By Sandra Young
This May I attended my second ITI Mednet workshop, this time on the subject of diabetes. For the morning sessions, the group had invited an expert in the field, Dr Shanti Vijaraghavan, a Consultant Physician specialising in this area. The first half of the day consisted of talks in which she outlined the management and complications of the disease, highlighting differences between type I and II diabetes.
The talks allowed me to consolidate my knowledge on the subject of diabetes and its complications, assimilate new terminology and discuss the appropriateness of certain terms. Here are some examples of what I took away with me:
Diabetes and its complications
- Good blood glucose control is essential for a person with diabetes’ health and to minimise complications. However, a person living with diabetes will develop complications such as neuropathies and retinopathies after living with the disease for a number of years, despite good blood glucose control.
- Hypoglycaemic awareness fades as a result of damage to the sympathetic nervous system, meaning that symptoms (the warning signs of hypoglycaemia) disappear with time.
- Charcot joint – complete lack of sensation in the joint, which leads people to injure themselves without realising. This eventually results in a disfigured joint.
- Claudication – pain caused by too little blood flow, usually brought on by exercise.
- Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) – Incredibly high blood sugar which results in “sludgy” blood.
- Secretagogue – a substance that stimulates secretion, also a term used for insulin-releasing pills.
Appropriateness of terms – what do the experts really say?
- Brittle diabetes – to describe someone with a type of severe diabetes characterised by blood sugar levels that are difficult to control.
- Fundus – the correct terminology for the “back of eye” exam.
A morning of absorbing information was perfectly paired with an afternoon of working in language pair groups on a diabetes-related text. In my opinion, this combination is central to the success of the Mednet workshops and constitutes a fertile ground for learning.
The text dealt with complications of diabetes and its association with oxidative stress. It was a very interesting text to work on in a group of translators with varying backgrounds and experience. Our group, the Spanish to English group, was made up of translators who were originally from scientific backgrounds, pure-linguist backgrounds, editing backgrounds and native Spanish translators.
The input from those with a scientific background was invaluable, as they could use their understanding of the subject to decipher the more ambiguous sentences. The text used acronyms and abbreviations in a haphazard and non-standard way, in most cases failing to give a definition in the first instance. An example of this was the use of English acronyms ROS and RNS for reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, but then the Spanish acronym was used for nitrous oxide (ON).
There was also a spelling mistake in which “citoaldehídos” appeared instead of “cetoaldehídos”. With an understanding of the context it was clear that it referred to something relating to ketones, not cells, but to the untrained eye this could cause a great deal of confusion. This highlights the importance of having a good understanding of the subject you are translating.
As regards editing, I learned that journals do not like the use of bulleted lists as a general rule. There was a section at the beginning of the article which had a problematic list, which contained a number of pairs of opposing functions. I had considered making a bulleted list of these opposing pairs. However, advice was that a good solution might be to keep the list in the main body of the text, but to separate the pairs by semi-colons.
Being fairly new to medical translation, the group translations at these workshops are particularly useful for me as I get the opportunity to discuss problematic issues of a text with more experienced medical translators, hear their perspectives on these issues and learn from this. The group session this time helped me not only to better understand the concepts within the text, but also to learn more about editing and terminology within medical translations, all of which I can apply to my future work.
I have listed some resources for medical translations that were recommended during the group session:
- https://www.quetzal-search.info/ (advanced searching for medical resources, including different levels of subscription)
- http://www.uniprot.org/ (search on protein sequence and functional information).