Translations for Clinical Trials: COVID-19 Brings Special Challenges

by Sian Lukaszewicz
Translations for Clinical Trials: COVID-19 Brings Special Challenges

September 30 marks International Translation Day, in which we celebrate the art of translation and the translators and interpreters who make it happen. A day to recognize the hard work and dedication of important individuals worldwide, whom for most, translation is more than a paycheck – it’s a lifelong passion and devotion.

It is a well-known fact that bilingualism does not guarantee a good translator. Whether the skill of translation is innate or taught is widely debated. It is, however, widely recognized that translation is an art requiring a varied skill set which must frequently be worked on and fine-tuned. Language and its use is forever evolving and adapting, and as a result, no translator or interpreter can sit by complacently.

Behind the scenes, translators dedicate their time to continuously enhancing their linguistic skills by keeping up with the latest terminology and technology, and in our field, clinical/medical practices and regulatory requirements.

COVID-19 Changes the Landscape

The COVID-19 pandemic has made “keeping up” more vital than ever. COVID-19-related vocabulary has accelerated change in the linguistic landscape with new and alternative vocabulary stemming from the science community, politicians, and the media.

New words and phrases cropping up on a regular basis include COVID-19, COVID toes, long COVID, and R rate. More and more we see older terms become popular, such as furlough and stay-at-home orders. These terms, now a part of our everyday language, have their own versions in every country and language worldwide.

Although the vast majority of the language already existed, it is now at the forefront of public vocabulary, an expansive language growth stemming from the science community and politicians, and is often heavily influenced by the media. Translators and interpreters made quick steed to keep up to date and current with all the latest terms and phrases relevant to their language pairing.

COVID-19 Studies a Priority

Alongside this increase in generic language use came the sudden urgency for any COVID-related matter to be quickly and efficiently developed and translated when required. This was certainly true for the clinical trial field. COVID-19-related studies — whether it be vaccines, care, or enhancing our understanding of the illness — were all instantly classified as high priority and vitally urgent. Imperial earmarked COVID studies as high priority with unique, individualized project plans and processes to enable us to work even closer with our clients to meet timelines that seemed almost impossible.

Our dedicated translators helped make these projects a success. Many did not need to be reminded of the urgency, and were excited to work on such crucial projects. We asked for vastly reduced delivery schedules, for translators to be available off hours just in case, and for task deliveries as soon as possible (even on weekends). We received responses to linguistic queries within minutes. All of this, combined with the hard work and experience of our team, meant we were able to make the seemingly impossible… possible.

So on this International Translation Day, we say thank you to all our translators for their continued excellence and collaboration to best meet our clients’ needs, especially during these challenging times.

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