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Principles of Medical Translation (2): Equivalence to Source Language and Appropriateness to Target Language

The first principle I put forward is centered on accuracy in medical content none the less cohesiveness to medical style, namely subject-matter specialization. The language worker or translator not in the field of medical sciences would find it is extremely noteworthy. However, we found it is often the case that medical texts are not poorly translated because of lack of accuracy but inappropriateness for target language. Look at this sentence, "coronary artery spasm with or without the coexistent fixed coronary obstructive lesions may cause angina pectoris because of a temporary decrease in oxygen supply rather than any increase in oxygen demand". The translation is often presented like this  "伴有或不伴有同时存在的固定性的冠脉阻塞性损伤的冠脉痉挛,可因暂时性的氧供应的减少而不是氧需求的增多而导致心绞痛". The use of prepositions as modifiers lead to six "的" in Chinese version and make the sentence sound rather awkward. The above example shows one of the serious problems existing in medical translation, which is called "translationese". We analyzed the reasons for this problem as that on the one hand, the fact that so-called "raw translations", translations designed not for official publication but for internal use and usually made by professionals in medicine rather than the skilled translators, are fairly widespread in medical English translation leads the question of appropriateness for target language something into the bargain, on the other hand, Academicians who are exposed to much of this kind of readings with translation-like language are becoming used to it and take it for granted. While they ignore that the awkward translation-like language can be and should be avoided, which otherwise may be a great obstacle to improvement in the quality of medical translation. Furthermore, in translating, these medical workers may not know when and how to make the translation more Chinese-like Medical text, as we discussed before, contains many standard medical terminologies as well as well-accepted morpho-syntactic structures and is therefore considered as a kind of "standardized text". When translating, the translator should standardize those subject-specific words or terms to achieve successful communication. however, for the language units other than subject-specific ones, "the translator should respect the genius of each language". As Nida put, "translating consists in reproducing the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style". This natural equivalent reproduction makes the translation not sound like a translation and should not exhibit in its grammatical and stylistic forms any trace of awkwardness or strangeness. We found that understanding Nida’s theory of functional equivalence is essential particularly for the medical worker who is generally lack of translating skills and fails to make him readily understandable, as the example showed. Therefore we hold the second principle of medical translation as equivalence to source language and appropriateness for target language. On the basis of this principle, the sentence above could be unpacked and what is structurally implicit is made explicit. This certainly requires a good deal of filling in if it is to make sense in Chinese, which do not customarily employ this type of nominal string put together by means of prepositions. In this sentence, "with or without the coexistent fixed coronary obstructive lesions" may be converted into concessive clause "不论是否伴有同时存在的固定性的冠脉阻塞性损伤" and the subject "冠脉痉挛” and predicate "可导致心绞痛" are presented clearly. Therefore the Chinese version should be improved as "不论是否伴有同时存在的固定性冠脉阻塞性损伤,冠脉痉挛可导致心绞痛,原因是氧供应减少而不是氧需求增多".

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