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The Common Pitfalls of Medical Translations from English to Cebuano*

by Jessie Grace Udang-Rubrico, PhD

In the last 10 years or so, there has been an increased demand for Cebuano** translators in the field of medical translation. Majority of these requests are translations of brochures, surveys, interviews, researches on new drugs, questionnaires, forms, etc.

Medical translation is a job for highly-skilled translators who specialize in the field. It requires a thorough understanding of the text –the words, phrases, clauses, which make up the whole- as well as fluency in both the source and target languages. It demands accuracy, especially because health conditions and even lives are at stake. Yet, there are translators who do medical translation even if they are not qualified for the job. And naturally, their outputs are problematic –i.e., ambiguous, inaccurate, and unreliable. 

This paper discusses the common pitfalls of medical translations from English to Cebuano, namely:

  1. lexical snags --inappropriate word choice; wrong form of the word chosen; incongruous combination of English terms and Bisayan words in a clause; Bisaya-Tagalog codeswitching.

  2. syntactic anomaly – glossing by slot correspondence following the English syntax which blocks the natural flow of language and cause ambiguity or, worse, confusion on the import of the clause; and the omission of markers and linkers that renders a phrase or a clause or any given string awkward, if not ungrammatical;

  3. semantic issues – ambiguity and/or the loss of the context of the source text due to lexical snags, syntactic anomaly, and subcategorization issues.

The  data for this study are randomly taken from the sizable amount of translated texts passed on to this researcher for backtranslation, editing, linguistic review, and/or linguistic consultation and coordination.

*This is an abstract of a paper read during the 10th Philippine Linguistic Congress at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City on December 10-12, 2008.

** Cebuano, also known as Binisaya or Bisaya, is the lingua franca of the Visayas and Mindanao and of a significant number of Filipino workers overseas.



Mainted by Mark Rubrico