;   Medical Translation Insight: Controlled authoring for faster, better, less expensive translations - ForeignExchange Translations

Controlled authoring for faster, better, less expensive translations"Garbage in, garbage out" goes the old warning: If the source text is of poor quality, expect the translated text to be no better.

English is the main language used by global medical device and pharmaceutical companies. But drug and device companies must provide instructions for use in the native language of the countries to which they export.

Up until a few years ago, little thought was given to improving the source materials for translation: few companies had any meaningful control over the authoring of content and translation was not a big ticket budget item. Non-native speakers writing in English? Sure! Using different terminology for the same thing in different documents? No problem. Engineers writing end-use instructions? Why not?

As the number of languages continues to grow and the time allocated to translation continues to shrink, pharma and device companies have started to realize that better authoring can lead to better, faster, and less expensive translations. Content management systems are being implemented across device companies like never before. Writing for translation is suddenly a topic for discussion. And pharma companies are increasingly looking to technology (e.g., translation memories, electronic data capture) to streamline global trials.

Larger drug and device companies are starting to pay attention to controlled authoring and Simplified Technical English. Long a mainstay of quickly and accurately producing voluminous documentation for cars, airplanes, weapon systems, and other heavy equipment, the practice is gaining favor in the life sciences as a way to combat GIGO.

In addition to time and budget pressures, industry's interest in controlled authoring is aided by the emergence of XML. More and more companies are already deploying XML for structured product labeling, authoring systems, e-submissions, and document management.

You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but drug and device companies can use controlled authoring to improve the quality, timing and cost of their translation efforts.

For further insight into controlled authoring, take a look at these resources:

  • Frans Wijma's audio conference Achieving Compliance and Beyond with Simplified Technical English shows companies how to address 99% of the challenges behind global documentation processes, such as high cost, ease of translation, damage to product, delayed time-to-market and inadequate customer support.
  • Uwe Muegge provides a good summary of how to use controlled language to streamline translation processes.
  • Updated: The "godfather of machine translation", Jeff Allen, compiled an extensive list of resources around controlled language, authoring systems, and related topics as part of his LinkedIn page (scroll to the bottom to "Jeff Allen's Files") and on his new blog.

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  1. Anonymous said...

    If you click on "godfather of machine translation", you get this:

    "Sorry, the GeoCities web site you were trying to reach is no longer available."

    How sad.
    Andres Heuberger said...
    @Anonymous: Thanks for the heads-up! It's not just the godfather of machine translation that's affected; Geocities is now officially defunct.

    Jeff is in the process of relocating his content. In an email exchange, he mentioned that the he "temporarily moved much to a few key links in the summary section of my LinkedIn profile (www.linkedin.com/in/jeffallen) such as: Controlled Language page, MT postediting page, LangTechEval page".

    I have updated our blog post with the links to Jeff's blog (www.allenkeys2languages.org) and LinkedIn profile.
    Jeff Allen said...
    Yes, Geocities bit the dust and luckily they gave enough forewarning. I did so quick migrations over to my LinkedIn profile page (and also see the summary section with links to the HTML pages of the site pages). I had already been planning for a long time to migrate over to a central website with my own domain, and the Haiti disaster in Jan 2010 was the final feather that broke that camel's back. Several people helped in coming up with the website name and domain, setting up the infrastructure, and now all I need to do is fill it with the content, starting with what was already on the previous Geocities sites.

    Sorry for inconvenience of not being able to access the content. There are references all over the web with links to those dead pages, which would take much time to track down and change. And in some cases it is not possible to edit posts on discussion forums.

    So I guess this would call for a new movie named "Godfather IV: the return"

    Hope that helps.


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