Unlike most European and Latin American countries, licensure or certification for translators does not exist within the United States, neither at the federal nor the state level. In the case of interpreters, a program does exist to certify individuals so that they may work within the federal court system; however, interpreters in other fields are not subject to this certification process. Although there’s no official certification program for U.S. translators, they may seek accreditation through professional organizations such as the American Translators Association (ATA), which rigorously test translators before granting them a “seal of approval.” Without a formal certification scheme—and thus a lack of assurances regarding a translator’s competence—many agencies have developed their own certification procedures to vet potential translators.
In other parts of the world, only certified translators may translate certain types of documents, such as legal or medical texts, for example. However, in the United States, translators are not required to be certified or licensed in order to provide a certified translation. Any translators willing to take an oath before a notary public, attesting to the accuracy of the translation and their qualifications to translate to and from a specific language pair, can offer clients certified translations.
Unfortunately, the absence of certification for language professionals in the U.S. means that nearly anyone, regardless of experience, education or aptitude, can pose as a translator. In addition, many translators refer to themselves as “certified” in an attempt to increase their marketability. Given that there’s no licensure or certification program in the United States, it’s wise to question the qualifications of those claiming to be certified translators (i.e. who certified them?). It’s important to note that there are many highly qualified, experienced translators who are neither accredited nor certified by a particular institution.
What can translation buyers do given the lack of translator credentialing programs in the U.S.?
- Inquire as to whether the translator is accredited by a professional organization for translators.
- Thoroughly check the translator’s references.
- Work with a translation agency that has taken the time to put together a trusted team of qualified translators.
Every second counts in an emergency. In everyday life, a language barrier can produce frustrating or even comical results, but in critical situations, first responders can’t rely on pantomime or guessing games to determine crucial information about non-English speaking patients’ status or medical history. Doctors at clinics and hospitals frequently use staff medical interpreters, telephone language line services, and in some cases, video medical interpretation systems to help them interact with non-English speaking patients, but emergency personnel in the field rarely have access to these language aids.
A language barrier at the scene of an emergency poses several difficulties. First of all, when emergency personnel encounter a non-English speaking victim, they automatically lose precious time in assessing the patient because of the lack of fluid communication. Even if the patient speaks some English, the likelihood exists that a first responder will misinterpret information, as a person suffering a medical emergency will probably have more difficulty than normal communicating in a second language due to the stress of the situation. Misinformation about the patient’s status could actually be more harmful than no information at all.
Interested users can now download an app version of Google Translate—one of the web’s most ubiquitous machine translation tools—that functions on Apple’s mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. In all, 64 languages are supported by the app. In addition, a speech-to-text function is supported for 17 languages, allowing for quicker and more efficient input of text to be translated, and users can listen to translations spoken aloud for 24 languages.
Machine translation may be used in a pinch until qualified interpreters can be brought to the scene or the patient can be provided professionally translated medical information, but such apps must not be considered a substitute for a professional translator or interpreter. As previously discussed on this blog [see “When Never to Use Google Translate”], machine translation has its faults and should never be the sole resource for medical translation or interpretation in life-or-death situations. Inaccurate translations delivered by an app in an emergency situation can actually do more harm than good to the patient. Ideally, instead of fiddling with their smartphones, emergency personnel (paramedics, police, etc.) should be completely free from the worry of interpreting what the patient has to say so they can focus on doing their job: administering first aid.
In a global economy dominated by the English language—the world’s current lingua franca—obstacles to the clear communication of scientific information abound. With an increasing amount of clinical research and pharmaceutical manufacturing taking place around the world in numerous languages, quality Medical translation services can break down these barriers, expediting the process to bring a drug to market and paring down the clinical trial process. The need for language services may arise during a number of stages, including research and development, submission to and review by regulatory bodies, production, and product marketing.
A company that understands the importance of technical translation possesses a clear competitive advantage. A skilled technical translator, with in-depth medical knowledge and sound translation skills, is critical for the approval of a drug or medical device by a regulatory agency. A poorly-done translation can lead to rejection of the drug by the regulatory body, or worse yet, delays in bringing the product to market or drug recalls. Each one of these setbacks adversely affects the company’s bottom line and has the potential to place consumers’ health at risk.
In a nutshell, when it comes to matters of health and safety, it’s never advisable to scrimp on quality.
Read more on the topic here.
As the U.S. Hispanic population continues to grow in size and influence, knowledge of Spanish is quickly becoming a more crucial skill for Americans. To that end, an interactive program is being launched at select schools to test out a new model of Spanish language instruction. With the aid of specialized software, students are able to study the language at home on their own computers. The software provides a personalized approach to learning that combines reading, writing, listening, speaking and vocabulary building. Some activities require the student to orally describe pictures or photos while others involve written communication in Spanish, and the software will not allow the student to progress to the next exercise until the current lesson has been satisfactorily completed. The program provides an incentive to students to study a foreign language because many perceive it to be easier and more enjoyable than traditional classroom methods. If the pilot program is successful, the language-learning software will be introduced to schools around the country.