Being a Medical Translator

Being a medical translator requires some high-quality skills rather than accuracy to ensure that the most appropriate terminologies are being used in medical translations: dedication, commitment, ethic and continuous education.

Translators who desire to work in this specific field often hear how difficult it is to search for the right terms and use them properly in their projects. In fact, rather than the accuracy and consistency of terminologies it is essential that the translators follow the medical-patient ethics, keep the confidentiality of all information and provide the adequacy of texts for the medical target audience and also the general public, who is not familiar with the medical jargon.

In addition, there is another important matter related to the use of acronyms and/or abbreviations. For example, if you are translating a medical text from English into Brazilian Portuguese, you will notice that some of the acronyms or abbreviations remain unchanged in the target text while others undergo changes. 

Moreover, how to know which one is the correct acronym or abbreviation? Beginners translators of medical texts usually use automated machine translation such as Google, for example, in order to search for medical terminologies. I am not against the use of such platform. On the contrary, you might find terms and definitions commonly used in the medical areas. However, you need to be careful about the source of information and verify the consistency of all terms, being sure that the source is reliable before elaborating your glossaries and using them in your translation projects.

Please note there are some terms used in different ways for different companies. Therefore, before choosing a term it is essential to check it should be used in your client’s project.

In addition, what about specialization? Is it necessary to take courses? Is it essential a medical training for the translator? In my opinion, the translator is not required to take a medical degree but it is certainly a great advantage because he is much more familiar with the medical field, having knowledge of medical terminologies and concepts and access to appropriate materials. However, if you do not have a medical certificate but want to work with medical translation, there are very good courses online (free and paid) as well as articles, videos, dictionaries and a wide range of materials available on the internet. By clicking on the links below, you will be able to see some of them:





Medscape (in several languages)

World Health Organization (publications in some languages, including English and Spanish)



Merck, Sharp & Dohme Mannuals (in several languages)

Scielo – Scientific Electronic Library Online (in several languages)

Lilacs – Virtual Library in Healhcare from Latin America and Caribe

Anvisa – The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency

Abiquifi – Associação Brasileira da Indústria Farmoquímica (Pharma Chemicals Industry Association)

Harvard Medical School – Health publishing

Freecollocation (Oxford dictionary online)


CORPUS (American English) (British English) (Portuguese)  (Portuguese) (Spanish)


I believe the more you study and the more information you get, the more you will learn and the better medical translator you will become. So, roll up your sleeves and get back on the horse.