Showing posts with label Medical Translation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medical Translation. Show all posts

Notes on Psychiatric Translation and the Diogenes Syndrome

For any translator, the medical vocabulary is confusing enough; the psychiatric vocabulary is often chaotic, given the perennial divide between behaviourism and mentalism, as well as the various degrees of eclecticism between them, not to mention the renewed efforts, now exaggerated by PC, to sanitize terms that arouse prejudice. However, translating a 1985 article on Das Diogenes-Syndrom in the Fortschrittliche Neurologische Psychiatrie I found the language sober, sauber and restrained. A few lexical points:

Entmündigung; 'sectioning' is the tactful British cultural equivalent; I preferred 'certification', as the German context perhaps removed it from prejudice.

Sammeltrieb. The jargon terms are 'collectionism' and 'syllogomania', but I preferred 'the urge to hoard'.

Lebensraum. 'Personal environment' or (of course) 'personal space'. (The political sense is hopefully a fossil.) Der Tod des Lebensgefährten hat eine neurotische Störung im Selbstwerterleben zur Dekompensation gebracht. 'The death of her life-partner had been offset by a neurotic disturbance in (the experience of?) her selfesteem.' ('Decompensation' is usually a medical term, but not here.)

Bezugsperson. 'The person one relates to'. An English coinage is desirable.

Asozialität. (yuck). 'Unsociable behaviour.'

. . . Sie lässt sich aus der Wohnung des Bruders herausklagen, um aufdiese Weise leichter an einen eigenen Besitz zu kommen. 'She had herself evicted by court order from her brother's house, and in order to obtain a new property (more easily).

(Ausklagen for Einklagen, 'sue, prosecute'. Thanks to Sabine Nice.)

Thymoleptisch. Obsolete word. 'Psychotropic'.

Versteinerung. Petrifaction, 'state of rigidity'. (Diogenes the philosopher in the latter part of his life abandoned all normal social habits and lived happily (?) in a tub. As the average life span increases, so does the syndrome.) The subject of the syndrome lives in a state of rigidity.


Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 73.

Notes on the Translation of Three Medical Texts on Epilepsy

(with assistance from Jane Soulal, Senior Information Officer, Ciba-Geigy Pharmaceuticals, Horsham, venue of a recent Medical Translation Workshop and ITI Medical Network meeting.)
  1.  Le terme, encombrant d'épilepsies liées à une localisation. 'The term, which is rather clumsy (alt. cumbersome), ''epilepsies related to a specific area''.' (Note that the plurals of disease should be reproduced; also that this is a metalingual translation: the term is 'cumbersome' in both languages.
  2.  La neuro-imagerie est muette. 'The neuro-imaging does not show up.'
  3.  Crises sensitivo-motrices. 'Sensory and motor seizures.'
  4.  Grandes pointes émoussées. 'Large flattened (alt. blurred) spikes.'
  5.  En bouffees sous une électrode rolandique basse. 'in bursts appearing under an electrode in the lower part of the motor (alt. rolandic) area of the cerebral cortex.'
  6.  Crises résistantes. 'Seizures which are resistant to treatment.'
  7.  Etats de mal non rares. 'Fairly frequent malaises' (alt. periods of mild sickness.)
  8.  Signes végétatifs. 'Involuntary movements.'
  9.  Genuine Epilepsien (G). 'Idiopathic epilepsies.'
  10.  Liquorzirkulationsstörung. 'Disturbance of CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) circulation.'
  11.  L'aggressività e la vischiosità anticamente riferite agli epilettici in generale. (It) 'The aggressiveness and sluggishness generally attributed to epileptic patients in times past.' (N.B. Not 'to epileptics' (derogatory).)
  12.  La casistica: les antecedents. 'Case history'.
  13.  Gêne épigastrique. 'Epigastric discomfort' (alt. 'discomfort in the epigastrium').
Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 164.

French Medical Language Revisited

How delightful to return after ten years, if only for three weeks, to the mad world of French medical language. Here are a few snippets:

L'équipe soignante suscite un système de relations (i.e. 'the nurses want the patients to have company' or now 'to form networks').

Ils subissent une situation particulièrement contraignante o ils doivent mobiliser des mécanismes de défense. ('When faced with a particularly frustrating situation, the patients' defence mechanisms have to come into play!)

Le fait même de cette création, la spécificité de la pédiatrie dans ce cadre, et la cooptation réciproque des premiers membres de cette équipe ont favorisé le développement rapide d'une idéologie soignante commune, destinée, au moyen d' un travail d'équipe, à une meilleure maitrise de la situation ci-dessus définie. ('The team has had to work out a common approach and procedures to control this situation, drawing on their technical resources and special paediatric skills, and also recruiting additional staff.')

Cette approche prend une dimension particulière. ('We had to adopt a particular approach.')

Finally, an extract from the English translation of the abstract: 'In a Service of Pediatric Oncology, after studying what does the patients and their families need, it is possible to set up an organisation of adapted cares.' (sic)

This, at one remove, is the crazy world of Barthes, Baudrillard and Bourdieu, not to mention Foucault, Greimas, Kristeva and Derrida, transferred to the other world of medical literature. Then there 'arrived' André Gorz, who writes plain French, plain language. How long will he last?


Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, p. 34.