Many people experience anxiety when dealing with health care and medical situations, and this is especially true when English isn’t the first language of patients and their families. Treatment plans and other health-related documents can be filled with medical jargon that seems foreign even to native English speakers.
As the population of Spanish-speakers continues to grow in the United States, so has the need to provide Hispanics with accurate information that can be readily comprehended. This often means providing Spanish-speakers with health care information that has been translated into Spanish.
Below is a list of some of the documents that health care providers should provide to patients and their families in Spanish:
Instructions for taking prescription medicines
- Materials with information about health and wellness issues
- Simple explanations of diseases and sicknesses and how to avoid them
- Medical releases and consent forms
- Hospital and insurance reports
- Brochures about services provided
- Information about patients’ rights and responsibilities
Not only will providing Spanish translations of documents that directly affect the health of patients allow you to provide better and more comprehensive care to a growing demographic, but it will also protect you from any ramifications arising from misunderstandings due to language barriers. By using a reputable translation agency that is able to translate your materials into the language your patients understand best, you will be giving peace of mind to both those you serve and your health care facility.
Your chosen translation agency should be able to render a Spanish translation that is accessible to the target population. Two of the most important things the agency should do for you is make the translation understandable to people with a low literacy level and use language that a layperson can understand.
If you take a look at job postings, you’ll see that speaking Spanish is a huge asset to many companies and organizations. In fact, companies hiring for certain positions will require that applicants be bilingual English/Spanish speakers. But if you are a non-native speaker of Spanish, how do you prove that you speak the language? This is an especially important question when you realize that people with all different levels of Spanish claim to be fluent in the language on their resume, even if they only took a few semesters in college.
When looking for positions that require that you speak Spanish, make sure that you include the following in your resume if they are applicable:
Extensive travel experience in Spanish-speaking countries
- Periods of time living abroad
- Periods of time working or volunteering abroad
- Previous positions in which you worked directly with Spanish-speakers and in what capacity
- Any formal language instruction that you received
You might be familiar with the TOEFL exam (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which is a standardized exam for English proficiency. Employers and schools look for scores that certify a certain level of English. The closest equivalent to this exam for Spanish speakers is the Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera (D.E.L.E.), which offers official accreditation of mastery of the Spanish language from Spain’s Ministry of Education.
The DELEs are given throughout the world in various major cities. While it may be logistically difficult to take the exam, the accreditation is broadly recognized. If you are committed to finding a job that’ll utilize your language skills and feel more comfortable touting your Spanish-language skills with an accreditation to back you up, look into getting a D.E.L.E.
Keep in mind that having a diploma is no substitute for real life experience. While you may score at an advanced level on a proficiency exam, you also must be confident in your ability to communicate with Spanish speakers as they speak in real life. This is where you can use your previous work experience, time as an expat, or travel experience to highlight your language skills for an employer.
When choosing a translator or translation agency to work with, you’re essentially starting a relationship with a business partner. If your company launches itself into the international market or has constituents who don’t speak English, the quality of translations your business disseminates could make or break your business. Below are some tips to get you started thinking about how to make your relationship with your translator more fluid and productive.
Determine Why You Need a Translation
Do you need a translation for information purposes or for publication purposes? Have a conversation with your translator about why you need the translation: is it to sell your product abroad to millions or to inform 5 staff people in a foreign office of a policy change? Of course, a great translator will make sure that any translation is suitable for its audience, but for-publication translations demand only the highest level of polish and accuracy while for-information translations transmit information.
Pay Attention to the Details in the Source Document
Make sure that your source document is clearly written and finalized before passing it along to your translator. This will save both you and the translator time as she/he won’t need to contact you repeatedly for clarification of the message or wording of what you provided. Also, be careful to send only source documents that are ready to be disseminated or published as sending draft copies will hold up translation of the document. If there are significant changes to the source document that the translator already worked on, you might be asked to pay extra fees for the extra work.
Keep in mind the cultural references and linguistic choices that you make in the source document, as they might not translate well into the target language. Also, be aware of the target audience for your translation and make sure that your translator knows what you expect. This will head off any misunderstanding that might occur if the translator wasn’t sure whether the document was meant for all of Latin America or only one country.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Most misunderstandings between client and translator can be avoided if the client is forthcoming about the project and the translator asks questions when necessary. It’s important to remember that some translations are more time intensive than others and that you need to communicate the details of a project ahead of time so that the translator can return quality work to you by the established deadline.
For more tips, please read A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part One and A Primer for Translation Buyers: Part Two