The Importance of Jargon-Savvy Translators

Posted by Jamie Faulkner


Why is it so important to have a translator with knowledge in your field?

No matter what your native language, there are subsets of language and words for specific areas of work.  This is called jargondefined as “the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group.

What does that mean? 

Have you ever read a paragraph of a legal contract and stopped afterwards and thought, I have no idea what that means.  Or have you ever been to a medical office and heard words like echolalia and karyokinesis and trichoepithelioma? … Me neither.

But if a lawyer or a doctor needs something translated into another language, how are they going to get their message across correctly?  How, if we don’t even know these (supposedly) English words, is someone supposed to understand, translate, and correctly communicate it to an audience in a different language?

In this Ted Talk, Steven Schwaitzberg talks about the difficulties of translation in the medical field, as well as the need for a “surgical lexicon” (7:50).  His long-term goal is to create a universal translator through technology, but for right now, he recognizes the need for professional translators well-versed in the field they are translating.

Why not just have a bilingual or multilingual person in the field translate for you?  That’s what a Florida hospital did in 1980 when an 18 year-old LATAM speaker came in with what the family thought was food poisoning.  A bilingual staff member translated the word “intoxicado” (poisoned) to “intoxicated.”  Although it was an understandable mistake, it led to the wrong treatment, leaving the patient quadriplegic and costing the hospital $71 billion in lawsuits.  A professional translator with knowledge of the medical field would have known the distinct difference between these two words, and could have saved the family and the hospital years of pain and suffering and money.

Here at Lionbridge, we specialize in various industries including Technology, Life Sciences, Financial Services, and more.  We have professional translators who are experts in their fields and know the terminology inside and out in multiple languages.