Bilingual blogging on medical translation in German and English

Blogging in two languages brings its own special challenges. Here’s a look behind the scenes of our bilingual blogging experiment, after our first year of the Translation Clinic.

As translators, we spend our days transforming and recrafting texts originally written by others. This can make working on our own writing in our free time especially appealing. Because when we’re blogging, we can choose our own topics, develop our writing skills, and focus on our readers and their interests.

We created the Translation Clinic to explore medical translation and writing in German and English. The project has taught us a lot about bilingual blogging, crafting content and working together as a team.

Finding a partner for your bilingual blog

The first step towards blogging in two languages is finding a partner. But how can you find the right person to work with on your bilingual blog? In our experience, the most important thing is mutual trust. Although we’ve never met in person, our trust in one another developed based on a range of factors, including specialist knowledge, language skills, recommendations from colleagues, joint projects and our existing personal blogs.

“The most important thing is mutual trust.”

For us, the fact that we had both already been blogging for some time played an important role. This is the only way to really get a handle on how much work goes into each blog post: finding the idea, writing the first draft, editing, shortening, rewriting, searching for suitable images, uploading the content, publishing, sharing, and more. It also means that you have an understanding of how to reach your target audience.

As a starting point, you need to agree on your overall topic and target group. Skype meetings and cloud platforms can be useful for planning your teamwork on the initial texts and collating suitable images. For a professional-looking blog, it’s also worth getting help with the technical setup and graphic design aspects, rather than trying to do it all yourself. Otherwise, if one of the partners has stronger technical skills, the partnership may become overly dependent on these.

How does blogging in two languages work in practice?

Originally, we wanted to alternate writing and translating the articles, but we soon departed from this plan. This was mainly because we wanted to respond quickly to certain issues and publish useful and topical information, including our series on multilingual health information and our more recent series of glossaries on infectious diseases. This began with our post on Zika, which was very topical at the time.

“Nobody asks as many questions as a translator!”

We often find that a topic grabs one of us, and the other person follows. Either of us will write a first draft, and then the other comes back with lots of comments and questions. The final version that we publish is the result of multiple revisions on both sides – because no one asks as many questions as a translator!

We’ve found that the translation into the other language needs to be relatively free. The blog posts are published in parallel and are specifically tailored to our German-speaking and English-speaking readers. We also ensure that relevant links are chosen for each audience. Finally, selecting a suitable image for the blog post is always an interesting exercise, as we try to find a balance between our own preferences and the different cultural associations that the various images may have.

Medical translation and writing: a sensitive topic?

When researching our blog posts, we sometimes find that the information available in German is different to the information available in English. Because of this, we regularly have to consider how much detail we should pass on as bilingual bloggers – ranging from facts about diseases (like flu) and symptoms (how is ‘fever’ defined?), to diagnosis and treatment, which can vary significantly across different countries (what are the differences in German and English between ‘chronic Lyme disease’ and ‘post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome’?).

“We sometimes find that the information available in German is different to the information available in English.”

We have certainly learned a lot about the difficult pathway to consensus. Our blogging has reinforced our understanding of the differences between the systems and approaches in German- and English-speaking countries. Even though our sources of information don’t always come to the same conclusions, we link to them because they’re reputable and represent the current standard in their respective countries. And because we can’t possibly know everything, we take time to evaluate our sources and carefully research our terminology.

A year of the Translation Clinic

Overall, we’re pleased that we’ve been able to work towards our goals with the Translation Clinic, developing it as a place to experiment with bilingual blogging on medical translation and writing. As well as shining a spotlight on the various topics that confront medical translators, we also find it useful for our own professional development.

Four eyes see more than two – which is why review is such a key part of the translation process. And it’s invaluable when blogging, too. We find that feedback and questions from our partner play a huge role in ensuring our blog posts are clear, well structured and just right for our readers, as well as suitable for publication on the web.

We’d like to thank you too, dear reader, for supporting us on this journey – and we look forward to another year of bilingual blogging together!

Original article by Imke Brodersen, English-German medical translator, with friendly fine-tuning by Jayne Fox. Translated by Jayne Fox, German-English medical translator and editor. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Head over to Google+ or Twitter to continue the conversation!