What Challenges Are There When Translating Scientific Documents?

Though some people may be able to get by with translating a single word or phrase using nothing more than Google, there are many instances where this is unlikely to result in a successful outcome. There are perhaps few translation endeavors more difficult than dealing with scientific or medical documents. Aside from their complex wording, many of these translations are actually subject to government regulations, making it essential that those in need of this work call a professional in scientific translation services.


Here’s a closer look at the challenges that can arise when translating scientific documents, as well as why professional translators are vital for overcoming these obstacles.


Industry-Specific Language


Even for people who are reasonably bilingual (such as being able to speak both French and English), scientific and medical language presents a challenge. After all, many of the terms used to describe a chemical formula or a new medicine aren’t part of a normal person’s vocabulary — including those who speak the language as their native tongue! This can lead to serious gaps in one’s own translation efforts.


Translating scientific and medical documents is often further complicated by the use of Latin terms. Without knowledge of these more complex elements of the languages involved in the translation, it can become all too easy to make a mistake that completely alters the intended meaning of written content. With legal and business jargon also regularly incorporated into such documents, it is clear that a greater knowledge of both languages is needed.


This makes working with a professional who specializes in scientific translations of the utmost importance. When your translator understands how to work with scientific jargon (and actually understands what these terms mean), you can have confidence that translated documents will be understood properly by their intended audience.




If a traditional brand messes up their translation, they’ll likely suffer little more than a missed opportunity and some online mocking by their target audience. With scientific and medical translations, however, an incorrect translation can have consequences that reach much further.


Scientific and medical documents are subjected to strict standards by governments, regulatory agencies, and even corporations that have any type of vested interest in the document. Depending on the text, certain warnings or disclaimers may need to be included. The incorrect wording (or failure to include a required disclaimer) could result in severe fines and penalties.


As the above examples illustrate, business and law often intersect with scientific and medical documents. In these situations, getting the translation right is about much more than not accidentally offending potential customers. When pharmaceutical products or scientific discoveries have a direct impact on the public’s well-being, a correct translation could often be the difference maker in avoiding accidents and regulatory violations.


It is also worth noting that different countries and organizations often have varying regulations — yet another reason to enlist the help of a specialist. While you may not have the need for certain legal phrasing in your own country, introducing a medical product to a different country may require the inclusion of additional warnings or disclaimers. A specialized translating service will also be aware of such differences so that additional material can be created when needed.


Getting the Translation Done Right


Ultimately, if you are involved in scientific, medical, or pharmaceutical work, having an experienced translation team on your side is an absolute must. After all the effort you’ve put into research or product development, you don’t want your international introduction to be tripped up by a sloppy translation. By ensuring that all translation work is completed correctly, you will avoid costly miscommunications and be better equipped to share your knowledge with the world.

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