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As a pharmaceutical company or medical business, you probably rely heavily on language service providers (LSPs) to accurately translate essential documents such as product manuals, regulatory submissions, and marketing materials. However, have you ever considered notifying your LSP of your terminological preferences? Terminology plays a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry, and ensuring consistency and accuracy in translations is essential for your success.

“Terminology” refers to the specific words and phrases used in a particular field or industry. In the pharmaceutical and medical industry, precise and accurate terminology is crucial for ensuring patient safety, complying with regulations, and maintaining brand consistency. Different companies may have their own unique terms, and even within a company, departments may use specific terminology that may not be known to others.

For example, a marketing department may use more colloquial or simplified language to appeal to a broader audience, while a research department may use more technical or scientific terminology to describe the drug or product accurately. Additionally, terminology may vary depending on the intended audience, such as healthcare professionals versus patients. This all presents a tricky problem for the translator, who is trying to deliver accurate translations that honour the company’s preferred tone of voice and style.

Take an example from an English to Slovenian translation: the term “severe asthma” can be translated as “huda astma” (as it was done in the SPC), while the client preferred the translation of “težka astma” for their marketing texts intended for various health care providers. What was the reason for this preference? Because the latter term seems to be used more frequently in everyday conversations among industry professionals. Note that the back translation for both Slovenian translations would be the original English term.

See the table below for more examples of similar tough nuts to crack in English to Slovenian translations. The first Slovenian translation can be considered the “standard” translation, while the second is based on the client’s terminology preferences for marketing materials.

Source EN term (within a healthcare context)Standard SL translationClient-preferred SL translation for marketing
StakeholdersZainteresirane straniČleni zdravstvene verige
Blood pressure driftOdkloni pri krvnem tlakuSpremembe krvnega tlaka
First-contact careOskrba ob prvem stikuOskrba na primarnem nivoju
Arterial assessmentOcena (stanja) arterijVpogled v stanje arterij
Leg ulcersRazjede na nogahKronične rane na nogah


Such preferences are not limited to translations from English to Slovenian, of course. They can be found in any language pair – here are English to German and English to Spanish examples for reference.

Source EN term (within a healthcare context)Target languageStandard translationClient-preferred translation for marketing
Medical recordsDEPatientenaktePatientendaten
Tablet [device type]ESTabletaTablet


The second option would rarely come naturally to a translator since the translations listed in this column are not direct or “standard” translations of the source English terms. However, their marketing use and the necessity to align them with other corporate materials often allow for a broader interpretation of the original meaning and, as a consequence, require a translation that departs from the source term. A translator would rarely dare to assume they could make such a semantic leap without prior approval or knowledge of the client. This is where getting to know and logging clients’ preferences comes into an LSP’s workflow.

How do LSPs log translation preferences for optimal future translations, while ensuring the translators have easy access to them and can, ideally, incorporate them into their translation tools? After talking about your preferences with you, the client, the LSP will proceed in one of two ways:

  1. If the number of preferences is very limited, they might set up a simple table in MS Excel or Google Sheets, logging the source term, its standard translation, and your preferred translation. This would usually be sent to you for review, making sure everything has been logged correctly, and once verified, shared with the linguists to follow when preparing the translations.
  2. However, if you have a lot of such preferences and especially if you require translations into several target languages, text-based tables can become difficult to work with. This is where termbases, set up within specialised translation software, come into play. These databases work in a similar way to dictionary programmes, integrating into translators’ CAT tools and suggesting the right translation to them as they type, if a match in the source text is found. This is by far the most seamless way for translation teams to work with client-preferred terminology, though it does take some maintenance work for the LSP to keep the termbases up to date after every round of feedback.

The importance of terminological consistency cannot be overstated. Precise and accurate terminology is essential to prevent confusion and errors, ensure that your documents comply with regulatory guidelines, and maintain a consistent image of your company in the public eye. Your LSP should be prepared to work with you to develop a glossary of terms that is specific to your company and industry, ensuring that all future translations use the terminology you prefer. This can save time and money in the long run, as it reduces the need for revisions and retranslations.

Looking for a trusted and experienced LSP that would be delighted to work with you on achieving terminologically polished and consistent translations, tailored to your company’s language? Alamma is here for you with its 20 years of experience in medical and pharmaceutical translations – let’s get to know each other!