Two sneaky little pitfalls when translating Product Information
by Angela Frawley
Over the past few weeks, I have been very busy translating some really interesting documents, from guidelines for Medical Emergency staff, including how to deliver a baby in an emergency (which is always good to know), to a very interesting account of the death of Charles Dickens and the many ailments suffered by the great 19th century novelist.
Now, it is back to doing what I do best: translating a Summary of Product Characteristics and Patient Information Leaflet from French to English. Correct EMA template and reference documents open for consultation and off I go.
But despite my many (many) years of experience working with this type of document I am always really wary that some of those pesky little false friends (words that look or sound similar in various languages but differ significantly in meaning) might wheedle their way into my translation, especially if I’m under some time restrains.
I have a number of these words flagged as a Red Alert so as soon as I come across them I am especially vigilant. The first is infusion/profusion. When translating from any Romance language, this is always one to watch out for.
In French, for example, we could come across Voie intra-veineuse (perfusion) and be tempted to translate perfusion in French simply as “perfusion”; in which case we could well be found guilty of a mistranslation. If we look at the definitions below, number 3, from Dorlands Medical Dictionary, it is clear that the most appropriate term is not “perfusion” but “infusion”.
In-fu-sion [L. infusio; from in + fundere to pour] 1. the steeping of a substance in water to obtain its medicinal principles. 2. the product of the process of steeping a drug for the extraction of its medicinal principles. 3. the therapeutic introduction of a fluid other than blood, as saline solution, into a vein. NOTE: an infusion flows in by gravity; an injection is forced in by a syringe; an instillation is dropped in, and an insufflation is blown in.
Per-fu-sion [MeSH: Perfusion] 1. The act of pouring over or through, especially the passage of a fluid through the vessels of a specific organ. 2. a liquid poured over or through an organ or tissue.
Another of those sneaky little friends is the French word dosage, which has numerous translations depending on the context and only seldom do I translate it directly as “dosage”. The Collins dictionary translates it as “mixture” which would work in other fields but not so well in the case of medical and pharmaceutical texts. For my documents, the more apt translation is usually “assay” or “determination” referring to quantitative type analyses or tests:
The Dictionary of Medicine: French-English with English-French Glossary by Svetolik P. Djordjevic, Svetolik P. Djordjević has a whole list of such tests under its rather lengthy entry on dosage. Termbank is also another very useful tool when considering other possible options: https://tureng.com/es/frances-ingles/dosage.
So be vigilant for these and other sneaky little false friends when translating product information! Any pet hates when it comes to false friends?