A MultiLingual timeline of life sciences localization in the 21st century

Curated by Michael Reid,
Managing Editor for MultiLingual magazine.

A MultiLingual timeline of life sciences localization in the 21st century

Curated by Michael Reid,
Managing Editor for MultiLingual magazine.

2020 was, without a doubt, a marquee year in almost every way possible, not least in terms of the interplay between language and the life sciences.
While certain issues were novel, others were perennial; and while certain were unexpected, certain had been predicted years prior in the pages of this very magazine.
Join me as we look back on 16 years of MultiLingual and examine the topics of the time, and the relevance they still have today.

2020 was, without a doubt, a marquee year in almost every way possible, not least in terms of the interplay between language and the life sciences.
While certain issues were novel, others were perennial; and while certain were unexpected, certain had been predicted years prior in the pages of this very magazine.
Join me as we look back on 16 years of MultiLingual and examine the topics of the time, and the relevance they still have today.

2005 – January/February

US Health Care Faces Multilingual Challenges.

The US has always been a multilingual nation, but as immigration from non-anglophone countries increased and diversified in the closing years of the 20th century, the need for reliable, skilled medical interpretation and translation began to be more widely acknowledged.

2007 – December

The role of information technology in pandemics.

Written in the wake of the far-less-devastating SARS pandemic, this article asked us to imagine, and prepare for, a much more widespread and impactful biological event, and asked if our technology and supply chains were ready to handle such an event (spoiler alert: they weren’t).

2009 – July/August

Pharmaceutical marketing for Latinos in the United States.

As belated recognition of Spanish as an at least co-equal language to English in the US began to gain momentum in the early 21st century, more attention was given to the need for linguistically and culturally appropriate translations of medical information.

2011

2011

Massachusetts Institute of Technology releases a white paper on what it calls the third revolution, after molecular biology and genomics, in the life sciences: the “convergence” of life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering.

2011 – July/August

Culture and language issues in global clinical trials.

English may be the (problematically) accepted language of the scientific community, but for the 80 percent of the world that speaks no English, accurate and culturally responsive translations are crucial, especially for patients taking part in potentially risky clinical trials.

2012 – September

Language requirements for EU medical device labels.

Though English and — to lesser degrees — French and German reign supreme in the governing bodies of the EU, vital information is legally required to be available to EU citizens in all 24 official EU languages, presenting complex logistical challenges to EU regulatory bodies and medical device manufacturers.

2013 – September

Interpreting culture in health care.

As a former medical interpreter myself I’m well aware that i Interpreters in a medical setting do their clients, and medical providers, a disservice when they seek to act merely as machines translating one language into another. Medical interpreters aren’t just language interpreters, we have a critical function as cultural interpreters as well.

2014 – September

Translating medical devices of the future.

As medical devices, and the technology behind them, advance, so too does the need for those devices to be linguistically adapted to the environment in which they’ll be used. Medical device translation is no longer just about labels and instruction manuals, it’s software and user interfaces, readouts and displays.

2015 – September

Speaking for community interpreters.

As the crucial role of interpreters in providing access to health care and social services continues to be recognized, there’s a concomitant recognition of the need to standardize the training and certification these indispensable bridges between two cultures and languages receive.

2016 – September

Automatic interpretation for health care.

Demand for qualified linguists in the healthcare field can easily outstrip supply, especially when considering the combinatorial explosion represented by the potential permutations of source and target language. Machine translation is a tempting solution to this problem until one considers the imperfections of the system and how devastating the consequences of those imperfections can be; how can we overcome these issues?

2017 – July/August

MT application of localization to life sciences

The rise of the machine (translation) continues apace as we progress through the latter half of the second decade of the 2000s. With machine translation improving, if haltingly, and being adapted as a cost-saving measure by so many organizations, what is the rightful place of this technology in assuring access to medical care?

2018 – February/March

What the 2017 EU regulations mean for medical device localization

A multilingual, quasi-federal regulatory body like the EU clearly has to work hand in hand with linguists and manufacturers to ensure that developing medical technology is safe, reliable, and understandable to all speakers of the union’s 24 official languages.

2018 – July

Corpora and life sciences translation

As unsuitable as corpus based translation can be in some instances, it can be an invaluable tool for certain languages and in certain domains with a highly specialized vocabulary, especially when curated and used wisely.

2019 – July/August

The growing role of neural MT in the life sciences

Old-school machine translation is beset upon by many problems, many of which serve to replicate the biases of its developers. Neural MT, though far from perfect, at least recognizes some of these problems and tries to remedy them in an attempt to provide fast, reliable, and linguistically appropriate information to as many people as possible.

2020 – July/August

Lessons in plain language from COVID-19

The words “global pandemic” by their very definition highlight the importance of providing easily understood information in a variety of languages. Jargon and specialized terms have an appropriate place in the lexicons of specialists, but an epidemiological event that touches all corners of the globe requires an accessible, culturally responsive approach. That’s one of the lessons that the tumultuous year of 2020 taught — and one that will hopefully stick with us.

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