Life Science: Localization into Russian and Ukrainian
By Andrey Ruban and Irina Pigovska
0.Introductory statements (developments in medical equipment and technologies, and in pharmaceuticals)
1. Lately we have noticed a rise in the number of foreign companies producing medical equipment, and foreign pharmaceuticals companies, operating in the Russian (and CIS) markets. Variety in the LS sector
2.The specific localization requirements on producers (a ban on replacing brand names with pronouns, verification of product localization at the installation site).
3.Janus’s strategy in the LS sector.
One would be hard pushed to think of a more conservative branch of knowledge than medicine ‐ or so it would seem. Over many centuries, mankind has slowly but surely accumulated a wealth of experience in terms of fighting disease, using the ‘trial and error’ approach. Knowledge has been passed on from teacher to student, in a learning process spanning many generations.
But progress has not left this sector untouched. Digital technologies have found their way into medical diagnosis and surgery, while applied methods have been developed for each branch of medical science.
Let us try to assess the situation using the Russian Federation by way of example.
From a historical standpoint, it so happened that the dawn of the computer age coincided with the break‐up of the Soviet Union and the fall of the «iron curtain». It was during this period that the world’s leading producers of medical equipment began to turn their attentions to new and emerging markets. For the Western European and American companies that constituted the world’s biggest producers, a new horizon had opened up behind the iron curtain. Yet to conquer the market in such vast territories, localization was required ‐ i.e. creating a product version that could be understood by the end user in his or her native language. There was a need, therefore, for massive expansion in the localization and globalization sectors.
For some years now, we have seen a consistent rise in the number of orders for medical equipment. The first organizations to create a market for them in Russia were the private clinics which began to spring up in the 1990’s. Order volumes gradually increased as these private medical institutions proliferated, for consumers had to be provided not only with the equipment itself, but also with instructions on how to use it, written in the end user’s native language. With apparatus and accessories being supplied in a single package containing localized technical documents, the time taken to bring a product into service in the medical sector could be dramatically cut, with deadlines brought forward and savings in staff training. As a consequence of this, a requirement to localize technical documentation was enshrined in law throughout the entire territory of the former USSR. In doing this, the legislature was not only taking steps to ensure that foreign producers’ products were safe for consumption throughout the whole nation, but also that the national language was given strong support, as foreign producers were obliged to invest in it.
As regards the current situation in the Russian market, a key signal was given just recently: the Government of the Russian Federation declared that it intends to modernize the state’s medical institutions as one of its top‐priority national projects, and has set aside significant funding for this programme in the national budget.
It is therefore safe to say that interest in the Russian market will continue to grow as this programme is introduced, since the state is the biggest customer of all in our country. Producers are already readying themselves to play a role in the modernization process, creating affiliated companies in Russia and setting these branches the task of promoting their products in the Russian market.
Medical translation is a very broad concept. It covers a diverse range of different fields, such as: pharmaceuticals, clinical trials and medical equipment.
As far as direct localization of medical equipment is concerned, this too has its own particular set of rules. The key feature of localizing medical equipment is the fact that all the localized products are subject to thorough external checks by specialists in the relevant branch of medicine. This compulsory procedure is aimed at removing serious errors that could literally be a matter of life or death, since in this sector human health and human lives are at stake. As a rule, the checks are carried out by local specialists from production companies; in some cases, independent medical experts are brought in, who put their own personal
signature to their observations.
Every single customer and producer of medical instruments, without exception, operates according to this principle. But individual clients, taking into account the specifics of the product being produced, develop their own user guides, and these instructions become obligatory when localizing the relevant documentation.
For example, the company Covidien, which produces a whole range of surgical instruments, introduced as one of its key localization principles a ban on replacing nouns referring to these instruments with any personal or relative pronouns whatsoever. This ban was in all likelihood introduced not only for obvious marketing purposes (maximizing the number of mentions of the product), but also for a more subtle underlying reason: when special instruments have similar names, using a relative pronoun could cause end users to misunderstand instructions, and this could in turn lead to tragic mistakes by doctors and harm
patients’ health, as a result of which production companies would be laying themselves open to serious lawsuits. So by insisting on the rather unusual, monotonous style of its technical documents, the company is in effect killing three birds with one stone: it is advertising its product, making its instructions clear to the user and taking a preventative legal measure.
There are some situations when a translator or editor is required, in addition to knowing a foreign language, to have some kind of medical education. As a rule, this requirement crops up first and foremost when localizing surgical equipment. In such cases the client, prior to making an order, asks to see the translators’ and editors’ CVs and subjects them to close scrutiny before selecting the most appropriate candidates. A glossary is then ordered (if not already provided), and as this is being compiled the correct terminology for the forthcoming project is established. By way of example, we can look at the products made by a company
like Technolas Perfect Vision. There is no way that a translator (or editor) can localize a user manual on laser eye surgery equipment without knowing the layout of the eye, what its various component parts are called and what characteristics the various parts of the eye have.
Occasionally, a single translation and the subsequent checks on it are insufficient to localize the interface on medical equipment, and the producer decides to put the product through on‐site verification. A client sends in a request for a translator to make a business trip out to a particular country; the deadlines and other details are agreed, and all the necessary paperwork arranged, and the translator sets off to their destination. This sort of business trip can be fairly lengthy, regardless of the nature and complexity of the equipment being tested ‐ they can last anything from several days to several weeks.
For example, the company Philips decided to localize their diagnosis equipment software, and then carry out on‐site verification. We made ourselves available to provide full‐scale support for this project at every stage, across a whole range of essential services. As a result, roughly one month was set aside to undertake direct localization of the software and for the client to check the localized version, and then roughly one more month to install the equipment, agree the deadline for the business trip and prepare all the necessary paperwork for the trip. Once this was done the translator set off for a 1‐week business trip to the site where the apparatus was to be installed, in the Middle East.
There are sometimes cases when the producer’s local branches order additional services ‐ for example, printing marketing leaflets for people taking part in international events (conferences, summits ‐ Olympus); officially stamped translations of certificates for various types of medical equipment and copies of them (Siemens, Sandoz).
Finally, one other specific type of request is worth mentioning: cases where the client requires someone who is not only an expert in the language and the subject matter, but also resides in a particular country and is familiar with the way things work in that country (Israel, for example).
All the facets of translation mentioned above apply to Ukrainian as well.
In addition, there is a whole range of specific problems that translators and editors can encounter:
‐ russianisms taking the place of Ukrainian terms
Вдох instead of вдих, моча instead of сеча, внутрівенний instead of внутрішньовенний
‐ morphological characteristics are also subject to the influence of the Russian language (using incorrect genitive case endings for 2nd declension masculine nouns).
засобу, болю, нежитю, кашлю, струменя, шлунка, бюлетеня, міхура, мозочка, кореня, скальпеля, пінцета, мозку, кишечнику, стравоходу, аспірину; імунітету, кровообігу, набряку
‐ medical texts involve the extensive use of terms and professional jargon. There is a need not only to understand a word’s meaning, but also to have an idea of the forms in which it is used (both grammatically and stylistically). The lexical, grammatical and stylistic limitations in the Ukrainian language have the effect of forming stable models for collocations.
The problem of conveying borrowed words in the Ukrainian language needs to be addressed separately, since these terms are made up of words with foreign roots. In these terms, consonants are not doubled up:
‐ пасивні рухи (passive movements), дифузний головний біль (diffuse headache), медичний персонал (medical personnel).
In some cases doubled-up consonants are nonetheless found, due to the consonants in the prefix and the root coinciding апперцепція, іррадіювання.
Special care needs to be taken when translating eponymous terms, which are widespread in clinical terminology. In these terms, doubled‐up consonants are left in place:
рефлекс Оппенгейма (Oppenhim’s reflex), пендата Фалло (Fallot’s pentalody)
Janus’s strategy in the LS sector.
The business strategy of the translation company Janus is based on an understanding of the aforementioned specific aspects of the localization process in the Life Science sector. Around a year ago, when the number of localization requests in this sector began to increase dramatically, a special Life Science unit was set up within the company’s structure, which has been working successfully with a large number of companies producing medical equipment. The company regularly analyzes its activity and looks to broaden its horizons, taking all necessary measures and making adjustments to ensure its production process stays ahead of the game when it comes to meeting clients’ expectations. Our company also monitors client requests on a constant basis, in the interests of updating its pool of translators and expert medics as soon as the need arises. Modern CAT technologies enable us to localize any type of content within tight deadlines and to a high standard, whether it be a corporate website or the interface on an extremely complex diagnostic instrument. It is therefore extremely important that we keep our production base up‐to‐date at
all times, and make use of the latest technology, so that we are well‐placed to satisfy any client request regardless of its technical complexity. On the other hand, it is also essential to have qualified translators and medical editors at our disposal, capable of carrying out the translation required by the client with a high degree of professionalism and quality, whichever branch of medicine is at stake ‐ be it pharmaceuticals, ophthalmology or cardiac surgery.
Though we are not likely to see translation companies and translators getting certification in the field of medicine any time soon, in the Russian Federation, more and more higher education institutions are offering students the chance to become a «medical translator», which is opening up exciting new possibilities for our workforce.
Article in MultiLingual Magazine «Life Science: Localization into Russian and Ukrainian.»