The field of medicine is linked to the well being of our human body. Medical translation is considered to be the oldest field of scientific translation in the world. Due to the sensitive nature of medical translation, as it deals with the lives and health of human beings, the translation of medical texts should be as accurate as possible.
Though it is recommended that an English to Arabic translator should have good knowledge of the subject matter, however this statement especially holds true while translating technical texts of any nature. Medical texts are regarded as highly technical in nature. Therefore medical translators should have good knowledge about the medical terminology and the field of medicine. They should understand the various aspects that need to be addressed in the target translated text. A medical translator should ensure that all the information of the source text is completely understood by a reader of the target text. For example if a foreign drug is approved in the Arab market, the information in related medical texts should be clearly explained in the Arabic language.
Medicine is related but not limited to drugs, treatment, diseases, medical equipment and the specialist clinics of medicine. Medical terminology is the study of words used to communicate facts and ideas particular to medicine; it is chiefly concerned with the present use and meaning of such words. Based on the origin of medical terms, medical terminology can be classified in three groups:
The most common problems faced by English Arabic medical translators are equivalence problems of English and Arabic, which include both grammatical and cultural equivalence. English medical terminology uses many abbreviations, acronyms, loan words, collocations and compounds. Translators who translate English medical texts to Arabic often have to resort to a combination of strategies which include adding some information in the target text, structural readjustment of information, transliteration and Arabization.
English is regarded as the language of medical research in most schools and institutions of the world. Even in Arab countries most professional medical schools and institutions use English as the main language. According to Ismail "out of over 90 schools of medicine in the Arab world, only 5 teach in Arabic others use English apart of medicine schools in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Lebanon, they use French". English medical terms such as AIDS, virus, bacteria and influenza are commonly used in most Arab countries as well.
According to John, Modern Western medicine traces its roots to the 5th century BCE, when the Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BC) first attributed illness to physical causes, distinguished medical practice from priestly ministrations, and taught diagnosis by observation and treatment by fostering or restoring natural processes. Hippocrates and his disciples and successors, notably Galen, produced a large and diverse body of medical writings in Greek. Many of the anatomic, pathologic and therapeutic terms found in those writings remain in use today, some with little or no change in meaning.
However after the decline of the Greek civilization, the Roman empire held a dominant position in the world and thus Latin became the international language of scholars in the Western world. But even after the decline of Roman Empire, Latin continued to hold its position in scholarly communication till the early 19th century.
As a result English medical terminology consists of many medical and scientific terms that have been directly taken from Greek and Latin. Some medical terms commonly used in English, that are of Latin origin are cerebrum, pelvis and cornea. Whereas some common medical terms that are of Greek origin are thorax, stigma, iris and helix.