Terminological Inconsistency in Medical Translation from English into Arabic

adaragmeh's picture
Heba Shaji Sa’adeh Yaseen

This study tackles the problem of terminological inconsistency in translating English medical terms into Arabic, which is defined as the lack of consistency in the selection of terms or assigning different translations to the same SL terms throughout a text or across relevant texts. The purpose of the present study is to display how factors of terms usability and circulations, the type of the target audience and the context of translation have an important role in lessening terminological inconsistency to a large extent, and, hence, they should be taken into account when determining which type of equivalence should be used to serve as a translation for a single English medical term. The representative data were collected from seven Arabic and translated medical books, two medical dictionaries of Hitti’s and the Unified Medical Dictionary (UMD) and 35 drug package inserts (DPIs). Such data sources were chosen in an attempt to compare between the most successful type of translational equivalence in specialized vs. non-specialized contexts. Data collection also involved interviews with doctors in which valuable insights about the medical translation process from English into Arabic in general were obtained, and telephone interviews with Palestinian pharmaceutical companies in which a full description of the process of translating DPIs into Arabic was provided. Also, a questionnaire, targeting a sample of 100 Arab doctors in Nablus and Ramallah districts, was developed to measure the circulation of different types of equivalence for English medical terms in both contexts, i.e. communication among doctors and medical staff vs. doctor-patient interaction. The questionnaire also included an open question to give sample population the chance to present their attitudes toward translating medical terms into Arabic. The study has shown that there were five types of terminological inconsistency in relation to the three different types of equivalence, i.e. transliterated, arabized, and descriptive equivalences. It has been also found that the most used type of equivalence in specialized contexts was the transliterated equivalence while descriptive translations reported the highest rate of circulation in non-specialized contexts. Arabization reported low rates of use in both contexts. The study assessed the validity of the fourth and latest edition of UMD and has concluded and emphasized its usefulness as it serves as the closest official Arabic medical resource to everyday medical practices. The study has also concluded that approaches of medical translation into Arabic should not be prescriptive but rather descriptive and complying with the Arabic language structure if terminological inconsistency in medical Arabic is to be overcome.

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