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Translation of medical documentation and english to russian translation is difficult to implement, since it implies an understanding of industry specifics, in-depth knowledge of the vocabulary of the two languages, requires the utmost accuracy in interpreting abbreviations, words, common speech constructions. Pharmaceutical translation is a section of medical translation, which has a great importance and is accepted to be distinguished from medical translation. Pharmaceutical translation is distinguished by the difficulty of forming a synonymic series in the absence of analogs in the Russian language, by the presence of a complex syntactic structure of turns of speech and terminological richness.

Stylistic conception

When performing a pharmaceutical translation, it is important to build a speech chain in strict accordance with the structure adopted for documents of this type. Characterized by emotional impersonality, phrases must be interpreted, preserving the formalism of statements, the semantic meanings of verbal units and the terminological features of language constructions.

Pharmaceutical texts are characterized by:

saturation with highly specialized terms;
Frequent use of Latin names;
Lack of emotional coloring;
Complexity of grammatical structures;
cliched information.
Translation of pharmaceutical documentation requires precise deciphering of abbreviations, acronyms, designations, correct interpretation of speech blocks, taking into account linguistic, semantic and grammatical norms typical of texts in this industry.


The main difference between the pharmaceutical field and the general medical field is the use of a large number of terms and specialized cliches. The complexity of translating medical documents is compounded by the heterogeneity of the concepts and definitions they contain. Strict formalization of the structure of pharmaceutical forms facilitates the task of the linguist, provided he or she is fully aware of their peculiarities. In this case, when translating pharmaceutical documents, biological or chemical education may come to the fore, rather than medical education as such.

A specialist with two specializations can translate instructions for use of medicines accurately enough. However, in order to guarantee the correct interpretation of the meaning, the finished text must be verified by the editor, a narrowly focused specialist with sufficient practical experience to eliminate errors, inaccuracies.

Strict formal style inherent in pharmaceutical information documents must be maintained. At the same time, it is important to accurately decipher numerous abbreviations, acronyms, Latin names of drug components, because the health of patients may depend on it.

Areas of application

The international cooperation of pharmaceutical companies, the expansion of markets for medical products is associated with the need for intensive exchange of documentation of various kinds. When supplying medication, it is necessary to translate registration documents, import and export licenses, clinical reports, abstracts and other types of reporting and information forms. Today, the practice of circulation of medicines and components in the Russian Federation plays an increasing role not only in the import but also in the export of medicines. This, in turn, requires professional translators capable of translating pharmaceutical documents into foreign languages.

Pharmaceutical translation includes a number of narrow directions with inherent lexical and stylistic peculiarities of the documents. Taking them into account allows the correct interpretation of the terms in the translation of texts, avoiding difficulties in the construction of the semantic row of lexemes.

Skills of a linguist

A qualified pharmaceutical translator is a highly specialized specialist with considerable practical experience. In addition to being able to correctly convey meaning, clearly articulate “dry” turns of phrase, he must:

have an in-depth knowledge of both languages;
understand the peculiarities of the use of speech constructions and correctly interpret their meaning;
take into account the branch affiliation of documentation and correctly form lexical-semantic links of sentences;
avoid free interpretation of terms, definitions, observing linguistic norms characteristic of the style;
have a narrow specialization, additional education and rich translation practice.
An experienced linguist, guided by his own knowledge and an extensive database of terminological dictionaries, will correctly translate a pharmaceutical document of any type, provided he also has experience in the pharmaceutical field, and in an ideal situation, also an experienced editor with a specialized education.

How to make a living with translations

Where to begin?

It takes time to start making a living with translations. Therefore, those who do not have sponsors (parents, spouses or other interested persons) should first of all get a job. It is best to be a translator for any salary (newcomers do not have to choose especially) in some translation department or in the staff of a translation agency in order to work under the supervision of an editor. At the same time, you can recruit a clientele (planning to become a freelancer) or look for a place with a good salary (preferring to work in the state). If you didn’t manage to get a job as a translator right away, you should go as a manager to some promising industry (banking, oil) – preferably to a foreign company. This will allow you to build vocabulary and specialize in a specific topic. (All reputable employers value specialists, not just generalist translators.)

What to do?

Go to job sites, respond to ads, send resumes. In this case, one should not chase mass character, but try to carefully work out every suitable opportunity. This means, firstly, that a foreign language graduate should not pretend to be an experienced medical translator or apply for translations in a poorly mastered language pair. And, secondly, it is necessary to fulfill the requirements of employers. It is written: call – call, it is written: write – write, ask to send a resume – send, do not ask – do not send. And put yourself in the employer’s shoes all the time. Imagine, for example, that you receive dozens of files every day with the unassuming name resume.doc, and you immediately guess to name your resume Petere_Ivanov.doc.


A well-written resume is half the success. The requirements are different in different organizations, so I will venture to give only general advice. In my opinion, the most important thing is brevity, information content and the absence of spelling errors (oddly enough, most resumes have them). When composing a resume, you need to clearly understand what and how characterizes his hero. For example, I don’t care whether the translator is married or not and how old his children are. It does not matter to me what school he attended, but if a person for some reason writes “graduated from school number 7”, then it is worth indicating in which city this venerable institution is located. The same goes for abbreviations. It is better to simply write that he worked in the translation department of a metallurgical plant than to mysteriously mention UPP LGZhZ. If a person has a rich work history, then it is not always worth describing it in its entirety. The fact that you worked as a stockbroker is important for an agency specializing in financial transfers, but the fact that you worked as a janitor during your student years is clearly superfluous information.

The devil is not so terrible as he is painted

Translation agency is a constant character of translation horror stories. All translation forums are full of stories about greedy and dishonest agencies, as well as trying to deceive a defenseless translator. The most typical is the story of how a huge user manual split into small fragments was sent out in the form of mock tests to hundreds of translators. To say that all these horrors are completely sucked from the finger, of course, is impossible. Indeed, agencies are different. However, if we are talking about serious organizations, it is important to understand that they play an important role in the translation business and no one can replace them. And those agencies that have been on the market for a long time and work stably, simply cannot engage in fraud. (By the way, hand out some document to your friends for translation, and then try to put it together as a whole. You will see that it is faster to translate everything yourself.)

Why do customers need an agency

An organization with a small volume of translations does not need an agency. She’d better find a good translator and work with him. Thus, the unity of terminology and increased interest of the performer are ensured (after all, in this case, all the money for the work goes directly to him). For large organizations with a stable volume of work, the best solution is to create your own translation department. The advantages are obvious: the same consistency of terminology plus close contact between translators and specialists who can always explain what’s what in a complex production process.

What is a reliable agency

The most accurate idea about the agency can be obtained from the experience of communicating with him. However, this experience is fraught with monetary losses. Therefore, for a start, it is better to take a closer look at it, try to find out the opinion of friends or visitors to translation forums.


On the one hand, having your own website would seem to characterize an organization well. On the other hand, many translation bureaus were formed back in Soviet times (and this is a plus!), When there were no Internet connections at all. Having a stable circle of customers, they often continue to live in the old fashioned way, without experiencing the need for a website. And vice versa, two student-programmers, who decided to quickly cash in on other people’s translations, can declare themselves an agency, make a very beautiful website, post advertisements all over the Runet and collect money from clients for a couple of months without paying the translators anything. Therefore, the presence of the site itself is not a guarantee of reliability.


A well-equipped office, located in a good location, speaks of the agency’s solidity, but at the same time its high overhead costs, which, of course, are paid from the same money received for translations.


In my opinion, the most important thing is the speed of response. When I, as a customer, was looking for an agency to translate into the languages ​​of the CIS, I called a bunch of organizations, sent out a lot of messages by e-mail. Most of the bureaus found in Runet simply did not respond! However, here it is important to distinguish between responses to requests from customers and translators. Although most agencies are constantly looking for a workforce (there are actually very few qualified translators), this is not true for all agencies. Therefore, if the agency did not respond to your proposal, this does not characterize it badly. Worse, if it does not fulfill its promises: if the ad says “send us your resume, we will definitely answer you,” but there is no answer, then this is an alarming sign.

Abroad will help us

The most lucrative clients live, of course, across the okiyan sea. They have only two drawbacks: it is difficult to reach them and it is difficult to get money from them. The general principles, however, are the same: a direct client with a large volume of work is better than an agency; it is important to make sure of the reliability of the customer; it is necessary to purposefully send out correctly composed resumes! (Samples of English resumes are not hard to find on the Internet).

And you will succeed!

What is an urgent translation?

I would like to note that urgent translation is a rather conditional category and is not used by all individual translators and translation agencies. Many of them work (at least with regular customers) at fixed, pre-agreed rates. And accordingly, the question is not raised about any additional premiums for urgency.

Mainly due to the fact that

on the mass market of technical translations, unfortunately, there are practically no non-urgent translations or there are very few of them. All others are urgent. To anyone, but to me, this market is well known, since I have been working in the niche of urgent and extra-urgent translations for more than one year.

On the one hand, urgent translations can undoubtedly include all those for which time is running out and the translator has to work at an accelerated pace to the detriment of the quality of the translation, to the detriment of health and vision (especially if the text is small, and it is necessary to translate until late at night, and then and capture part of the night).

Be it 20 pages in one day, 10 pages from the evening until 11:00 the next day, 2-3 pages within 1-2 hours, or even 1 page, but immediately: within 20-30 minutes. All this is an urgent translation! Not to mention the degree of complexity of the translated text or the increased laboriousness of the translation due to the presence of complex figures or tables in it: not every translation can be performed at an urgent pace.

On the other hand, according to purely formal criteria, practically any translations are sometimes referred to as “urgent” translations, in fact, they are not even such, if we proceed from the reasonable volumes that a qualified translator is able to translate in the available time. Some agencies (I will not name them) use the following practice: they announce a low price to the customers of translations, and when it comes to terms, the price automatically doubles, even if we are talking about translating 5 pages in three days.

If you, as a customer, always want to receive a high-quality translation, then try to set reasonable terms for the translator: in a comfortable mode or for texts of increased complexity – 5-7 pages per working day (7-9 hours), and for simple standard texts – maximum 10- 15 pages a day (this is already 10-12 hours of work). And then highly qualified translators will work with you more willingly, and you will be satisfied with the results of their work.

Does the translation need an editor?

It is necessary to immediately clarify what kind of translation it is (See above the answer to the question about the types of translation for quality requirements).

By definition, you don’t need an editor for a draft translation. As for all other types of translation (final, scientific and technical, legal, for printing, etc.), then ideally, of course, it is always a good idea when someone else looks at your translation before delivery to the customer. The author’s eyes are “blurred”, but from the side it is always more visible (the principle of four eyes).

The higher the requirements for the quality of the translation, the more such translation requires an editor or editors. It was not for nothing that in the good Soviet times, publishing houses had a famous technological chain for published books (including translations):
“Translator – stylist – editor – proofreader – senior control editor, etc.”
And all this several times: the first reconciliation, the second reconciliation, blank sheets, etc. And all the same, the books came out with typos, blunders and even white sheets.

However, in the modern translation market, all talk about editors is more of a good wish. In reality, even translation agencies cannot provide this:

editing leads to a 50% increase in translation costs
translation deadlines are lengthened
it is difficult, and sometimes almost impossible, to find in real time the editor of the desired specialization (and the degree of complexity and range of topics today is much greater than 20-30 years ago)
any editorial revision is rather controversial, and an insufficiently qualified editor (in terms of knowledge of the language or knowledge of terminology) can correct the correct version for the wrong one
the best editing can be done by the customer himself or by a consultant assigned to him, since they are “in the know” and know better what they want to receive (but usually the customer does not consider it necessary to advise the translator during the translation, and internal editing is done by the customer himself – and the translator about it knows nothing and does not receive any feedback that could be taken into account in the future).

Specificity of translation from Russian into a foreign language

According to UN standards, translation into each language can only be performed by a translator for whom the given language is native (the so-called native speaker). That is, only a Chinese translator translates into Chinese, a French translator into French, etc.
The one who came up with this rule had good reason. The fact is that there is a huge difference between translation from a foreign language into a native language and from a native language into a foreign one. When translating into a foreign language, you need to think in a foreign language. So, for a number of reasons, translating into a foreign language is always much more difficult than vice versa:

a) when translating into a foreign language, only active vocabulary is used; when translating into our native language, a passive vocabulary is also used (i.e. such words that we ourselves do not use, but we recognize and understand in someone else’s speech). Each person always has an active vocabulary less than a passive one. Thus, you have to look more often in the dictionary.
b) the same grammatical structure or the same word of the Russian language can be conveyed by several variants of constructions / words of a foreign language, and vice versa. When translating into the native (Russian) language, the choice of the desired construction or the most suitable synonym occurs automatically. When translating into a foreign language, you need to know exactly the subtle difference between synonyms, know the limits of applicability of certain turns, etc., which is not always possible.
c) it is more difficult for most translators to type in Latin (especially if it is a language like French, in which there are many modified letters), etc.

As a result, it turns out that translation into a foreign language is more expensive than into a native language, and is performed more slowly (7-8 pages per day versus 10 in Russian). Moreover, sometimes only a native speaker can adequately translate into a foreign language. Or the translator must work with native speakers for many years, ideally, live in the country of this language (in the linguistic environment), think and dream in a foreign language – only then will his translation be perceived as fully adequate.
Perhaps this is less about technical translation; however, advertising and legal texts are very difficult to adequately translate into a foreign language. Naturally, all of the above applies to foreigners translating into Russian. I have seen such translations many times. In them, it would seem, grammatically and lexically everything or almost everything is correct, correct. But the language is dead, “foreign”, it is immediately clear that a foreigner translated. So even text can have an “accent”.
But what should we do if we cannot attract a foreign translator, but we need to translate materials (for example, a website) that potential clients will read, that is, the text should invoke, not repel? The solution is to edit the text by a native speaker. Many translation agencies provide such services. As a rule, at the output you will receive such a text that any foreigner, looking at it, will not say that it is a translation from a foreign language. But the cost of such a service is very high and comparable to the cost of translation by a Russian translator. However, taking into account the high prices on the European translation market, it will be even more expensive to send a text for translation abroad.
If the budget or the specifics of the order does not allow resorting to the help of a native speaker, then in this case the Russian translator must be checked especially carefully. Many translators generally prefer to translate only into their native (ie Russian) language. If the translator has undertaken to translate into a foreign language, then first try it on a small paragraph (or on one page) and give the result to an experienced “master of the genre” or, better, a native speaker. By the way, testing on a small piece of text is accepted free of charge (see p. “1c”). If a German (Englishman, Japanese, etc.) says that the given text in his native language is written correctly, it means that you can work with the chosen translator. As you yourself understand, it is not at all necessary for such a checking foreigner to know Russian.

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