The difference between a medical interpreter and medical translator

Medical Interpreter Vs. Medical Translator

The difference between interpreting and translation is only in the medium: interpreters work orally, while a translator works with written text. Although both professions require a high level of expertise, the medical translator has more time than the interpreter to become an expert. The speed of delivery for medical interpreters is immediate. Essentially, they should be able to render the message in a split second, making the learning curve of this profession steeper, especially compared to that of a translator. In fact, medical interpreters essentially undergo medical interpreter training when they enroll in any accredited medical interpreter courses.  This is because they must practice a great deal of terminology in order to understand not only how the body functions internally, but also the medical procedures. In this sense, a medical interpreter truly needs to step into the shoes of both the patient and the doctor.

medical interpreter training

Medical Interpreter Training vs. Medical Translator Training

As a medical interpreter, you are an advocate for the patient and the provider equally. For this reason, the person must be equally capable of translating terminology into a low and high register. For this reason, medical interpreter training is a more complicated exercise with nuances that go beyond medical translator training. At the same time, any program will include a medical translator course, especially considering that it is a fundamental skill for any medical interpreter. In order to be a successful interpreter, it is important to studying medical terminology to acquire a level of understanding of medicine that is well-rounded. Furthermore, the medical interpreter must understand the U.S. healthcare system in order to help patients navigate the intricacies of hospitals and healthcare practices in a foreign country. On the other hand, for a medical translator, although they certainly must have a grasp of medical topics like procedures and terminology, they are not exposed to the day-to-day rush of being in a hospital or being present when procedures are being conducted. Their face-to-face interaction with a patient is non-existent, and this is a significant difference between the medical interpreter and the medical translator.

How to Become a Medical Interpreter

As far as education, to become a medical interpreter, the person must meet three requirements.  They must be proficient in two or more languages, they must receive medical interpreter training, and they must take a certification exam.  With all of these steps successfully cleared, they could eventually become a certified medical interpreter that can work in a hospital or with a healthcare professional as an interpreter.

How to Become a Medical Translator

On the other hand, medical translators need to do some different steps.  They must enroll in a medical interpreter program if they have not obtained a medical interpretation certificate or a degree in translation studies. Generally, medical translators are not required to be certified, but they are expected to have at least 2-3 years of translation experience with medical terminology and a deep understanding of local laws.  This is because most countries have different regulations regarding medical procedures and medicine approval. In general, medical translator training is done by working directly with translation of clinical trials, medical papers, journals, research, study protocols, and other written content related to the healthcare and pharma industry.

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