Strategies for translating complex texts

What’s the best way to get up to speed in a field outside your comfort zone? Learn from the experts, confer with colleagues and build a good corpus. Last month I had the chance to do all three, thanks to an ITI MedNet workshop on diabetes. This is an account of what I learnt that day and, more importantly, how I learnt it.

Expert input

First, Dr Shanti Vijayaraghavan, a consultant diabetologist at Barts Health, London, gave two talks on diabetes management and complications to a group of fifty medical translators. Sandra Young has written an excellent account of these two sessions in The Deep End.

Peer learning

Then, we then split up into language-specific groups to discuss a text we’d been sent a couple of weeks earlier. The Spanish-English squad was assigned an extremely challenging article entitled Complicaciones de la diabetes y su asociación con el estrés oxidativo: un viaje hacia el daño endothelial.*

It was fascinating to compare notes on how we’d tackled terminology problems, complex expressions and possible source errors. We also discussed how to parse never-ending Spanish sentences and translate them into shorter, snappier English. The mix of Spanish and English native translators from a range of medical, linguistic and editing backgrounds meant we were able to pool our knowledge and learn from each other.

Corpus queries

Actually, I’m telling this story in the wrong order. As soon as I received the complex Spanish text on oxidative stress by email, I realised I was out of my depth. So, before I went to the MedNet workshop – before I even started my translation – I built a monolingual English corpus. In this case, I simply created a quick-and-dirty corpus from the article references and a key word search to locate other resources that would help produce meaningful results to my queries. After converting the PDF files to .txt, I opened the corpus in AntConc to start solving my doubts.

How does corpus analysis help solve doubts? It shows word usage in terms of frequency and context (concordance and collocation). Thus, I learnt that flujo de las hexosaminas is not ‘hexosamine flow’, but ‘hexosamine flux’. I confirmed that abbreviations such as uNOS and RAGE are in current use in the literature. And I discovered that ‘degradation’ is more common than ‘breakdown’ as a collocate of ‘extracellular matrix’.

Learning strategies in general

I learnt a lot about diabetes and oxidative stress through the MedNet workshop day and corpus analysis. I recommend applying this strategy to extend your knowledge in the long term. Sign up for courses in a specialised field, ask questions and participate on terminology forums, and use corpora to make sure you’re on the right path.

Specific resources

Here’s a link to my rough and ready diabetes corpus. It’s a .zip file containing 35 .txt files and about 500,000 words.

Below is a glossary that I compiled from the sessions on diabetes management and complications and the text on oxidative stress. However, it is really a joint effort, because many terms were discussed and translated by the Spanish-English group. The glossary will be published shortly in the ITI MedNet newsletter.**

Spanish English
alfahidroxialdehídos alpha-hydroxy aldehydes
aliento cetónico ketone breath
alta reactividad plaquetaria high platelet reactivity (HPR)
artropatía neuropática Charcot joint
autooxidación de la glucosa glucose autoxidation
bomba de insulina insulin pump
cascadas enzimáticas enzyme cascades
cetoacidosis diabética diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)
citotoxicidad cytotoxicity
contenido de carbonilos proteicos protein carbonyl content
degradación degradation
diabetes del adulto en jóvenes maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
diabetes lábil brittle diabetes
diabéticos people/individuals with diabetes
disfunción endotelial endothelial dysfunction (ED)
dislipidemia dyslipidaemia
especies reactivas del oxígeno reactive oxygen species (ROS)
estado hiperosmolar hiperglucemico hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS)
esteatosis hepática fatty liver
estrés oxidativo oxidative stress
examen de fondo de ojo fundoscopy
factor de necrosis tumoral tumour necrosis factor
factores de transcripción inflamatorios inflammatory transcription factors
factores quimioatrayentes chemoattractant factors
flujo de las hexosaminas hexosamine flux
glioxal glyoxal
glucación glycation
glucemia en ayunas fasting plasma glucose
glucohemoglobina / hemoglobina glucada glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c)
hipercolesterolemia hypercholesterolaemia
índice de masa corporal body mass index
índice glucémico glycaemic index (GI)
insulinoma islet cell tumour
intermediarios intermediates
intolerancia a la glucosa impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
lactoacidosis lactic acidosis
lecho vascular vascular bed
lesión extracelular extracellular injury
maculopatía maculopathy
metales de transición transition metals
miocardiopatía cardiomyopathy
moléculas de adhesión adhesion molecules
moléculas de adhesión celular cell adhesion molecules
moléculas de adhesión intercelular (error in source text, corrected here) intercellular adhesion molecules
moléculas de adhesión vásculo-celular vascular cell adhesion molecules
óxido nítrico sintetasa nitric oxide synthase (NOS)
óxido nítrico sintetasa desacoplada uncoupled nitric oxide synthase (uNOS)
óxido nítrico sintetasa endotelial endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)
oxidorreductasa oxidoreductase
páncreas artificial (de asa cerrada) (closed-loop) artificial pancreas
pauta bolo-basal basal-bolus regimen
peroxinitrito peroxynitrite
poder oxidante oxidation potential
productos de glucosilación avanzada advanced glycation end-products (RAGEs)
proteína quinasa C protein kinase C
proteólisis proteolysis
prueba de tolerancia a la glucosa oral oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)
radicales libres (RL) free radicals (FR)
radical superóxido superoxide radical
resistencia a la insulina insulin resistance
retinopatía diabética diabetic retinopathy
secuestro sequestration
síndrome metabólico metabolic syndrome
sistema neuroendocrino difuso diffuse neuroendocrine system (also APUD system)
ubiquitinación ubiquitination
unión binding
vía de los polioles polyol pathway
vía lisosomal lysosomal pathway
* Marcelo A. Storino, Miguel A. Contreras, Jairo Rojano, Richard Serrano, Ana Nouel Revista Colombiana de Cardiología, Volume 21, Issue 6, Pages 392-398
** Reproduced with kind permission of the editor
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3 Responses to Strategies for translating complex texts

  1. Pingback: (TOOL) – Strategies for translating complex texts | Emma Goldsmith | Glossarissimo!

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  3. Victoria Kennedy says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so interesting and useful!

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