Medical Translation Services South Africa

 Specialised clinical research translators

Medical translations present a particular set of challenges for translators. Through our experience of working in partnership with this sector, particularly in research and development into HIV and TB treatment in South Africa, we have built a core team of specialised medical translators for all 11 South African languages to respond to these challenges.

Effective communication is crucial in the medical sector: every day, health researchers and practitioners must deliver and receive complex information and sensitive patient data with clarity and accuracy across linguistic and cultural divides. Organisations researching new vaccines, drugs and procedures for fighting HIV and TB need to reach support staff, caregivers and patients in their home languages, to obtain informed consent or to explain medical procedures.

Translations play a crucial role in facilitating this informational exchange. Medical translators must therefore be equipped with both specialised knowledge of the medical field, as well as situational understanding of the social and cultural context of target communities.

Clear language

In this critical sector translators must ensure that their translations are completely faithful to source texts, as well as ‘user-friendly’ and accessible to patients and participants with no medical expertise. Incorrect language usage (even by qualified translators) lacking specialist knowledge and experience, or without an understanding of the linguistic and cultural orientations of participants, can seriously reduce the efficacy of medical research and practice.

The challenge for any clinical research translation service is to identify and agree on the range of terms that facilitate both accurate and comprehensible translation from the source language into the target language. Informed consent forms, medical trial reports and other crucial materials used on the ground all need to work with widely accepted, internally consistent and easily comprehensible language to ensure successful research and treatment.

Our medical translation team are all specialists in their field, working within an internally consistent framework which is in line with accepted practice and regulatory guidelines.

 South Africa's first language demographics by province

To help organisations and sites identify the prevalent languages spoken in their area we've summarised Statistics South Africa's data by province. The table highlights the most spoken first language in that province, i.e. isiXhosa is the first language of 16% of South Africans and 79% of the Eastern Cape population. The table is also interactive by language.

IsiZulu 23 20 78   1 24 1 4 1 3
IsiXhosa 16 7 3 25 79 1   8 5 6
Afrikaans 14 12 2 50 11 7 3 13 54 9
English 10 13 13 20 6 3 2 3 3 4
Sepedi 9 11       9 53     2
Setswana 8 9 1     2 2 5 33 63
Sesotho 8 12 1 1 3 4 2 64 1 6
Xitsonga 5 7       10 17     4
Siswati 3 1       28 1      
Tshivenḓa 2 2         17     1
IsiNdebele 2 3 1     10 2   1 1
Other 2 3 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2
Sign 1   1   1     1    

*Statistics South Africa: Census in brief (2011) PDF

More resources

For more detailed information of language demographics, Statistics South Africa has a wealth of resources for South Africa's major municipalities and cities: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Nelson Mandela Bay, Buffalo City, Mangaung, Emfuleni, Polokwane, Msunduzi, Thulamela, Rustenburg, Bushbuckridge, Makhado, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Matjhabeng.