It is an honor but also a challenge to be given the opportunity to teach your skills to others. Tzviya Levin Rifkind, my wife, has just completed teaching a 12-hour enrichment course on medical translation to students in the English-to-Hebrew translation track at Beit Berl College in Israel. Her answers to my questions reveal the skills required to be a professional translation as well as the unique aspects of medical translation.
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What is your background in medical translation?
I worked as a nurse for many years and began translating 23 years ago to earn extra income. I discovered that my broad experience applying medicine gave me a great advantage in translating material on medicine. I have focused on that area ever since.
Which knowledge and skills did you teach the students?
Given that the students have no medical background, I began by defining the word medical, stressing how many domains include medical translation. I then explained some basic terms in medicine so as to gain familiarity with the subject and allow them to identify medical elements that may appear in any type of texts from prose to marketing. I then worked on how to relate to them and avoid common pitfalls when translating less familiar elements. More importantly, the students learned what to do when they are not certain, including seeking solutions and asking questions. I also discussed back translation and transcreation in brief.
How did the students apply this knowledge and practice these skills during the course?
In class exercises, the students actively participated in identifying and solving translation issues, first discussing among themselves in groups and then together as a class. The home tasks involved light or non-medical translation tasks that required them to analyze texts and find solutions for medical translation issues, thus developing not only their translating skills but also their thinking skills.
What did the students learn in regards to being a professional translator in general?
They learnt how vital it is read and understand all instructions. Furthermore, the students came to understand the importance of asking questions, whether of the client or any other source, when they are uncertain. The course also brought into focus how attention to details is one of the keys of proper translation. Finally, the students learned to not send work immediately but instead to allow time to conduct proper QA.
How did you find the experience of teaching translation as compared to actually translating?
As a nurse, patient and colleague education were integral parts of my job. Thus, I had experience transmitting knowledge and skills. Today, I often help in translation groups and even voluntarily invest time helping new translator one-on-one. So, teaching was not that different except for having the status of “teacher” with all the attached privileges and duties as well as the requirement to teach at a fixed time and place. I have to admit that teaching through Zoom was a new and challenging experience.
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Also being an educator, I can attest that teaching is a form of learning, probably the most intense but also the most satisfying. Sharing knowledge and enriching others creates a great feeling of contribution while also, most curiously, broadening the perspective of teachers themselves. I am sure that both Tzviya and her students were enriched by this course.
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