ourselves due credit is easy, particularly during those dry periods I mentioned in item 6, but a healthy business requires healthy leadership. You will never develop a solid business, if you do not think of yourself as a worthy entrepreneur. Acknowledge your mistakes, but acknowledge what do right as well.

If you want to create a healthy habit of doing these 10 items every day, my suggestion is:

–          Start your day reviewing your goals and thinking about what you have accomplished. Allow yourself a few minutes to feel grateful for what you have and to think about what you want. Allow these feelings to guide you through your workday. (Items 6, 3 and 10)

–          Then turn on your computer and reply to all your clients (item 4). Even if you do not have the answer for what the client is asking at that time, let the client know that you are aware of his/her query and are working to find a suitable answer for it as soon as possible.

–          If you do not have a deadline looming over you soon, allow yourself 30 minutes to 1 hour to read and learn about our industry and your field of expertise (items 1 and 2). Make sure you share whatever you find useful and helpful with your networks (item 8) or with specific people who you think my find it useful (items 3 and 5).

–          Plan your day so you that you have time to do your three actions for item 7 (they may also be tied in with other items depending on your goals) and so that you have time for breaks. In your breaks, phone a friend (item 5), see someone for lunch or just read/watch something that you find interesting (item 9)

Let me know if you find this useful, there are many other ideas to share! Good luck!

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Last week I received an e-mail from a fellow translator with a question that is common to many beginner translators:

I have noticed some of the agencies request a sample from the applicant; however, so far I have only done work translating manuals for one large client. These manuals contain sensitive information that I am not permitted to share. What is your experience in sharing translation samples? Any ideas on how to handle this?

Well, I thought I would answer it here so that is may be useful to more of you.

Firstly, I have not sent sample translations to ANY client in years. I want to make this very clear, because however sensitive the information is, in my opinion – and most serious translation agencies agree -, the only one who has the right to disclose a translated piece is the client who paid for it. As a translator, I treat all of my clients’ translations as confidential, unless they are in public domain, e.g. a website. In fact, I hold the translations for six months to one year and then delete it, keeping only my translation memories. I do not even share translations within different offices of the same company. For example, I have a large translation client with offices in several countries; sometimes a project manager from one country will come to me and ask if I have done a certain type of translation before. If I have done that type of translation for a different office, I let them know who the project manager was and tell them to contact that project manager directly; otherwise, they can send me a test on that topic.

I will write a post about confidentiality and protecting yourself as a translator, but, in short, my policy is, if you have not paid directly for a translation, then I cannot share it with you.

I understand that this still leaves my reader with the problem of being asked for sample translations and what to do about it. Well, I can suggest two things:

1 – Prepare your own samples – choose texts randomly on the Internet in your areas of expertise, make sure that there are no translations already available online in your language pair for them, and translate them. When a translation agency or client asks you for a sample, make sure you tell them that you are not permitted to disclose former clients’ materials due to confidentiality issues, and offer to share a sample that you have prepared on that topic. Preparing the samples may be time consuming, but they will come in handy if you get these requests often.

2 – Politely refuse – explain, as nicely and politely as you can, that you are not at liberty to disclose clients’ materials, but that you are happy to take a small unpaid test translation to prove your ability to handle that topic. This shows both your willingness to meet the client halfway and your professionalism maintaining confidentiality. If the client or translation agency refuses, then you can still offer to create a sample for them. I doubt that they will have a problem with this, but if they do, run from this client. In the same way that the client is looking for a professional to do a job for them, you want to work with professionals too. Do not do work for agencies with dodgy practices or disregard for confidentiality, you may make a little bit of money from them (if they pay), but it will not be worth the risk for your reputation.

Well, this is my take on sample translations. I hope this helps my reader and other beginner translators out there. How have you people handled this type of request in the past?

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This post was originally published in my old blog. When this was first published, I did do all of these items daily for a couple of months and the results were so good that I no longer had time to stick to them! The two main benefits at the time were that my level of interest in my career and in engaging with fellow translators increased, as well my client base.

Some of these items became habits and I still do them most days. In part 2 of this post, I will give you some tips to accomplish these in an integrated way, so that they do not take the best part of your day.

The post you will see below is not exactly the same as its original version. I have updated some of these items with insight that I have gained since I started developing these habits. To make it easier and shorter for my readers, I have divided this list into two – items 1-5 (part 1) and 6-10 (part 2) – and provided some practical examples of how these items can be done daily/weekly without being too time consuming.

I hope it is as useful for you as it has been for me. Enjoy!

This list is an adaptation of a post by J.T. O’Donnell on LinkedIn, 10 things to do every workday, which inspired me to think about 10 things that freelance translators could do every day.

First of all, my two basic assumptions for this list are 1) every freelance translator is also an entrepreneur wishing to develop his/her translation business; 2) Freelance translators have understood the need to be visible online for their business and make time for that on a daily basis.

If you are a freelance translator and assumptions 1 and 2 do not apply to you, I suggest you consider them seriously.

On to the list…

1. Read something related to the translation industry – There are many interesting blogs about translation, such as Corinne Mckay’s Thoughts on translation and Speaking of translation; there are interesting discussions on LinkedIn groups for translators or about translation, such as Portuguese Translators, the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters and others. You may also read the news about new CAT tools on their respective websites. Feel free to ask for more suggestions if you are struggling to find interesting reads on twitter @EAP_engandport! If you are a medical translator, you may also like to follow @EAPMed for translation and medical industry updates.

2. Read something related to business development – Again, some of these translation blogs and groups will have articles on business development for translators. I myself share quite a few of those when I come across interesting advice, but do not limit yourself to those. Make sure you also read other blogs and articles related to business development, as they may have invaluable insight for your business. I personally like following famous entrepreneurs on LinkedIn, like Richard Branson, and reading what they have to say about business development.

3. Send two e-mails to touch-base with former colleagues or clients – If you endeavour to have a positive relationship with your clients and colleagues, you will always be able to find something to send them that may be of interest to them or just a general e-mail asking how things are going. The purpose of this is not to get business directly, but to keep you connected. Traditional ways of getting business leads are not the only way of getting more business; your relationships will bring more business to you, if you work on them, than any business generation initiative that you alone may undertake. Be human, be helpful, be nice and just enjoy the opportunity to connect with someone.

4. Empty client inbox list – This is business 1o1 and should be the first thing you do every day. If you do only one of these items each day, do this one. It does not need any explanation.

5. Have three quick non-work related conversations (in person or IM) with people in your contact lists every day. If you work in office, this may sound silly, but freelancers working from home are often isolated and may go for whole days without talking to anyone. Obviously, three is an arbitrary number; you need to work out how many of these you can have a day without disrupting your work, and have as many as you can! This is important because it is not all about work, again, sometimes the opportunities are in developing good relationships and focusing on the people, rather than on what business they can bring you. In my experience, a lot of my business has come from friends and people who knew in passing what I did, but were not necessarily in the industry or clients in any way. Even if they never bring you any business, having these spots of unrelated conversation everyday will keep you sane (especially if you work for hours at home and alone), so treasure them!

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“Not many sectors of the Brazilian economy have grown as rapidly and consistently as the medicine market. Since 2005, expansion rates in this sector have been well into double digits. In 2011, the market grew by 19 %, with a turnover of USD 26 billion and 2.3 billion medicine packs”, according to the pharmaceutical giant, boehringer-ingelheim’s website.

Such a large market is a natural magnet for global pharmaceutical giants and, needless to say, a great opportunity for medical and pharmaceutical translators. In addition to the drug and pharmaceutical markets, there is medical and market research, which in some ways complement the first, but also have their own established markets.

There are several avenues available to medical translators who wish to initiate or expand their careers in this market. We’ll discuss a few of them briefly below.

Firstly, there is medical and pharmaceutical research. Medical research in Brazil is conducted mainly at universities or research centres and is funded by sponsoring agencies or by pharmaceutical companies. The first consideration here is whether you translate into English or into Brazilian Portuguese.  Generally, we tend to prefer native speakers to translate only into their native languages.

Based on that assumption, if you are Brazilian, researchers in Brazil are not a good bet, because they will need to translate their work into English- they have very little demand for translations into Portuguese, because they usually need their research translated for international publishing. However, due to the fluid nature of Brazilian Portuguese and how hard it is for foreigners to master its nuances, the fact that these researchers often write part of the work in English (which usually means you have to interpret how they thought in Portuguese to be able to review the content in English) and Brazilian regulations that make it very hard for them to hire services abroad (taxation and funding issues), researchers hardly ever hire foreign translators. Hence, they are not a market to be overlooked if you are able to translate well into English. Researchers are also usually demanding clients (because they speak English), but loyal and often refer you to their peers.

Pharmaceutical companies are the biggest buyers of Brazilian Portuguese translations in this market. They need the research that they sponsor abroad (clinical trials, etc.), patent documentation, prospects, marketing materials, etc. all translated and localized for the Brazilian market. Hence they are great clients and a constant source of demand. However, due to the sensitive nature of their research and products they often prefer to hire companies to provide translation services. The reasons behind this are many, but to pinpoint a couple, they can hold translation agencies more easily accountable for errors and confidentiality breaches. Plus, translation agencies will implement processes involving a series of translators and reviewers to ensure accuracy. If you do not own an agency, you are more likely to get to these clients through a specialist medical agency. Serious medical translation agencies are excellent to work for, because they are aware of the responsibility involved and pay accordingly for your expertise. In addition, they will strive to keep working with you when you demonstrate quality. You are able to work closely with their project managers, but they will require serious qualifications and experience.

Another avenue is pharmaceutical and medical market research, which is arguably the easiest to enter, but also the most price sensitive. This is driven by pharmaceutical companies and other medical product manufacturers that hire specialist market research companies to gain insight into their consumer markets. The market research companies will procure the translation services and are price sensitive, because they often work on tighter budgets and need to cover costs of travel, interviewing etc. Nonetheless, they can be an excellent avenue into the medical market and have the most dynamic demand – i.e. they’ll need documents, audio and several different other types of documents translated.

These are key features of the medical translation market in Brazil. Naturally, there a number of nuances that affect how much work you receive and how much you can earn, but as a general rule you should aim to have a mixture of clients from each of these avenues, i.e. market research companies, translation agencies and researchers. This will ensure you are both in demand and able to specialize in an area (e.g. patents), which provides an effective compensation structure for your services.


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Understanding medical terminology requires an understanding of how medical terms were first coined and how they are used today. This is extremely important for medical translators, as no matter how specialized we are; we are bound to come across terms that are new to us. Knowing how medical terms are formed gives us clues to search for meaning and even to adequately translate new terms.

Medical language is the scientific language used to refer to the human body, its processes and related conditions. This article refers specifically to the language of Western medicine.

The History of the language of Western medicine begins with an era of medical Greek. It then goes through an era of medical Latin, an era of national medical languages, finally arriving at the medical English used internationally today.

The Greek era began with Hippocrates, arguably the father of Western medicine, and his writings. Then as Romans dominated the ancient world, those writings were translated into Latin, but retained certain Greek terms and traditions. For example, an enduring Greek tradition was naming anatomical structures based on their similarity with objects. For instance, the anatomical structure on human ears, currently known as the Eustachian tube, was name tuba (trumpet), and the pigmented structure in the middle of the three layers that make up the eye was named uvea (grape). In short, medical Latin was essentially Latin with a number of imported Greek terms.

Later, when Latin was no longer widely spoken across the Western world, medical terminology was gradually translated into national languages. Again, not all terms were translated and national medical languages were essentially the original languages with Greek and Latin terms imported from the previous era. In this process, most national medical languages were and still are only used nationally, but a few of these languages became internationally used, particularly English.

It is noteworthy that when translated from Latin, each group of languages followed a particular pattern, which is useful to know when translating into or from a particular national medical language. For example, Romance or Latin languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian), which are a group of languages derived from vulgar Latin, naturalized the terms following the particular rules of each language. For example, the Latin term musculus soleus is translated as músculo sóleo (Portuguese and Spanish), muscle soléaire (French), muscolo soleo (Italian) and muschi solear (Romanian). The English language also follows this pattern of naturalization; however, its grammar rules differ in that the adjective precedes the noun, so musculus soleus translates as soleus muscle.

Most national medical languages have also slightly naturalized or maintained several Greek terms, such as catarrh (downflow), diarrhoea (throughflow) and dyspnoea (bad breathing). In addition to these and many other terms, the Greek language is more flexible than Latin in allowing the creation of new composite words, such as ophthalmoscopy, so Greek roots are more often used nowadays to name new scientific discoveries and medical concepts.

As the world became more connected, the global sharing of scientific knowledge became more frequent and speedier. Scientists and physicians naturally gravitated towards a single language that would enable them easy access and sharing of breakthroughs and knowledge. That marked the start of the era of medical English as the single chosen language for international communication.

Naturally, medical English became compulsory knowledge for physicians and scientists worldwide who wish to remain current and knowledgeable; however, the general population in non-English speaking countries, and often in English-speaking countries, does not speak medical English. Therefore, national medical languages remain alive and in use, and there is a certain “simplified” or “layman” version of each national medical language that is used to communicate with the general public.

A medical translator must understand these variants of his/her source and target languages, learn how old terms have been originally translated and how new terms are coined and, more importantly, must be fluent in medical English. The bulk of medical knowledge is publicly available in English, so regardless of a translator’s language pair, being fluent in medical English means having access to a wealth of resources and reference materials that are essential, particularly when translating innovations and recent discoveries. Medical developments occur on a daily basis and most scientists and doctors, albeit fluent in medical English, are not translators. So, much of the knowledge produced even in non-English speaking countries, becomes firstly available in English or is partially translated with several English words in between. A medical translator must have access to this knowledge to be able to understand breakthroughs and convey them properly in one language or another. Proficiency in a particular language pair alone does not mean fluency in medical language.

Our next post will be on medical English and how medical terms are coined in English using Latin and Greek root words, prefixes and suffixes.



Wulff H.R. J R Soc Med. 2004 April; 97(4): 187–188. Accessed on Dec 11, 2013.

This is a compilation of the online dictionaries that I use and those recommended by other translators. All dictionaries are free and either in English or in Portuguese. This list is by no means exhaustive (This post will be updated whenever I become aware of a new dictionary).

For more information on the use of dictionaries please check – “Why use dictionaries and glossaries?


Collocations (words that often appear together and convey meaning by association):

  • Ozdic. English only. I must say I have never used it, but the interface seems easy enough.




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